Al Malpa, beloved partner of Cary Hull, died on Feb. 6, after a short illness at their home in Chester. Al was born July 17, 1949, in Providence, Rhode Island to Rev. Alfred P. Malpa, Sr., and Irene (Galuppo) Malpa. Al was proud of his roots, never losing his Rhode Island accent, even after living in Connecticut for more than 50 years.
He was a man for whom time meant little (except when he wanted to grab the best seat for shooting a basketball game or attending a jazz concert). As one friend said, “Al was a wonderful man who didn’t keep track of time by the clock…he kept time by the number of people he met and the conversations he shared with them.” Al even arrived late for his second date with Cary but charmed her by bringing a gift of grape jam he had made with grapes picked from his canoe on the Farmington River.
Al was a man of enormous talent and ability, with wide-ranging interests. He was a trombone player, graduating from the Hartt School of Music; he had a long career as a real estate broker, owner, and builder, serving as president of the Greater Hartford Board of Realtors in 1991. Later, as a photographer at the Willimantic Chronicle, he won national and regional first place awards from the National Press Photographers Association and the New England Newspaper and Press Association, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 Award in Breaking News Photography. Countless athletes and their parents in the Willimantic area remember him fondly as the photographer who made it a point to track them down so he could email them their photos.
Al never did anything halfway. Even as a boy, he could sit and endlessly watch a stream flow. Once he learned to use a camera, he would wait patiently to capture the perfect photo of a flower in a windy field. He reveled in listening to a favorite piece of music over and over again, catching every nuance of sound. In the kitchen, he could work for hours to bring out every iota of flavor in a pot of food, knowing just the right ingredients to use. We fully expect that he has arrived in the afterlife with his huge stainless-steel bowl under his arm and a tin of anchovies, prepared to treat everyone to one of his legendary Caesar salads. He always credited an early job at restaurant Petite Marmite in Palm Beach for his culinary skills.
Since his teenage years, Al was captivated by ephemera, beginning with old letters he found in an antiques shop. In 1994 his book, Rewards of Merit, was published by the Ephemera Society of America; to this day it is still the only scholarly work on rewards of merit. The Ephemera Society recently bestowed its top honor, the Maurice Rickards Award, to Al for his “sustained, outstanding contributions to the field.”
Al had a tremendous volunteer ethic and was always one to take in a stray, whether it was a person or an animal. He believed everyone deserved kindness and respect and was curious about everyone and everything; to the end he said he did not want to die because he did not want to miss anything.
A man of great heart, Al was what you think of when someone uses the term “a good guy.” He was a kind and gentle soul, who loved people and animals (not necessarily in that order). Besides Cary, Al leaves behind her children, Katherine (Trevor) Hilliar and David (Apple Gifford) Hull and four granddaughters, Bailey and Marley Hilliar and Zinnia and Lucy Hull, who will all miss their “Pops.” He also leaves his former wife and longtime good friend, Liz Sivell Bowen. He was predeceased by his parents and faithful four-legged companions Josiah and Trooper.
Al was one of those rare people that you liked the instant you met him and saw his big smile and sparkling eyes. Please remember Al as he would most like to be remembered—by doing an act of kindness for someone, anyone. A private service was held for the family. To share a memory of Al or send a condolence to his family, please visit www.rwwfh.com. Arrangements are by the Robinson, Wright & Weymer Funeral Home in Centerbrook.