Gerry Bartlett had many conversations with Fred Alteen during the more than five decades they’ve known one another.
They weren’t all about business, investments, war veterans or philanthropy.
On Monday, as Bartlett contemplated the death of his longtime friend this past weekend, there was one nugget of wisdom that stood out from those numerous chats.
It was the occasion of Bartlett’s retirement when Mr. Alteen told him to always have a goal in mind to accomplish every day.
“He said when you get up in the morning, make sure you have something to do, whether it’s just going for a coffee or whatever,” said Bartlett. “The fact you have something to do will get you out of bed.”
Mr. Alteen, who died Saturday at age 95, certainly made good use of his time. After serving as a radio operator and technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force in England during the Second World War, the native of Amherst, N.S. moved to Corner Brook to start the jewelry store that continues to be a staple of downtown Corner Brook’s business community today.
He never really retired from the business. He was known to spend a few hours nearly every day at his office, writing in his journal and making pieces of jewelry.
His journal entries indicate his last day at the office was just two weeks ago, said his son, John Alteen.
“That was part of his social life, even if he just went down there for a couple of hours,” said John.
In October 2017, Alteen Brothers Ltd., the company founded by Doug and Fred Alteen, was named the recipient of a Legacy Award at the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade’s Business Excellence Awards.
The brothers employed hundreds of people throughout the years, said John.
"Working with these guys made retail a profession for some people.”
That commitment to work right to the end was no surprise to Bartlett.
“He was mentally sharp right up until his death,” said Bartlett. “He never lost that ability to make decisions, analyze stuff and be involved in things.”
Mr. Alteen was a stalwart member of Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion, serving numerous roles on its board of directors through the years. He even attended this year’s Remembrance Day parade in cold and snowy weather, just two weeks before he died.
He was a valuable asset for local veterans as an advocate for them. Bartlett noted how Mr. Alteen often made sure veterans were aware of the services available to them through the federal Department of Veterans Affairs and was instrumental in having units dedicated to war veterans at both the former O’Connell Centre and the new long-term care facility in Corner Brook.
Mr. Alteen was a lifelong member in both the Kinsmen Club of Canada and the Knights of Columbus. He was a founding member of the Western Memorial Hospital Foundation and was named Corner Brook’s Citizen of the Year in 2013.
Bartlett, who met Mr. Alteen after joining the Kinsmen in 1966, said his friend was generous in ways that were often not meant to be made public.
Despite the bluntness and gruff persona, Bartlett said Mr. Alteen would not hesitate to dip into his own personal resources to help people in need.
“He wouldn’t wait to be asked either,” said Bartlett. “He would just volunteer and to help them out any way he could … He seemed a little bit crusty on the outside, but he was soft as anything on the inside.”
Mr. Alteen’s funeral will take place at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Redeemer on Wednesday morning.