Downtown Guerneville isn't all that big.
It wouldn't take most of us more than a few minutes to walk from one end to the other.
But not Alby Kass.
"Getting one block to the bank could be an hour-long adventure," said Larry Kass, Alby's son. "He knew everyone in town and everyone knew him and almost everyone loved him."
Kass's family and the broader Guerneville community are mourning the loss of Alby, 89, who died March 31 at Kaiser Permanente San Leandro Medical Center from COVID-19.
Kass was born in 1931 in the Bronx, New York to Yiddish-speaking parents. He joined the Air Force when he turned 18 and was stationed at Travis Air Force Base. He later worked for 20 years as a sixth-grade teacher but traded in that career when he and his wife, Wallie, purchased the River Lane Resort in Guerneville in 1975 where they raised their two sons, Larry and Jonathon.
Larry Kass says the role of innkeeper was a perfect fit for his outgoing, curious father. "He was incredibly social, hospitable, and made people feel comfortable whether they were a customer or a friend."
River Lane's resort's location, in the center of town, was also a perfect fit for Alby, who was soon at the center of his town's business, Jewish, and musical communities.
"He was the warmest, most effusive, big bear of a man with a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous tenor voice," said fellow musician Gary Weiner.
Alby and Wallie were founding members of Sonia Tubridy's River Choir. They performed together in local plays as well with Alby going on play Tevye in almost every local Fiddler on the Roof show for many years. "He was Tevye," Weiner said.
Alby was also Yiddish vocalist for Jubilee Klezmer Ensemble, performing throughout Sonoma County alongside his son, Larry. When those engagements start again, after the pandemic passes, is when he feels he may miss his father the most.