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Originally published February 24, 2012 at 9:27 PM | Page modified February 24, 2012 at 10:53 PM

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Albert Seifert, 91, worked at Boeing through seven decades

Employees at Boeing's Auburn Fabrication Division remember coming into work at 5:30 a.m. and seeing their most senior co-worker, Albert Seifert, already there, doing what he liked best: building sophisticated tools and equipment.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Employees at Boeing's Auburn Fabrication Division remember coming into work at 5:30 a.m. and seeing their most senior co-worker already there, brewing coffee and doing what he liked best: building sophisticated tools and equipment that few others in his field could make with ease.

Albert Elmer Seifert, one of the longest-serving employees at Boeing, died Feb. 20 at the age of 91. He worked full time at the Auburn plant until two months ago.

"He was a master at what he did and made everything he did look easy," said David Kozy, a research-and-development engineer and technical fellow at Boeing, who worked with Seifert for the past 20 years.

"There's a big hole at The Boeing Co. where Al used to be."

Mr. Seifert was born Aug. 3, 1920, in Wahpeton, N.D. After high school, he received a certificate in aviation engineering from North Dakota State School of Science. In the early 1940s, he migrated to Seattle, drawn by its booming airplane industry.

His dream of working on airplanes came true in 1942 when he began working as a Boeing mechanic, installing components on the B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers.

This was the beginning of a career that stretched nearly 70 years.

He joined the U.S. Army's 9th Armored Infantry Division in 1944, and after two years of service rejoined Boeing as a machinist.

Although he held various positions during his career, his most notable role was as a tool and die maker in the company's manufacturing research-and-development unit.

Tool and die making is a highly skilled task, involving the creation of tools that other workers will use to make production parts. Mr. Seifert's work ranged from creating assembly jigs used to put together major portions of airplane wings to room-sized washers for washing machine parts, said Dan Nydegger, a fellow tool and die maker.

"We were working in an area where everything was an invention," he said.

Mr. Seifert's co-workers remember him for his ingenuity. In 2001, he created a highly useful tool — the Laser Trim Cell — a device that employs a laser to cut stainless-steel tubing, Nydegger said.

"If anything needed to be built and no one could make it, Al could do it," said Dan Meddaugh, a recently retired electromechanical technician who worked with Seifert.

Mr. Seifert's contributions to Boeing include several patented products.

Frank Milan, a tool and die maker who worked with Mr. Seifert for the past 10 years, said he wouldn't "leave the shop until his customer was satisfied."

"We had to remind him that he was making us look bad and to try not to work so hard," Milan said.

"If the crew had any one complaint about Al, it was, 'Look, there's Al working through his break again!' " said tooling manager Jared Weeks.

Seifert had a passion for anything with an engine — cars, airplanes and machines — said his daughter, Lorelei Seifert.

He worked until late December 2011, when he fell ill. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with cancer.

"Dad tried to maintain a zero profile, but it was not zero, it was major," said Lorelei, who also has worked at Boeing for 28 years as a technical designer and drafter.

Mr. Seifert worked for so many years because he was performance driven and preferred building things to the retired life, she said.

Even the commute to work from his home in Burien was enjoyable for him because of his affinity for engines.

Boeing Fabrication spokeswoman Robin McBride said Mr. Seifert was one of the company's "longest serving employees" and one of the oldest. Another employee at Boeing is also in her 70th-anniversary year, she said.

Mr. Seifert was a member of the Machinists union. Kozy said he also was seen as a "good role model for young engineers" who would often go to him for advice because he was so pleasant to work with.

Mr. Seifert married Yolanda, who had been his assistant at Boeing, in 1949.

Outside of work, Mr. Seifert was a simple family man who also enjoyed dancing and travel, said daughter Lorelei. He and her mom traveled half the world together.

"His social life was all standard," she said. "It was his exemplary work ethic that was not."

In addition to his wife and daughter Lorelei, he is survived by another daughter, Desiree Retallick; his son-in-law, Bill Retallick; his brother, Willard P. Seifert of Wahpeton, N.D.; and three grandchildren.

Atia Musazay: 206-464-2718 or amusazay@seattletimes.com

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