GHENT RESIDENT Al Wassenhove was persistent. When he had a cause, whether keeping Pine Haven in Philmont or converting it to a center to serve veterans or convincing the county to buy a new vehicle to transport veterans to medical appointments, he never gave up. He could out-organize and out-debate anybody in the county. In a word, he was a force.
He died last week. Al Wassenhove was 80.
Politicians often squirmed when he addressed them. Maybe they didn’t care for the conviction he brought to his activism. But like them he understood that you can’t get much done if you don’t make noise. He was also a canny organizer who could mobilize a crowd of supporters on short notice to show up at the county office building in Hudson. That probably made politicians uneasy too.
But he was unfailingly civil, and that gave him the ability, increasingly rare these days, to work with people who did not share all his views but could agree on the project at hand.
Pine Haven didn’t turn out as he had hoped. But his efforts were never failures. He set an example for an approach to community activism that brings communities and individuals together rather than tearing them apart. The county was well served by his efforts and continues to benefit from his achievements and his character.