Until the end, Al Beaver Sr. talked football.
Beaver, 67, died Sunday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, according to his family. The longtime coach suffered a stroke two years ago, then suffered setbacks in recent weeks. A diabetic condition led to two heart attacks.
"I was with him for brunch on the day we played Kealakehe," said his son, Bernard Beaver, a defensive line coach at Waianae. "He had a heart attack that day, then a massive attack the next day."
The two talked again on Nov. 14, the Sunday before the Seariders played Mililani in the state semifinals.
"He was still talking about football. He said, ‘Make sure your inside guys hold their ground,’ " Bernard recalled. "He was coaching to his last day."
Al Beaver played football at BYU and Hawaii before becoming an assistant coach for the Rainbows. He also coached on the staff at Waianae and in annual clinics in Japan with other local coaches, including Brian Derby and David Stant.
"He looked like a real tough guy, but you talk to him, he’s a nice person," Aiea coach Wendell Say said. "He cared about the kids. I liked that guy."
Beaver retired from coaching after his final stint, from 2000 to 2005, as head coach at Nanakuli. His old-school, disciplined ways brought the Golden Hawks back up to the Division I (Red Conference) of the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
"I’m a Nanakuli boy, went to Waianae (High)," he told the Honolulu Advertiser in 2003. "I told (my players) if I can make it, they can make it. It’s just a matter of attitude. … They need to have that positive attitude in the classroom, at home with their parents and on the football field. Never say ‘never.’ There’s always an answer. There’s always a solution."
Beaver served on the state Parole Authority for years and was its chairman. He resigned in 2003, when the state Department of Public Safety investigated a case in which Beaver allegedly ordered his staff to prepare a commutation request for a prisoner, reportedly bypassing two agencies that normally review such cases.
In sports circles, Beaver built solid relationships with coaches and officials alike over decades. Another son, Alfred Jr., took up officiating for the first time this fall.
"We had a great deal of respect and admiration for what he was doing at Nanakuli," OIA chief of football officials Jim Beavers said. "It’s a tough job."
One of Beaver’s players from the Golden Hawks’ 2003 team was lineman Keala Watson, who went on to play at UH.
"He’s one of the best coaches I ever had. He can pick up a whole team, even the coaching staff, just with his voice," Watson recalled. "He told me, to be great in anything, you need to be disciplined, to be hard working and fearless. Those three things he instilled in me."
Watson, a neighbor of his old coach, often stopped by to talk story.
"He was always encouraging me. He wasn’t just a football coach. He was a life coach," said Watson, now a special education teacher at nearby Nanaikapono Elementary School who has also coached at Nanakuli High for the past two seasons.
"Everything he said, I’m living it and trying to teach it to the kids now," Watson said.