BONAVISTA, N.L. — When together with their dad, Colleen Tinkham, Gina Little and Craig Little — Albert Little’s children — their mom Florence would always say, “Close the windows!” due to the racket of laughter and yelling they would incite.
In an interview with The Packet, all the windows were closed tightly as they reminisced and told stories about a man who was a true ambassador, host, storyteller, expert trouter and berry picker, tormentor and, certainly, a character.
Albert Little passed away on June 3 at the age of 80 after a battle with cancer.
A prominent member of the business and tourism community, he owned the Harbourview Bed and Breakfast in Bonavista from 1997 until he retired and his daughter Colleen took it over four years ago.
However, Colleen remarks that her Dad would still walk from his home next door and talk to their guests — a highlight to all those who stayed there.
In fact, Alb’s legacy is not only well-known in Bonavista — widely regarded as a funny but kind individual amongst everyone in town — his renown also stretched across the globe.
Harbourview had countless return guests and others who stayed in touch by writing and calling, all thanks to Alb’s funny and heartfelt stories and genuine hospitality. Some guests eventually became close friends, and when they would come to visit again, they would stay in Alb’s own home — free of charge.
Gina, Colleen and Craig say it was truly a team effort between Florence and Alb — their mom was the cook and their dad was the entertainment.
“He was a storyteller,” recalls Craig.
Florence’s bread, jams, desserts and pastries were so good they were well-regarded even by professionals, while Alb’s stories had people crying with laughter during their stay.
Gina says he’s had dozens of gifts, ranging from in-soles for his shoes, coffee from Nashville, and even holly and chestnuts courtesy of same-day delivery at Christmastime.
Florence has a photo album full of their guests. They weren’t just patrons, they were friends.
“But you’d never know what he was going to say,” laughed Colleen.
But it wasn’t just the guests who will remember Alb fondly, his many friends in Bonavista will always speak highly of him.
Colleen says there was “more laughter than tears,” at the funeral home last month as friends and family gathered in his honour.
For example, while around town, if he went to the store or coffee shop, before he left he’d have the place in an uproar.
And of course, Gina, Colleen and Craig remember how amazing of a father he was as well.
“He was an awesome father,” says Gina. “He did without all his life to give to us.”
They say he was generous and trustworthy, as well as a thoughtful man who would give anyone whatever they wanted.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing,” said Colleen.
Craig and Colleen often remember tagging along on trouting trips or snowmobiling. Although he had not much interest in material things, Alb was a man content with what he had and valued his family most of all.
“If you wanted anything, and he had it, he’d give it away,” said Craig.
A running joke was for one of his five grandkids to hide away his can of Pepsi, his favourite treat.
Alb was a prolific businessman during his life in Bonavista. Having also worked as a fisherman, he owned not only the Harbourview B&B over the years, he also owned Little’s Drive In, a furniture store, restaurant and more.
Alb was also highly regarded in the hockey community, as an original Bonavista Bearcat player in the 1960s, he had great comradery and memories from his days playing the sport on Harbour Pond and in the stadiums around the area.
“They’d spend hours over cleaning off (Harbour Pond) so they could play the Legion or whoever that night,” said Gina with a laugh. “When … they’d come back, people would be over skating on it. They’d get dirty! And one of those people was Mom!”
The games were legendary. According to him, one game in Clarenville began at 7 p.m. and didn’t finish until 3 a.m. with the RCMP on the ice.
But while hockey provided some of his cherished memories, it also provided some of the lowest ones as well.
After his son Dean, who was only 12 years old, drowned while on a hockey tournament in St. John’s 25 years ago, the family organized a memorial peewee tournament each November in Bonavista.
Gina was one of the main organizers over the years and while Alb was a little standoffish at first, he came to be one of the central parts of the banquet, talking to all the visiting teams and ensuring everyone had a good experience.
“The children loved him,” recalled Craig.
The tournament has such a good reputation, thanks to the Little family, that once a parent came up to them to say they were so disappointed. The consummate host, Alb needed to make things right. But when they asked what the problem was, they said they were disappointed because it would be the last year one of the children would be playing in the peewee division, and therefore, their last Dean Little tournament.
“He always said, ‘If anything happens to me, make sure this tournament keeps going on,’” remembers Gina.
Alb will be remembered as an ambassador — for the community of Bonavista, the tourism industry and the sport of hockey — but also as a father, friend, host and a real character to people near and far.
Craig says there are so many stories and experiences for his Dad, they’re endless.
“You could definitely write a book on him.”