Al Kennedy Kalin
June 4, 1948 - April 20, 2020
Al Kalin was an incredible storyteller, but the story of his own life is the best one of all.
Al Kennedy Kalin, 71, was born June 4, 1948, in Brawley.
His father, Albert Kalin, came to the Imperial Valley in 1915 and pioneered what would grow to become the top agricultural commodity in the County — cattle — by building the first two feedlots. He was also a founding partner in the building of the historic Planter’s Hotel in 1927, which served as a meeting place for business to be conducted for cattlemen, and he expanded his cattle and farming business to include land in the Victorville area as well.
Al’s mother, Louise Kennedy, was the daughter of Imperial Valley pioneers who traveled by rail on an “immigrant train” in 1907 from Texas. Her mother returned briefly to Texas to give birth to Louise in 1920 because her father said, “No child of mine is going to be born in California.” After attending college in Los Angeles, Louise returned to Brawley in 1940 and began working for Albert Kalin as a bookkeeper. In 1946, Louise and Albert were married and also became partners in all aspects of the business operations.
When their first child, Al, was born two years later, Albert rode his horse through the lobby of Planter’s Hotel announcing the birth of his son. Al’s brother, Carson, was born three years later in 1951. Sadly, it was later that same year that Albert passed away, leaving Louise to manage the feedlot, the 3,000-acre farm, and the Planter’s Hotel as a single mother. A woman named Ruthie Mae was hired to stay with them and help her raise the boys for many years. A colorful group of characters who worked at the feedlot and who ended up in Al’s stories later in life also helped “raise” him, along with his grandmother.
Beginning at a young age, Al’s mother would drive him around the ranches with her and they would look at birds and animals. By the age of five he was riding his own horse at the feedlot and earning money trapping gophers and shooting the pesky blackbirds with his BB gun. By age seven, he had earned enough money to buy his own shotgun which he used for dove hunting and to earn more money by shooting muskrats infesting the irrigation canals for the water district.
Around this same time his mother purchased 80 acres on the edge of the Salton Sea that ended up being used as a duck club because the soil was too poor to farm. This quickly became Al’s favorite childhood haunt and he would spend countless days there hunting, fishing, and beachcombing; discovering all kinds of interesting treasures that had been dumped in the river in Mexico and washed up on the seashore, including thousands of mutated green toy army men from a factory, that he could use to trade for sandwiches at school.
Al raised steers for 4-H, played football, worked on the farm, explored the Planter’s Hotel in which they lived for many years and learned about its operations, had many adventures and talents, but he said his most cherished accomplishment of all time was in 1959 when he was named the Marble Champion of Brawley, California.
Most of his childhood summers were spent at their high desert ranch near Victorville, trout fishing in their reservoir with Ruthie Mae who taught him to fish, and irrigating alfalfa fields with a retired farmer named Fred Middaugh, who became like a grandfather to Al and taught him how to see things in nature unknown and hidden to the common person.
All these people and experiences in his early years helped influence and nurture Al’s love of the great outdoors. His respect for nature, and his vast knowledge of many aspects of agriculture and life in the Imperial Valley grew to expertise levels throughout his life.
Upon graduation from Brawley Union High School in 1966, Al went on to attend college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in Farm Management and also completed advanced studies in Crop Science, Soil Science, Agricultural Engineering, and Game Bird Management. During this time, he also enlisted in the CA National Guard and spent his summers from 1971-1977 serving our nation as a grenade specialist and fixing tanks.
While still in high school, Al had started Kalin Farms with his brother Carson, and after college and his service in the military, he returned to Brawley to continue helping manage the farm as well as a drainage tile maintenance company. Together they farmed 2,500 acres of wheat, alfalfa, carrots, dehy onions, and sugar beets. He also pioneered the use of a newly declassified color infra-red film for use in aerial photography to spot soil and crop problems in Imperial Valley fields.
