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Neighbors: Wahpeton native lived in Seattle when he made his mark in aviation

Bob Lind1 / 2
In this photo from the Seattle Times, Al Seifert toasts his 65th Service Award with the Boeing Co. aboard the company yacht, Daedalus.2 / 2

He was a young guy from Wahpeton, N.D., making his dream come true. He was working on airplanes.

Because of Albert Seifert’s ties to this area, Betteann and Glenn Bond, Bellevue, Wash., sent his obituary from a 2012 issue of the Seattle Times to Neighbors.

It was in Seattle where Al made his mark in the world of aviation.

That obituary coupled with information sent to Neighbors by Al’s nephew Bob Seifert, Wahpeton, son of Al’s brother Willard, 95, Wahpeton, provides much of the story of Al’s life.

He was born in 1920 in Wahpeton, one of the six children of Albert A. and Olivia Seifert (pronounced SIGH-fert).

The Seiferts had lived in St. Cloud, Minn., until their first child died when he was 6 months old. They then moved to Wahpeton, where Alfred A. sold pianos and jewelry.

Al graduated from Wahpeton High School, then earned a certificate in aviation engineering from the North Dakota State School of Science (now the North Dakota State College of Science), Wahpeton.

In the early 1940s, he was drawn to Seattle by the booming airplane manufacturing industry there, was hired by Boeing and in 1942 began installing components on the B-17 “Flying Fortress,” the workhorse bomber of World War II.

His career with Boeing was interrupted in 1944 when he joined the Army’s 9th Armored Infantry Division. He served two years, then returned to Boeing.

He held many positions with Boeing, but his notable role, the Times said, was as a tool and die maker in the company’s manufacturing research and development unit. This is a highly skilled task, involving the creation of tools that other workers use to make production parts.

Albert’s work ranged from creating assembly jigs used to put together airplane wings to room-sized washers for washing machine parts.

In 2001, he created the laser trim cell, a device that employs a laser to cut stainless-steel tubing.

A technician who worked with Albert told the Times that, “If anything needed to be built and no one could make it, Al could do it.”

Another fellow employee said Al was a hard worker. “We had to remind him,” this man said, “that he was making us look bad and to try not to work so hard. If the crew had any one complaint about Al, it was, ‘Look, there’s Al working through his break again!’”

Al married Yolanda, who had been his assistant at Boeing, in 1949. They had two daughters and three grandchildren.

There are other family connections to Boeing. Al’s late brother Kenneth was a Boeing engineer and Al’s daughter Lorelei also worked there, as did Bob’s brother-in-law Ronald Heiderscheid, Wahpeton, who is married to Bob’s sister Jane.

Al worked until 2011, when he developed cancer. He died at age 91 after having worked for Boeing for nearly 70 years.

This was the man from Wahpeton who, the Times says, would already be at work when other employees arrived at 5:30 a.m., brewing coffee and doing what he liked best: “building sophisticated tools and equipment that few others in his field could make with ease.”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail