Seeing someone’s home can give you a great sense of who they are. This was the case with Al Tupakavich when he moved into the Angela Hospice Care Center.
“We get so many remarks,” said Al’s daughter, Sue. “From the nurses to – just everybody – the same sentence keeps being used. They’ve never seen a room look so homey. It so reflects who he is and what our family is. It feels like home. It really does.”
Al’s room was decorated with photos of his family. His artwork adorned the walls, including personalized cards he made for his wife of 38 years. There was even a framed poem that he wrote, “Michigan,” which was proposed as the state poem in 1996 by senators Loren Bennett and Walter North. But Al was perhaps best known for his musical talents.
Al had been playing steel guitar since he was a teenager. In the 1950s, after he was honorably discharged from the Army where he had been a cartographer, Al began playing with local band The Ramblin Boys and later The Melody Drifters. Then in 1964, he opened Victor Music Studio on Wayne Road in Westland. Al gave guitar lessons and had a small guitar shop there. It was recognizable by the yellow guitar out front – another of Al’s designs. Al ran the shop 54 years, until he was 89, and was well loved in the community.
“We get calls from many of his customers,” his daughter Sue explained. “Everyone in the community seems to know him. Everyone calls him sweet, the kindest man in the industry!”
At the Angela Hospice Care Center, when music therapist Heather Dean would come to visit Al, he was grateful for the chance to strum the strings of her guitar – and let her know if any strings needed tuning!
Victor Music Studio in Westland, which Al opened in 1964 and ran for 54 years.
Al was admitted to the Care Center with COPD after a battle with pneumonia. He also had dementia and Alzheimer’s, so some days were difficult for him. But Al’s sweet and friendly demeanor still shined through.
“Like yesterday,” Sue explained, “he couldn’t really speak. If he can’t say ‘I love you’ to me, we press our thumbs together. That’s our symbol for saying ‘I love you.’”
Sue raves about her dad – his artistic ability, his many accomplishments, their family jokes, and how proud Al is of his children and grandchildren. Al has certainly left his mark on his community as a beloved business owner, but even more so on his loving family.
“Nearing his last days, he communicated to me how thankful to my brother and I he was for all we had done for him,” Sue expressed. “Brought me to tears. I told him it was the other way around.”
Sue is also grateful for all Angela Hospice has done for her father and their family.
“Through his journey at Angela Hospice, he was able to make peace and find his way to God,” Sue shared. “He had built a special bond with Chaplain Richard who was able to help guide him through his journey.”
Like a song, “Al’s last days were filled with love and enjoyable moments.”
To read the 1996 Senate introduced bill proposed by senators Loren Bennett and Walter North, and Al’s poem, “Michigan,” click here.