Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 13, 2013

Allison Dean 'Al' Shumsky

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Allison Dean “Al” Shumsky passed away peacefully on Nov. 10, 2013, following a 15-year resolute battle against cancer.

The first child of Stanley C. and Edith V. (Hosier) Shumsky, he was born May 29, 1930, in Kalkaska, and received his earliest schooling there before moving with his family to Traverse City, where he completed the primary grades at Immaculate Conception.

While attending Traverse City Central High School he enjoyed chess, participated on the debate team and played music with a small group of musically talented students. Upon graduating in 1948, Al performed the first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the high school band at the baccalaureate service.

His higher education included four years at the University of Michigan, where he received the Hopwood Award in writing each year. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1952. In 1953 and 1954 he attended the University of Lyon, France, on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship.

Al received his M.A. in creative writing from the University of Florida in 1955 before being drafted into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that same year. He was happy to be stationed in France, which he’d come to love during his earlier stay.

From 1957 to 1995 he was a faculty member at Northwestern Michigan College, where he taught “everything in English” but specialized in creative writing and linguistics. He was head of the English Department and director of the communications division from 1962 to 1987 and in 1990 was recipient of the Imogene Wise Faculty Excellence Award. He was a Fellow of NMC in 2000.

While on sabbatical to study language in Thailand he became enamored with “the country, the people, the food, the prices,” and he returned for extended visits at every opportunity.

He had a lifelong love of music and would admit to being a “pretty good amateur pianist of the classical repertoire.” There are some who readily admit their appreciation for fine music was inspired by Al.

An avid gardener for many years, he was fond of most flowers, but especially treasured old roses and rhododendrons, which flourished under his care.

Active in stamp collecting by age 11, Al developed into a serious philatelist, eventually compiling six different collections, one being a postal history of the Grand Traverse region and the latest, a history of Thailand during World War II. Having become an acknowledged expert in the field many of his articles were published in specialized journals.

His long, outstanding love of cats is well known, and his home was continuously graced by two, sometimes more, that had been rescued from the shelter.

Al was preceded in death by all family members of the previous generation and his brother, Stanley David Shumsky.

He is survived by his lifetime partner and recent caregiver, Richard Goerz; siblings, Judith M. Belloso (Gregario), Nancy A. Peck (Millard) and John J. Shumsky (Dianna); sister-in-law, Loann Shumsky; and his Thai foster sons, Add, Ae and Goh and all of their families.

Al wished to express his heartfelt thanks to Dick, family, friends, colleagues and students who helped make his life a happy one and to doctors who, as he would say, “helped extend my life beyond its expiration date.”

At his request, cremation has taken place. There will be no funeral service.

Al suggested that anyone wanting to honor his memory could do so by listening to Brahms’ Third Symphony or the First Movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.

Please visit to share your thoughts and memories of Al with his family.

The Shumsky family is being served by Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services.