Businessman helped build the Vancouver we know, both physically and civically

CAMI JONER
March 24, 2007

Al Angelo Sr.

Files/The Columbian
Albert C. Angelo Sr. was Vancouver mayor from 1966 to 1969, leaving office soon after this photo was taken. At the time, he said he wouldn’t run for a third two-year term because he wanted to spend more time on family and business.

Albert C. Angelo Sr., who spent a half-century making a mark on Clark County as a Vancouver businessman and civic leader, died Friday morning. He was 87.

Angelo founded the Al Angelo Construction Co. in 1947, led Vancouver as the city's mayor in the late 1960s and was a member of numerous community organizations. Those who know the city's history say Angelo was part of a small group of business people who helped guide Vancouver through a robust period of expansion.

"These guys were the foundation, the pioneers, of this community from which we're creating the new Vancouver," said Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard. Pollard ordered U.S., state and city flags in Vancouver to be lowered to half-staff through March 30 in memory of Angelo.

Jim Justin, a colleague and a former Vancouver mayor, credited Angelo with improving the city's quality of life with numerous construction projects.

"He provided options from housing to office and retail developments," Justin said. "I don't think any of us can put our arms around all the work that company is responsible for."

Born Feb. 14, 1920, to Italian immigrant parents living in Skamania County, Angelo attended school in Cape Horn and Washougal and then spent several years working for his father's bridge- and road-building business.

In the 1940s, he launched his own enterprise with an $8,000 loan from a real estate broker named A.A. MacDonald, who encouraged Angelo to build homes for shipyard workers arriving en masse during World War II. Angelo purchased seven residential lots near 45th and Columbia streets in Vancouver for $250 each. He built seven homes and sold each for $4,000.

Profits went into buying a prune orchard at West 26th Street and Fruit Valley Road, where he and a crew built 52 two-bedroom homes, which quickly sold at prices between $5,800 and $6,100. The subdivision was called the Al-Kay Addition for Angelo and his new bride, nicknamed Kay. He married Katheryn Beatty in 1948, shortly after launching the Al Angelo Construction Co.

As two younger members of the downtown business crowd, Al and Katheryn Angelo opened offices near Fifth and Main streets. The company continued to build subdivisions, adding commercial construction projects in 1955. The company built and still owns its first multifamily project, Brandt Terrace, a 214-unit complex considered a standard for federal HUD-built properties and The Highlands, a 147-unit complex near Delaware Lane and Garrison Road.

The Al Angelo Co. grew with Clark County's population into the 1980s, when it began developing and managing its own commercial buildings and eased into the property management business. The company now controls substantial real estate holdings in 22 cities in six Western states - 3,200 apartment units here and throughout the West and over 1 million square feet of commercial buildings.

'Always a gentleman'

Angelo's work ethic is well remembered by longtime members of the business community.

"Always a gentleman … that was his hallmark," said Ed Lynch, a Vancouver businessman and philanthropist. "Al built a stable, profitable business. He dealt with people honestly, and that is certainly the thing that leads to a good community," Lynch said.

Jim Justin agreed.

"He was open, affable and easily approachable," said Justin, 74, now a commercial real estate agent, who knew Angelo starting in the 1960s. "I listened to whatever he had to say because he had the ability to make things happen."

Angelo, who never officially retired from the business, continued to advise his children until his death.

"His health prevented him at times from coming to the office, but we just took our business questions to him," said Angelo's son, Craig.

The Angelos developed commercial buildings along Chkalov Drive in east Vancouver; Four Seasons, a mixed-use development in Orchards; and in 1999 the $25 million Heritage Place retail-condominium project on Esther Short Park, which kick-started downtown redevelopment.

Government role

Angelo was appointed to the city building code board in 1955 and the Vancouver Planning Commission in 1959. He was elected to the city council in 1962 and installed as mayor in 1966. He served as mayor until 1969.

Angelo did not seek re-election at the end of his second term. At the time, he told a Columbian reporter that he wanted more time for his family and his business. He said he was most proud of his role in leading the Vancouver City Council to purchase the Orchards Water System.

"Obviously, Al Angelo was a visionary," Pollard said. "Our water system is the envy of a lot of people in our area and around the country. It's what's allowed us to grow."

Angelo served on several community and business organizations boards, including St. Joseph Community Hospital, the Navy League of the U.S. and Vancouver Federal Savings & Loan Association. He received the "Good Government Award" in 1967 and was appointed to a special state study group by Washington Gov. Dan Evans in 1969.

Angelo's sons Albert C. "Corky" Angelo and Craig Angelo joined the business in 1973, launching an unprecedented period of expansion that grew from their father's substantial land holdings. That land inventory gave the Angelos the freedom to finance their own projects throughout the 1980s. Today, the Al Angelo Co. is a multidisciplinary real estate investment company that develops, builds, owns and manages while still headquartered in Vancouver.

Proud of his children's accomplishments, Angelo told a newspaper reporter in 1981, "They have expanded the company far more than I would have been able to do."

The latest project is a nine-story office building on the former Denny's restaurant site at Mill Plain Boulevard and 15th Street.

"Dad grew his business with only one thing in mind … keep it in the family and never sell," said Corky Angelo. "He was always our best adviser. His approach to life is the very thing that made him a great husband, dad, grandfather and successful businessman. … It was just plain old honesty." Today, the family firm is moving into its third generation of ownership with Al Angelo III now in the business.

Angelo is survived by his wife, Katheryn; five children, Al "Corky" Angelo Jr., Craig E. Angelo, Gary A. Angelo, Larry A. Angelo and Kathy Angelo; 19 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and brothers Lewis Angelo and Ted Angelo, all living in Vancouver.

"The family could move the business anywhere they want," Pollard said. "They choose to stay in Vancouver because their roots are here and this is where their father started the business."

Pollard said he got to know Al Angelo Sr. about five years ago, when he (Pollard) joined a group of longtime Vancouver businessmen who meet on Wednesdays, calling themselves "The Good Old Boys." Angelo was a key member, known among the group as "the Mayor," Pollard said.

"He was a fairly quiet guy, but he wasn't shy about responding, or about criticizing me," Pollard said. "I liked the mayor. He was a good friend of mine and I will miss him."

Albert Angelo Sr. Timeline

Feb. 14, 1920

Born in Skamania County to Italian immigrant parents Sam and Julia Angelo. Attends school in Cape Horn and Washougal and works for his father's construction company.

1940

Moves to Vancouver and in the mid-1940s builds his first housing project off 45th and Columbia streets.

1947

Launches the Al Angelo Construction Co.

1948

Marries Katheryn Beatty.

1955

Constructs the company's first commercial project.

Appointed to Vancouver's Building Code Board.

1959

Named to Vancouver Planning Commission.

1962

Elected to the Vancouver City Council.

1966

Appointed Mayor of Vancouver, serving until 1969.

1973

Sons Albert C. , Corky Angelo Jr and Craig Angelo join the company. Business expansion continues through the 1980s and 1990s.

1999

Angelos begin construction of the $25 million Heritage Place retail/condominium project in downtown Vancouver.

2000

The company opens Four Seasons, a 100-acre mixed-use project in Orchards.

2007

The Al Angelo Co. has substantial real estate holdings in rental housing projects and commercial buildings in 22 West Coast cities in six states.

March 23, 2007

Al Angelo Sr. dies.

A funeral Mass for Angelo will be at noon Friday, March 30, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 400 S. Andresen Road. Burial services will be private. Vancouver Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.

Julia Anderson of The Columbian contributed to this report.

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