Al was born on a farm outside of Webb, Iowa on June 4, 1927 to John and Vera (Hurley) Tielbur. He was the second of five children and was raised to be a hard worker (with a dash of prankster to keep his sisters on their toes). At age 18, he was drafted into the US Army during World War II and served in France and Germany. During the war he was trained as a rifleman and mechanic participating in raids on Nazi concentration camps.
When he returned home from the war he began his career in freight trucking with Jones Transfer. While on the job he met Arlene Thompson and her infant daughter, Vicki. Al and Arlene were married on December 17, 1949 and soon after Al officially adopted Arlene’s daughter Vicki. Al and Arlene remained united until Arlene’s passing in 2007.
Al and Arlene built their lives in Spencer, Iowa where they worked and made countless numbers of friends and acquaintances. Everywhere Al went it seemed like he made a friend or ran into someone he knew. In 1998, they moved to Spirit Lake to be closer to their daughter Vicki and their grandchildren.
Al continued to peddle freight until his retirement from All American in 1988. Then, not one to actually retire when retiring, he began cooking at Country Kitchen in Spencer. It was there that he casual interest in breakfast food became true love -- continuing on with weekly breakfast dates with his granddaughter, Shanon, at the Family Diner and Hy-Vee in Spirit Lake up until the end.
Once truly retired, Al focused on his passions such as baking with his wife Arlene and gardening, especially growing his award-winning roses. He enjoyed watching anything with John Wayne and his daily Gunsmoke. More often than not you could find him tinkering around with his numerous tools in the garage, and always keeping his bird feeders filled while fighting a tireless battle of keeping the seed for the birds and the corn for the squirrels.
While Al was always a friendly face to everyone he met, to those that loved him he was so much more. For his grandchildren he was a constant stable male figure that was always there for us, whether to fix something broken or to give us comfort when our lives seemed scattered. Quite simply, he was our hero.
Alfred “Big Al” John Tielbur passed away on March 26, 2019 at Lakes Regional Healthcare at the age of 91.
Those of us that are left to cherish his memory will often recall his humor and his great spirit for life. His favorite thing to do was to ask strangers how old they thought he was and when they guessed decades younger he would grin and proudly announce his true age. Afterwards he would declare that he would live to be 100 and once he had done that perhaps 105 and then 110. He probably would have done so too if not for a sudden and unforeseen ailment. He had a vigor for life and never stopped moving or stopped planning. There were always bike rides to be taken, flowers to be planted, or odd jobs to be done.
Al was preceded in death by his parents, John and Vera (Hurley) Tielbur, his beloved wife, Arlene, his daughter Vicki Axtell as well as his two sisters Betty and Hazel. Left to cherish his memory are his grandchildren, Shanon Axtell of Spirit Lake, IA, David (Kate) Axtell of Golden Valley, MN, and Holli (Michael) Zimmerman of Spirit Lake, IA; great-grandchildren Stanley James Alfred Axtell and Dorathy Victoria Arlene Axtell; granddogs Henry and Zoey; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, as well as numerous friends and acquaintances.
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