William Albert Ridler, lovingly known as “Al” “Uncle Al” or “The Electric Landlord,” was one of a kind. He was an immensely warmhearted and charismatic individual, and would give you the shirt off his back whether you needed it or not. He was a curious, intelligent, creative, playful and joyful soul. He was complex and wonderful, and he will be missed.
Al was born on Valentine’s Day 1937 to Velda Victoria (Finch) Ridler and Frederick Lawrence Ridler of Toronto. He grew up an only child who took great joy in learning how things worked and then testing them out. He built and flew model airplanes, visited the pharmacy regularly for supplies to carry out chemical experiments, and got up to general mischief as often as circumstances would allow. As a teenager, he honed his mechanical talents at the Danforth Technical School where he was able to learn various technical arts. His work was very precise and upon graduation Al was recruited to become an airplane technician with the Air Force, teaching others how to build and repair airplane engines. But the military wasn’t his thing, and he went on to work with National Cash Register repairing their machines. After being asked to teach guitar part-time at a local music shop he soon discovered his passion for playing and performing and decided to quit working for the man and live a life where he made his own rules and did what he loved: making music, building things, partying and performing.
Al brought his considerable love of tinkering, technical know-how, and creativity to his musical career. He made his bass wireless, his pedal sci-fi, built a theremin based on a plan he found in popular mechanics, and turned a school bus into a travelling stage for his band. His first band in the 1960’s was “The Counts Four.” Not long after this he dyed his hair green for the psychedelic “Green Men” and was known by many for his part in the 70s rock and roll scene with the St. Marc’s Street Band out of Montreal. This was the heyday of his musical experimentation, collaboration and, again, mischief! The “Electric Landlord” was well loved and admired by many for his sense of fun, his experimental approach to life and music, and his warmth and charisma.
It was during this time that Al met and fell in love with ballet dancer Barb Dearborn. They married, had a daughter, moved to New Brunswick, and had another daughter. He got a job at the Irving Oil Refinery, once again working for the man, but also making sure to balance it with music and merry making at local bars, hotels, and his extensive home jam room. He taught his girls how to do tricks on a yo-yo, played guitar and sang for them, took them for rides on his motorbike and brought them to stock car races and Rock'n'Roll shows. His free spirit eventually brought him to Calgary to take in the 1986 Olympics and capitalize on the large number of audiences that would be in town. It was after his good friend Kim told him that on Vancouver Island it never gets cold and you can “eat the fruit right off the trees” that he came and settled in. On the Island Al lived a quiet life, continuing to tinker with gadgets and play music for his friends and enjoying nature. He loved a good conspiracy theory, Skype calls from his girls, and hanging out with good friends. He never lost his sense of fun or his desire to teach and share with others.
Al is survived by his daughters Bianca Ridler (Chris Laing), Victoria Ridler (Matt Stone); and grandchildren Fiona and Cohen Laing. Special thanks go to his dear friends Steve, Brenda, Kim, and Bob for supporting him generally and especially in his final months.
Cremation has taken place. There will be a gathering celebrating Al’s life at 1405 Carlton Drive in Cobble Hill, BC from 4-7pm this Friday, Sept 27, 2019. Please come share your stories and join us for the ceremony beginning at 6pm. All of Al’s people are welcome. Please dress for the weather. Wear shoes you won’t mind getting muddy and park on the side of the street or driveway. In lieu of flowers, spend a little money on that trinket or toy you’ve always wanted and set aside some time to play!
To send flowers to William's family, please visit our floral section.