I am saddened to report to the Krewe the passing of my father, and former solving partner, Al Gebra (Robert Hooke). Al died in Southern Pines, North Carolina, on August 4th 2003 after a number of years of declining health. He was 85. Al is survived by his wife (who once wrote a few puzzles under the nom "Satellite"), two sons, and a brother and sister.
Al Gebra was one of the oldest and longest-tenured members of the Krewe. His interest in the NPL began as a teenager, when he saw an ad for The Enigma in another puzzling journal. He received his first issue of The Enigma in June 1933, beginning an association with the NPL that lasted just over 70 years. Not realizing that his interest in puzzles would last a lifetime, Al chose the initial nom of Abie Ghinner. Soon, however, not only he, but both his parents (Lena Ghinner, later Helen Highwater, and A. Bizdad) had become active contributors, and his younger sister, Janice , also published a 6-square. Al let his membership in The Enigma lapse during the World War II years. However, he returned in 1947 with the new nom of Al Gebra, a name chosen in recognition of his interest in modern algebra, the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton University. During an active NPL career, Al served one term as president. He suggested the idea of solvers voting for their favorite flats, and he introduced at least one new flat type (the phonetic beheadment). Al also authored numerous puzzles, including over 120 7-squares.
When Al Gebra was not working on puzzles, he was a math professor (N.C. State and the University of the South) and then, for most of his career, an applied mathematician and statistician at the Westinghouse Research Laboratories in Pittsburgh. He and his wife, Annis, spent their retirement years in Pinehurst and Southern Pines, N.C. Throughout his life, but especially during his latter years, when declining health limited his activities, puzzling was one of the joys of his life. Al was a devoted husband and father, and a brilliant, yet unassuming man. I will miss him greatly.
(With thanks to Ulk, Satellite, Al Gebra and Sibyl, who together authored a "Hoozoo in Puzzledom" article about Al in the December, 1989 Enigma. Without that article, I would not have been aware of some of the facts in the write-up above.)
At about age 13, Al was looking over the shoulder of a friend who was working on a “peculiar” magazine. This turned out to be a magazine called the “Master Crossword Puzzler” (or something like that), and the friend gave it to Al. Al was intrigued, subscribed, and soon submitted a cross-word puzzle which was published in what turned out to be the final issue. However, in that final issue there was a small ad on the Enigma, and that is how Al's membership began.
Source: Earl E. Byrd.
First Issue: Jun 1933
When I began in 1933 I must have thought it was a temporary love, I chose the nom Abie Ghinner. [ . . . ] In about 1946 I changed my nom to Al Gebra, in honor of my Ph.D. specialty.
Previous Noms: Abie Ghinner.