One of Whistler's brightest and most genuine smiles will be sorely missed around the Village after Al Schmuck, a 40-year local, died suddenly of a heart attack recently.
Schmuck, 63, was one of Whistler's original ski patrollers in the 1970s and he built houses for many local residents. He worked on Whistler Search and Rescue for many years and was an avid golfer. But it was his warm smile and his generous, helpful nature that many people are remembering as they mourn his loss.
"He's always been helpful to everybody. He's always been friendly, happy, easygoing," said Trudel Gunther, Schmuck's wife of 20 years.
"Everybody loved Al."
Gunther said he was always quick to help neighbours, friends and clients with home repairs and problems, and he would often leave the table in the middle of a meal if someone needed a hand.
A former high school teacher, he took many young people under his wing over the years and was considered a father by former students, tenants, apprentices in his contracting business and others, she said.
"So many people say, 'He was like my dad,'" Gunther said. "He looked after everyone."
Schmuck collapsed when he was riding his bike from the Village to his home in Alpine Meadows on July 19. An autopsy confirmed that he had a massive heart attack, said Janice Lloyd, a long-time neighbour and friend.
Schmuck was healthy, happy and relaxed, so his death comes as a terrible shock, Gunther said.
"Everybody that I run into, they can't believe it. I still can't believe it," she said Tuesday (July 29).
Lloyd also expressed disbelief. "Nothing could have been more shocking and devastating for him to pass," she said. "I'll never get used to not having Al around."
Even though Schmuck had a lasting impact as a teacher in Vancouver on his students - many have kept in touch with him over the years - Whistler took hold and he left the city and teaching behind.
"He showed up here to take a leave of absence from teaching and he loved it so much he never left," Gunther said.
He worked on ski patrol and did maintenance for CMH Heliskiing. Though Schmuck had never built a house before, he started with his own house in Alpine and then began building homes for Whistler locals, she said.
Lloyd said he got many people interested in yoga and karate in the 1970s, and he would conduct yoga sessions at his home in the evenings.
"He gave us so much," she said. "There was great loving kindness in him for everything and everybody."
Whether people knew him from golf, skiing, his contracting business, Search and Rescue or the old Whistler days, Schmuck was a well-known local who always had a big smile for everyone.
"Al could never go out for a quick ride to the Village without seeing hoards of people," Lloyd said. "He always made your heart light; he always had a good smile."
Gunther is planning a public memorial to take place in September to allow family and friends from overseas to attend. More details will follow as a date and location are finalized.