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Uncle Al remembered by long time friend and crew member Dave Woelfert

Uncle Al, remembered by long time friend and crew member Dave Woelfert.

On May 19, 2012, unlimited hydroplane racing lost one of its most ardent supporters when Eldon “Uncle Al” Thoreson passed away.

Al started as a crew member and builder of Bob Gilliam’s first Fascination in 1955 and worked with Gilliam for many years.  He became crew chief of Gilliam’s boats and there was a lifelong friendship between Bob and Al.

One night in 1967 I was out on the town with my brother and some other friends and we happen to meet Bob Gilliam who was also out on the town.  One thing lead to another and Bob invited us out to his boat shop.  It was there that we all met Uncle Al and we began to form a nucleus of what was to become a lifelong friendship between Uncle Al and my brother and myself.

Under Al’s guidance, we worked very hard to bring a great product to the sport and came into our own in 1970 when we knew what Al had taught us and we began to become a reliable force in the sport.  In 1971 we had our first shot at a big time sponsorship with Valu-Mart and did fairly well.  Our best year was in 1972 when our sponsor was Pizza Pete and we competed on the entire circuit, qualified for every final heat with one exception and finished fourth overall in national high point standings.  Being we were all volunteers, we were very happy with that accomplishment.

During the 1981 and 1982 boat racing seasons, Al was the crew chief of Pat O’Day’s Miss KYYX with Brenda Jones driving and once again, Al called on my brother and me to help out.

Over the years, we had our ups and downs in the sport, but we always stuck by Uncle Al and the lessons that he taught us about boat racing and what it means to be a true friend. 

In 1987 Al and Jerry Hopp purchased Bob Miller’s boat and equipment and competed for several years until we were no longer competitive with our Allison powered boat being left behind by the turbine powered boats.

Uncle Al was always at the pits early and stayed late.  He was always ready, able and willing to help any other boat camp with any problems they had.  Al always said the best thing for the sport was to make sure everyone had a chance to run.

The friendship that my brother and I had with Uncle Al lasted for 44 years and over that time we always worked well together and most important, we always had fun together at whatever we did whether it was connected with boat racing or something else. 

I miss Uncle Al and cherish the memory of our friendship.


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