MARK SCHEER: Recalling a real conversation starter

Alfred "Al" Wroblewski 

Alfred "Al" Wroblewski wasn't afraid to call it as he saw it. 

As a result, he didn't always endear himself to the local politicos in Niagara County. 

In fact, Al wasn't the least bit bothered about telling politicians what he thought of them or the job they were doing, even if it meant their noses ended up a bit bent out of shape.  

For me, as a reporter covering the Niagara County Legislature back in the late 2000s, Al was one the people who could often be counted on to add pizzazz to an otherwise mundane meeting. He was usually good for a colorful quote or two, which I always appreciated.

Don't think that because I covered him and quoted him that Al let me off the hook where his pointed criticisms were concerned. Like holding politicians accountable, Al wasn't shy about reminding the members of the media to do their jobs as well. 

I don't recall him ever being particularly critical of me or my work, but I wouldn't take offense anyway because I knew, very often, Al generally knew what he was talking about.

There was a time when Al was a regular caller into local AM talk radio shows, including "Viewpoint" on what is now known as WEBR AM 1440. He wasn't one to pull punches on the air, either, and he was always good for a funny line or two. I know many other callers enjoyed listening to Al and appreciated his feisty nature.  

I count myself among Al's legion of fans. 

In the end, I always got the impression that Al wanted what many of the rest of us want and that's honest representation in government, reasonable taxes, dependable services and the sort of leadership that can help make a community a great place to live and work. 

The fact that Al complained so often and so much is a testament to just how far off the mark Niagara County has been for so long where such things are concerned. 

Al did his best to keep the powers-that-be honest and for that he should be remembered fondly by his fellow taxpayers and voters, many of whom are not as bold or as willing to tell the people in charge just how they truly feel. 

In his own way, Al Wroblewski was a good and active citizen.

By my estimation, we could use many more like him, especially in these challenging times. 

There are things I didn't know about Al until after his passing on Sept. 15 at Niagara Hospice House. He was born May 25, 1929, in Niagara Falls and served in the U.S. Navy from 1950 to 1954. For his service, he was awarded the National Defense Medal. His obituary lists him as working for the government in the Village of Youngstown for 20 years and for Carborundum for 18 years. He also, according to his obituary, enjoyed bottle collecting, hunting and reading about history. 

And then there's this, the most fitting statement in his entire obituary: 

"He was very active in politics and his goal was to stir up the conversation to get the public involved."

That he did, often and often well. 

Al is survived by his wife of 69 years, Reika (McGraw) Wroblewski; his children, Robert (Tricia) Wroblewski, Robin (John) Kopacz, Peter (Lisa) Wroblewski, Michael Wroblewski, and Michele (LaVerne) Bowen; 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren; siblings Nancy Senkulics and Marie (Ronnie) Tyron; and several nieces and nephews.

To his family, I offer my most sincere condolences. 

While his input may not have always been appreciated by the political class in Niagara County, Al Wroblewski's voice and his character resonated with a lot of regular people, the kind who attended legislature meetings, enjoyed hearing him tell it like it was on the radio and looked forward to him saying something colorful enough to get quoted in newspaper articles.

Mark Scheer is the regional news director for the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal.

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