|Sharp wit keeps this Over the Hill guy going
Rohnert Park’s Al Tornquist served in two wars and has seen America change in many ways in 95 years
Al Tornquist had no idea what was going on as friends began to trickle into Raley’s Supermarket on Monday, May 5.
He thought it would be a normal meeting of the Over the Hill Gang, a group of senior citizens that meet each Monday, Wednesday and Friday to sit around and talk. But when he saw some of his friends arriving with cakes and cards, he knew something was afoot.
When told he was the subject of an interview because his friends were throwing him a surprise 95th birthday party, a big smile beamed across his face. And the jovial senior citizen asked, “Who pulled all this together? I had no idea any of this was happening.”
Celebrating with Over the Hill Gang
Tornquist actually turned 95 the day before, but the first time the club could celebrate together was that Monday.
If a sharp wit is one of the keys to a long life, Tornquist has a lot more time on this earth. Even though he has hearing aids in both ears, when he hears an opportunity to deliver a zinger, he’ll let it fly without hesitation.
“I always check the obituaries every day just to make sure my name’s not in them,” Tornquist said. “I’m older than dirt.”
When asked how many children he has, Tornquist quipped, “Two that I’ll admit to.”
He moved to Rohnert Park eight years ago at the insistence of his sons and his daughter-in-law, from Alameda.
“It made no sense for them to keep coming to Alameda…they get tired, so this was a good move,” Tornquist said.
The move came after his wife of 63 years, Billie, passed away. They’re two sons are Steven and Bill, and his daughter in-law is Jean.
Part of greatest generation
Tornquist is a proud member of what many feel was America’s greatest generation. He flew in B-17s in the South Pacific in World War II and was a supply officer during the Korean War. He earned the nickname Al “Bombardier.”
After serving his country, Tornquist made his living as a salesman, specializing in winery equipment.
“I cover this territory (the North Bay) for years,” he said.
At one time, the Over the Hill Gang had five members who served in World War II, but now they’re down to Tornquist and Vern DiMartini, who served in the Navy.
“Al’s a rough guy, that’s all I’ve got to say,” DiMartini said. “I’ve got to watch him all the time. He’s making passes at all the women walking in. Gotta watch him like a hawk.”
The Over the Hill Gang has no qualms about joking about each other’s age. Their years on this planet have given them that right.
And 69-year-old Bill Ferguson delivered a nice shot at Tornquist.
“We wanted to put candles on his cake this year, but the city wouldn’t give us a burn permit,” Ferguson said.
From Model-Ts to Mars
Tornquist in his 95 years obviously has seen a number of changes come about in the United States and the world. He’s seen the world transition from listening to the radio for entertainment to all the types of viewing options on television or even the home computer.
He saw entertainers such as Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra come and go. He’s seen airplanes evolve from simple puddle jumpers to planes that can hit unimaginable records of speed.
But what amazes him the most is space travel.
“The biggest change in America for me is that when I was young, I was learning to drive on a Model-T Ford, but nowadays, they’ve got them up on Mars,” he said.