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Alfred Joseph Drouillard (1926-2011)

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Alfred Joseph Drouillard died January 6 2011. Born April 12 1926. Alfred Joseph Drouillard was of frontiersman French-Canadian stock born into a farming family and community in a French-speaking part of Canada near Windsor Ontario. His family moved to Detroit at the age of five when his father became employed with Ford Motor Company in River Rouge. But they visited and moved back regularly to Canada. He went to kindergarten in the U.S. speaking only French but made the transition quickly to English. As a teenager Al liked to travel around the state on weekends to go to square dances. He was a lifelong lover of classical and dance band music and was an amateur violinist of some ability. His favorite song to play on the violin was "Ave Maria." Al was an athlete. His specialty as a young man was fast-pitch underhanded softball. He was a "lefty" and had amazing speed and accuracy. As an adult he was hooked on golf. Many years he had multiple rounds of "par" and better. He was a small man but with amazing strength. Perhaps genetics or perhaps his job as a tool and die maker gave him the ability to loosen the tightest bolt. When in the hospital recently for pneumonia he graciously let his son beat him at arm wrestling. Al met the love of his life Pauline at the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit where performers like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington performed. Pauline Paonessa was a recent graduate of the Wayne State School of Education embarking on a teaching career a first generation Italian from Little Italy in Detroit. They shared a love of ballroom dancing that lasted through their 59 years of marriage. He loved to cook and could equal his Italian wife's preparation of many dishes. Al apprenticed as a toolmaker with Chevrolet Gear and Axle as a teenager during WW II. He spent most of his career after the war at GM Research Labs at the Tech Center in Warren Michigan. With his knowledge of materials and metal forming engineers would bring unsolvable design problems to Al. He would produce the desired piece so the engineers could then make the drawings. He worked on a variety of interesting projects including early robots hovercraft and experimental Stirling and Wankel engines. He had a large role in the development of an important medical breakthrough the first-ever blood separation centrifuge which was actually developed by GM in response to a special request by medical researchers at Wayne State. He always felt the UAW did a poor job of representing skilled workers so he became active in an unsuccessful attempt to form a new union the ISST (International Society of Skilled Tradesmen) to listen more to the special needs of skilled tradesmen. Al was an incessant tinkerer. He developed two inventions outside of work. The first was a panic braking/collision prevention light for passenger cars. It utilized a patented inertia switch to detect panic braking situations displaying a bright rapidly flashing light in the rear window to warn cars coming from behind. While the widespread use of this invention was never realized shortly afterwards automotive companies began placing brake lights in rear car windows for additional visibility positioned similarly to Al's light. His second invention was a two-handled snow shovel a labor and back-saving device. He also constantly experimented with cooking golf technique and blackjack strategies. Al was a dedicated Roman Catholic ushering at St. Dennis for many years and also involved in many church building and renovation projects. His favorite book was the Mystical City of God a work of three large volumes devoted to Mary which he studied for many years. He prayed the rosary daily and attended Mass frequently. He was a believer in Christ man's noble heritage as made in God's image but also of man's need for redemption from sin. Al's defense of the weak among us led him to commit himself to protecting the unborn as a precinct delegate for Ronald Reagan his support of African-American equality in the '6

Published in Daily Tribune on January 9 2011.

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