The oldest of three children, Albert was born in Deutch-Evern, West Germany, on Aug. 9, 1926, to Anna and Wilhelm Schnell. When Albert was 6 years old, his family moved to Bevenson, West Germany, where he went to school. At the age of 14, to his father’s disapproval, he flew his first glider, thereby starting his lifelong love of aviation and his fascination with clouds and meteorology. After finishing high school, he attended the Commercial School in Luneburg, West Germany, where he studied accounting.
In 1944, Albert enlisted in the Luftwaffe to be trained as a pilot. He was a little short so he worked hard on stretching exercises to gain the height needed to be accepted into the German Air Force. Upon completion of flight training, he was assigned to fly Red Cross missions ferrying wounded soldiers back to Germany from the Eastern Front. In 1945, shortly before the war ended, he was shot down over Czechoslovakia while flying three wounded soldiers back to Germany. They were captured by locals and handed over to the Russians. He spent the next three and a half years in forced labor prison camps in Siberia.
In 1948, not knowing that the war had ended, he managed to escape by hopping onto a train for wounded soldiers. He made his way home to Bevenson, where his father did not recognize him, but his sister did.
Albert went back to school and got his degree in accounting and went to work at the saline (salt works) in Luneburg. In 1950, he answered an ad in the paper for a position as an accountant for a sugar company in Laredo, Peru. In 1953, while working in Peru, he was introduced to Dr. Howell and meteorology. Meteorology was to become his life and his passion and he would manage the project in Peru until 1969. In 1958, he passed the requirements and received his Peruvian pilot’s license.
In 1961, while vacationing in Switzerland, he met his wife, Elsbeth. After they were married, they went back to Peru, where they started a family.
In 1969, the Peruvian government forced them to leave and they came to the U.S. to work for Colorado State University. Another project was offered to Albert in Leadville, Colo., and he accepted and worked there until 1971 when that project ended. Another project was started on Wolf Creek Pass and he moved the family to Pagosa Springs, where Albert continued to work in weather modification.
In 1977, the whole family became U.S. citizens. He started his own business, AIRAO Inc., from 1979 until 1990. He still continued doing research around the U.S. He worked primarily in the Canary Islands where, over a 10-year period, in addition to research, he employed a warm weather cloud seeding method, thereby increasing the rainfall filling some reservoirs that had been empty for many years.
Albert enjoyed Pagosa Country to the fullest. He was a member of the Grey Wolves skiing and hiking club. He was not fond of skiing, however, but he did like to go snowshoeing. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and flying. Just to prove he could still do it, on Aug. 8, 1985, one day before his 59th birthday, he met the requirements and received his U.S. pilot’s license. He loved to take his little boat out on Echo Lake, where he spent many an hour. He also liked to go to Fish Creek and Quartz Creek to catch brook trout.
Albert is survived by his wife of 59 years, Elsbeth; his son, Jean-Albert; daughter Elizabeth Ronish and son-in-law Bill Ronish; grandchildren Krystin and Ryan Ronish; and his sister, Ilse Doebler. He was preceded in death by his parents and younger brother, Walter.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the EMS ambulance fund, Pagosa Springs Medical Center, 95 S. Pagosa Blvd., Pagosa Springs, CO 81147, or to your favorite charity.