Al Wunderlich retired as an accountant at Anheuser-Busch and started his life’s work. For the past 20 years he has volunteered more than 40 hours a week as the man behind the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association.
The association started 25 years ago as the neighborhood was deteriorating and members of neighboring St. Paul United Church of Christ decided to do something. Wunderlich was a church leader and helped develop the association into a force to save the neighborhood and the many lives it encompassed.
“I think a lot of people doubted we could do anything,” Wunderlich said previously. “This was a bad neighborhood. We had to show them it was a success.”
A weedy field behind Franklin School became a park with playground thanks to the association. The neighborhood association holds a summer camp there for local youngsters. There is a community center where kids can use computers and get tutoring.
And the constant, steady presence guiding it all and nurturing those young lives is Wunderlich. He is 83.
The Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce last week named Wunderlich as their Citizen of the Year. They noted that in addition to donating thousands of hours to the neighborhood association, Wunderlich has donated thousands of dollars.
“His dedication to the organization has helped transform the community through a combination of before and after school tutoring, an eight week summer day camp, field trips, a concerted effort to encourage parent involvement in school activities and a wide variety of social, academic and health programs,” the chamber noted.
What a legacy, to “transform” a neighborhood after you retire.
This community owes a debt to Wunderlich. It’s nice to tell him so, but it would be a better tribute to follow his example.