To celebrate his 93rd birthday, 19 of Alphonso “Al” Giles’ family and friends feted him on a three-decker yacht called “Insanity.” His daughter’s role in the excursion took his enjoyment of the celebration to an even higher level.
Giles was moved to tears when he learned that Yvette, his only child, piloted the yacht through the winding bends of New River for the last hour of the cruise that anchored for lunch near Las Olas Boulevard.
“And just think, my daughter piloted a triple-decker yacht,” said Giles, who taught her to navigate his yacht, “Sea Hunter,” when she was a little girl.
Following a brief illness, Giles, a WWII Veteran and retired Broward County teacher, passed away peacefully with loved ones at his bedside on Friday, September 11. Yvette M. Giles held her father’s hand as he transitioned.
“To be with my dear father during the final moments of his life was no less than a sacred honor,” said Yvette Giles. “I hope and pray that he felt my presence. And I am grateful that he knew he was loved, admired, cherished and appreciated for his many achievements during this lifetime.”
By all accounts, Al Giles lived a full, rich life that impacted all who made his acquaintance, even President Barack Obama.
While shaking Giles’ hand at a 2012 campaign rally in Hollywood, the president personally thanked Giles for his WWII Army service to the country and surprised him by presenting Giles with a presidential service medallion.
Giles was born on May 2, 1922, in Pine Mount (near Live Oak), FL, to the late Willie and Anna Giles. The young family moved to Fort Lauderdale from Pine Mount when Giles was two years old. He attended the Dillard School from elementary grades through high school.
He fondly recalled cutting classes on occasion to go swimming with other boys at “Dillard Ville,” their nickname for a branch of the North Fork of New River.
Giles completed his graduate and post-graduate studies at Howard, Temple, and North Carolina A &T. He headed the science departments at Dillard High School, Everglades Middle School and Lauderdale Lakes Middle School.
A stickler for punctuality and attendance, Giles was never late during his 33 years of teaching, and was only absent one day, the day his daughter was born.
Giles was a founding member of Fort Lauderdale’s Zeta Alpha Lambda graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. A member since 1941, Giles was presented with the fraternity’s Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year.
“Fort Lauderdale has lost a legend,” said Joseph “Joey” Owens about the recent death of his uncle.
In addition to his daughter, Giles is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth, also a retired teacher, a brother Harry (Hattie) Giles, and several nephews, nieces, cousins and friends.
A memorial service will be held at the Mt. Hermon AME Church, 401 NW 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, on Friday, Oct. 2 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, Oct 3, at 1:00 pm, also at Mt. Hermon.