On June 20, 2011, Al Siegel passed away in his sleep. To those who knew him, and to powerlifting in general, this can only be described as a profound loss.
Al can be best summarized as a devoted man, who earnestly wanted to help others. He was a fierce competitor himself, with numerous records titles and achievements to his name. Yet he was always there to help others.
I first met Al at an ADFPA competition, circa 1985 What I immediately noticed about Al was that he was helping lifters with their form, giving advice that was not only good, but had people successfully coming back from missed attempts, even people he had never seen lift before that day.
Al was devoted to his wife Brenda, who he admiringly referred to as his bride even after 50 years of marriage. He was devoted to, and proud of, his sons. He was the picture of a doting grandpa to his beloved granddaughter. And he was a powerlifter, unshakably devoted to his sport.
Al led the ADFPA in its early days, establishing it as a federation with a strong base of rules, while being lifter-friendly. His combination of those two pieces gave the ADFPA the credibility and critical mass to survive in an era before the dozens of competing federations. As much as he was pro-lifter, Al was also a stickler for making sure that rules were followed. And make no mistake - he was a tough judge. As a head judge, he had his share of times when he was the lone red light, even on squats. I remember asking him once what the violation was when the two side judges gave whites. He said depth. To my quizzical look he added "well, they (the side judges) didn't see it the way I saw it".
Around 1994, Al originated the concept of raw lifting. The name "raw" as applied to unequipped lifting was his invention. He yearned for lifting that was drug-free, and didn't have all the assistance of equipment that was increasingly required with steadily improving caliber of gear. In yearning for what he saw as classic, Al turned to the AAU, where lifting first started, and which was, at least at one time, without gear. Al's concept flourished, with a very successful National Championship in Disney World in 1997.
Around 2000, there was a split. In retrospect, the reasons are just not that important, but the result was that the ADAU was born. The ADAU was firmly grounded in the principles Al passionately believed in: drug free, raw lifting, rules in their classic form, strict but fair judging, and a strong emphasis on youth lifters. Al remained steadfastly committed to it through good times, and tougher times.
While doing all he could to steward his federation, Al's love of powerlifting and earnest desire to help remained. He was a fixture at USAPL contests, particularly in the Northeast, but also elsewhere. Even during times of disagreements with some administrative decisions, when it was meet time, Al put differences aside, and was for the lifters, wanting to see all contests go as well as possible. As raw lifting caught on elsewhere, and really caught fire, Al was somewhat hurt at first, as he felt strongly that this was his concept, yet he still travelled significantly to help at the 2009 USAPL Raw Nationals, and further to Florida to help at the 2011 Raw Unity Meet. This all reflected his love of powerlifting, and his desire to help lifters.
On the ADAU front, Al had many close friends, and helped many lifters to get their start. His youth program, is extraordinary, and gave a large number of young people a great intro to the sport. My own daughter, Naomi, had her start a year ago at age 8 at Al's contest, and he put her right to ease and had her smiling at her very first contest. By the time she got to the platform, I was far more nervous than she was. And I've heard similar stories from parents of other young lifters; they loved coming to Al's contests, because they loved Al.
Al will be dearly missed by many. His passing is one that makes many of us sadly ask "what now?". The answer is that we need to learn from Al's example, learn from his devotion and passion, and learn the importance of helping others just for the sake of doing good. Filling the void left by Al will require a concerted effort by those who knew him to collectively carry on his legacy, and I can only sincerely hope that I, and others that I know, are up to the challenge.Ed Kutin