Alfonso “Big Al” Enriquez of Oak Harbor, WA passed away on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at the ripe age of 84.
Al was born to parents Alberto and Teofila Cepeda on October 30, 1933 in Torreon, Coahuila Mexico. He grew up as the youngest of eight brothers and one adopted sister. Alberto was a farmer and Teofila was a store owner. Al had a very happy childhood and some of his fondest memories were of fishing with his father and witnessing a moment of his father and mother having a tender kiss. Other than that, he did not have much memory of his father as he died when Al was only 3 years old. Al excelled in writing, mathematics and learning English while in grammar school. After graduating, he worked at the bicycle shop of a family friend and learned the basics of bicycle mechanics and repair. Although he loved his family and hometown environment, he was eager to start a new beginning after his mother sold the family store and both moved to the United States of America to live with his brother in 1948.
After moving to the United States, Al and his mom had some monetary struggles which gave them trouble in finding their feet in this new land. After a bit of time, both he and his mother had some success and found income with her employed as a nanny of multiple children, and Al taking two jobs: one as a paper delivery boy, and the other as an usher at a local movie theater. By the time he was 17, he was able to purchase his first car, a 1937 Ford 4-Door Sedan. Al was educated in LA at Barrendo Junior High School, and then Melmount High School and graduated with honors in 1953. By then, he left the theater and found work with his brother at a plumbing goods store learning how to fix and maintain faucets. He focused solely on working hard, saving money and preparing for his future. For Al, there was no time for romance or play. He worked at the store until he was 20 and then decided to make a change.
At that time the Air Force did not draft, so, in 1954, Al decide to enlist. Al served for 4 years and 3 months. He enjoyed his time in the Air Force and excelled as a teletype/crypto technician. He held positions such as Staff Sergeant, and Communications Center Supervisor. He was honorably discharged in 1958, and immediately enrolled in Los Angeles Polytechnic Institute in Los Angeles and afterwards, went straight to Fullerton College where he focused his studies on electronic sciences.
During college, North American Aviation Technical Research Laboratory recruited him as a Systems Test Engineer working on ground support equipment for the A-3J Vigilante. The logistics department saw his promise and immediately sent him to Maryland to put the A-3J through inspection and trials. He loved being out in the field, and it was this assignment which led him to become a Field Service Representative (Tech Rep).
From there, Al’s career and ambitions took off. He was sent to various areas all over the U.S. installing and testing a number of different types of machinery and naval attack aircrafts such as the E2 A and E2 B “Hawkeye”. During the Vietnam war, he was sent away for 9 months on the West Pac cruise on the USS Kittyhawk. Afterwards, stationed in Norfolk Virginia, he developed an interest in aviation and began flying lessons. Shortly thereafter, he had to discontinue lessons as he was stationed in the Philippines for 18 months.
During his time abroad, he courted the love of his life, Luicela (Lucy) Tello whom he met at a family gathering before he left the US. He scribed many letters to her while aboard many aircraft carriers, which included the Enterprise, Constellation, Coral Sea, America, Kennedy, Ranger and the Forrestall.
Al came to Lucy’s hometown of Chihuahua, Mexico to marry her and to have what he always referred to as “a new beginning”. This new beginning started in the town of Oak Harbor, WA where Al was transferred to NAS Whidbey. An original 90-day contract turned into a year, and so and so on. Al and Lucy decided to plant their roots in this wonderful quaint town and to build a family together.
During his time on Whidbey, Al achieved many life goals. He had a thrilling and successful career during his time with Autonetics/North American Aviation (which later became Rockwell International and, later on, Boeing) and later resigned and became a member of the Department of Defense as a field rep for NAESU.
He supported and trained Navy technicians at NAS Whidbey and was on 24/7 support to assist any air craft carrier deployed in the Western Pacific Area.
His passion for aviation re-ignited and he trained and studied to become a pilot, achieving his goals by of obtaining his Private, Commercial, Instrument and Instructors licenses. He opened his own flight school, named “Alcon Flight School”, where he used two Cessna planes for his personal use and teaching. Later, he decided to keep one, his favorite, a Cessna 182 Skylane. He took many trips with Lucy and their family and taught many students during his time as a pilot. His greatest flying feat was when he flew his family down to Torreon, Mexico, his birthplace, which was 6500 miles to and from Oak Harbor. Al referred to this as an “impossible dream that came true.”
While in Oak Harbor, Al discovered the community loved Lucy’s cooking. They decided to open a Mexican food restaurant called Lucy’s Mi Casita. Their business thrived and went from a small mom and pop place to a successful, larger format restaurant supporting a dining experience on the main level and a fun and uplifting bar experience on the second level. Al and Lucy decided to sell their business at the end of 2001 so they could retire and pursue their dreams of travel and enjoy their children and grandchildren. Al retired from his career at DOD NAESU in 1993 and hung up his pilot wings in 2013.
Even during retirement, Al found a new “job” which was volunteering as a Water Works Distribution Specialist where he was in charge of his community’s water system. He was a consummate student and never stopped learning and always found new things to do and “fix”. He worked tirelessly on his home and property, creating a wonderful environment for friends and family to eat, drink and be merry. Al also served on the Board of Directors of New Leaf, was a member of Navy League, the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, Chinook Club, the Whidbey Island Golf and Country Club and the Oak Harbor Yacht Club
In one of Al’s last moments, he said to his daughters and wife: “Don’t worry. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted. My bucket is empty.” And he commenced to sing his favorite song, by Frank Sinatra, “My Way”.
Al lived his life fully, and often referred to this quote by Dr. Robert H. Goddard, rocketry pioneer: “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”
Alfonso is survived by his wife, Lucy, and their three daughters, Selena McCulloch(48), Myrna Habermann(47) and Jessica Griffin(42); and his son, Allan Enriquez(59) and daughter, Lisa Chapa(56). He is preceded in death by his parents Alberto and Teofila, and his brothers, Refugio, Justino, Antonio, Manuel and his son Leonard.
The family is grateful for condolences but has stated they are declining flowers, but encourages donations to the American Institute of Cancer Research.
Recitation of the Rosary will be held on Thursday, May 3 beginning a 7:00 pm at St Augustine Catholic Church. A funeral mass for Al will be celebrated on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 10:00 am at the church with Rev Paul Pluth, JCL as celebrant. A reception will follow in the church hall.
Arrangements were entrusted to Wallin Funeral Home. To share messages or condolences, please visit the funeral home website atwww.wallinfuneralhome.com.