Al built a house near the Salton Sea, right in the middle of the farm, which would become the Kalin family home for the rest of his life.
In 1973, he met Patti Faulk and after several years of giving her fishing advice and then courting her, they married in 1976. After their fishing hobby “ran amuck,” as he put it, Al and Patti started a fishing lure manufacturing company together in their home that grew so large they had to move it to a warehouse at the feedlot. He was well known and respected in the tournament bass fishing industry and Kalin Lures had an amazing 29 percent market penetration nationwide.
In addition to farming, family, fishing, and fun, Al dedicated much of his time to serving his community. He was a Westmorland Community 4-H leader for 10 years, a trustee for the Westmorland Union Elementary School District for 30 years, and a director on the Imperial County Farm Bureau board for almost 20 years. As a farmer, environmentalist, and foremost expert on the Salton Sea, he has served on countless advisory committees for the Imperial Irrigation District, the State Department of Water Resources, UC Desert Research and Extension Center, Desert Wildlife Unlimited, Salton Sea Bird Festival, New River Task Force, and more, tackling issues such as water conservation, restoration of the Salton Sea, water quality, and others.
He was the lead on developing water quality best management practices for farmers needing to comply with new state regulations for their irrigation drainage water and was hired by the Farm Bureau as the On-Farm Water Quality Consultant. He was the go-to person for information, interviews, meetings, and educational tours of the Salton Sea and the IV agriculture industry for dignitaries, documentarians, journalists, birdwatchers, and others.
Al was the recipient of several prestigious awards including the 2004 Governor’s Environmental & Economic Leadership Award, the 2006 Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Award for Outstanding Achievement (both for the farm water quality program he co-developed), and in 2013 he was named Farmer of the Year by the Imperial County Farm Bureau.
From 2001 to 2007 he had his own weekly column in the Imperial Valley Press called Outdoor Tales in which he shared enlightening and humorous stories about his life in the Imperial Valley and the Great Outdoors. His stories were so loved by his readers that he was encouraged to put them in the form of a book, which he finally published in 2017. He dedicated it to the love of his life, Patti. Copies of the book Outdoor Tales are sold at the Simply@Home store on Main Street in El Centro.
Al’s intelligence and vast array of experience led him to be known as an expert on countless topics like the ones already mentioned, as well as lapidary arts, owls, roses, photography, and pretty much anything he put his mind to. His quick wit and engaging descriptions while telling stories could make you feel like you were right there and also have you laughing hysterically. As remarkable as he was, it was his gentle spirit, quiet nature, willingness to help and teach others, and his down to earth personality that made him a dear friend to people of all walks of life.
Above all, Al was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He had a unique relationship with each of his three children: Linda Morse (Sidney), Michael Kalin (Brandi), and Kristin Kalin, as well as his four grandchildren: Austin Morse, Destiny Kalin, Branden Kalin, and Kalin Morse. As a true outdoorsman he did things with them such as taking them fishing, hunting, shooting, and camping.
He and his wife of 43 years, Patti, were genuine kindred spirits and enjoyed doing all these things together. One of their favorite vacations was to Marysvale, Utah, where they explored the land on ATV’s with their good friends George, Holly, Rex, and Rosetta. Patti was by Al’s side when he passed away from cancer at the age of 71.
At the sunset of his life, when asked what he enjoyed the most, he answered simply and thoughtfully, “Spending time with my family and admiring a beautiful sunset.”
Al will be missed deeply by his family, friends, colleagues, and all those whose lives he touched.
Al is preceded in death by his mother, Louise Willey and father, Albert Kalin; and his stepbrother, Jimmy Willey.
He is survived by his wife, Patti Kalin; three children, Linda Morse (Sidney), Michael Kalin (Brandi), and Kristin Kalin; his four grandchildren, Austin Morse, Destiny Kalin, Branden Kalin, and Kalin Morse; his brother, Carson (Janeen); and numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later time.