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L. Allen Tarbell of Black Mountain, North Carolina, died on Sept. 17, 2018, after a short period of declining health. He was born in Burlington, Vermont, on August 21, 1922, to Luther and Ida (Clement) Tarbell. Allen grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan, and started drawing even before he entered grade school. As he recalled it, his parents, craving a bit of time to themselves, told him to, "Be quiet! Here's a paper and pencil--draw!" And he did. He had no opportunity for Art classes, but took drafting in high school in preparation for studying engineering. After two years at Michigan State enrolled in the engineering program, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserve during WWII. He served from April 1943 to November 1945, posted to bases in the Pacific, primarily in New Guinea. After the war, he studied at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1949 with a Bachelor of Design.
Allen first worked for Pullman Standard, then with Hamilton Standard, a division of United Technologies, in the Department of Air and Space Equipment. He received multiple promotions, reaching the level of Head Illustrator with the Service Department. It was his job to respond to client needs for air transportation companies and the U.S. military. His skill lay in being able to read blueprints and translate those into illustrations for technical manuals. One manual he worked on went into space with NASA's Apollo 13 mission. He always wondered if it was cardboard from that manual that was used to jury-rig an air scrubber to filter CO2 when disaster struck that craft. The cover from a manual was part of a patch worked air filter that enabled the crew to return to earth safely.
For many years during his career, Allen lived in Bloomfield, Conn., and he enjoyed planting trees in his yard. In the process of starting juniper cuttings, he found that he had an extra one with no place to plant it. He potted it up, instead, and after attending a Bonsai demonstration, got started with that baby juniper. He joined the Hartford area Bonsai club and participated in the hobby for the rest of his life. He also had a flair for topiary, and his retirement community could recognize his apartment by the topiary cat outside his back door.
In 1951, after Allen's mother and father had divorced, his mother remarried Roy H. Walch of Waterbury, Conn. With this union, Allen gained two step-brothers, Harry and Ray Walch, and became an uncle to their children. He took this obligation seriously, providing trips to go sailing, camping, or skiing, and giving special gifts to them, including watercolors he painted all around New England and worldwide. He was part of the Walch/Hutchinson extended family that celebrates annual reunions which he enjoyed attending.
In 1967, Allen went on an around-the-world trip organized by his Uncle Earl. The itinerary included stops in Japan, Southeast Asia, and Russia. When he returned, his uncle suggested that he share the slides he had taken with a woman who had to cancel her plans to join the trip due to illness. He did, and romance blossomed. Allen and Ruth married in 1976 and shared many happy years. They moved to North Carolina after Allen's retirement and enjoyed their home in Arden until 2002, when they decided to move to The Givens Highland Farms retirement community in Black Mountain. They enjoyed many happy years there. The family is grateful for that vibrant, loving community, and the excellent care they both received when needed.
Allen was predeceased by his wife Ruth in 2009; by his father, Luther, in 1972; his mother, Ida, in 2002; his step-brother Raymond Walch in 2012; and step-brother Harold Walch in 2013; and special friend Annie Kok Brady in 2016.
Survivors include his much-loved first cousins Marilyn Bostrom and Ruth Guthridge of Young Harris, Georgia; Bob Clement of Bellevue, Washington; and many nieces and nephews.
There will be a gathering to celebrate Allen's life at Givens Highland Farms on Weds., Sept. 26th, 2018, at 2:00 pm in their Assembly room. His remains will be interred at the East Cemetery in Hollis, New Hampshire, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Givens Highland Farms Resident's Assistance Ministry, 200 Tabernacle Rd., Black Mountain, NC, 28711; or to a charity of the donor's choosing.
Penland Family Funeral Home is honored to be caring for the Tarbell family.