TRAVERSE CITY — It was a Saturday morning tradition, a schtick that Linda Barry and Al Lien would perform every week at the kids’ matinee at Traverse City’s State Theatre.
“Poppy, it’s 10 o’clock. Time to start the show,” came Barry’s sing-song wheedle. Lien — wearing his red-and-white striped “Poppy the Popcorn Man” ensemble — would stand stubbornly at the door to the State Theatre determined to “sticker” the late arriving kids straggling in.
Finally, Lien would grumble a put upon, “Yes, dear, yes, dear,” and dutifully follow the house manager to the stage to announce the kids’ birthdays.
“Those were probably Al’s last words to me — ‘yes, dear,’” said Barry.” It was a thing between he and I. There was always another kid walking in the door and I was always prodding him.”
Alvin Thorwald Lien, 71, died April 21 from internal injuries at Munson Medical Center after being pinned between his pickup truck and a gravel truck. He’d been spreading gravel at home when authorities believe the truck slipped out of gear, rolled downhill and trapped him.
A celebration of Lien’s life will take place from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Old Town Playhouse. A potluck follows from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The playhouse doesn’t typically host events like this, but Lien is a special case in many respects, said Phil Murphy, OTP’s executive director.
Lien cultivated a reputation as a grouchy curmudgeon but he had a heart of gold, Murphy said.
“He was an endearing soul, and if you were smart enough to watch, you’d see the glint in his eye,” Murphy said. “He was as giving as the day is long, and never blanched at anything you’d ask. You had to be willing to give him 10 minutes of your time, and if you did, you were well rewarded in the long run. That was one of the things he brought into our lives.”