In 1961 Cuba, when Adalberto J. Pinelo was 17, his parents had two fears. One was that their son's unabashed questioning of authority would bring harm; the other was that he might be rounded up and then forced into the Cuban Army. Since Fidel Castro had taken power in Cuba several years before, nothing remained certain for the family, said his son, Chris Pinelo of Fort Thomas.
Adalberto A. and Josefa Pinelo were so concerned for their son's safety, they sent him on a flight to the United States.
He was a political refugee. He carried no money. He did not know English.
"My father personified the American dream and had a lifetime of remarkable accomplishments," his son said.
Mr. Pinelo, of Wilder, formerly of Fort Thomas, died Saturday, Sept. 7 at St. Elizabeth Hospice in Edgewood, from complications of Parkinson's disease. He was 69.
After arriving in Miami, Adalberto knew a friend with whom he could stay. Each day he went to a nearby street corner where he stood with other men seeking work as laborers.
His parents and younger brother, Armando, arrived in the States five months later. The family was became a part of the Emmanuel Methodist Church in Evanston, Ill. sponsorship program. The members helped them find jobs and a place to live.
He learned English while working in a hamburger restaurant.
Despite the fact that he did not have a high school diploma, Mr. Pinelo was able to take a college entrance exam. He was accepted into Kendall College in Chicago, where he earned an associates degree.
He received a scholarship and bachelor's degree from Lake Forrest College, just outside of Chicago. While studying at Lake Forrest, he met Katherine Gerhardt, the daughter of a U.S. Navy Commander.
They attended graduate school together at the University of Massachusetts. He acquired a masters degree, doctorate in political science and began his teaching career at the university.
The couple married in 1967 and raised three children.
Mr. Pinelo became a U.S. citizen in 1970, while living in Oak Park, Ill.
He moved to the Northern Kentucky area in 1972 to accept the position of assistant professor of political science at Northern Kentucky College (NKU).
"Al has had an enormous impact on the lives of the many students he mentored and encouraged. He was a highly principled man who cared deeply and advocated fervently for human rights," said his friend, Alice Pearson of Sherwood, Ore.
He founded the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Latin American Studies. He represented NKU in Cincinnati's Civic Delegation visit to Kharkov, Ukraine in 1991. He was a Fulbright Scholar and published author. He served on Brighton Center's Board of Trustees, the executive committee for the Campbell County Democratic Party and the state board of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Perhaps the greatest testament to my father's mindset was through Highland United Methodist Church in Fort Thomas," his son said. "Just like my Dad's family, he and my mother led efforts for their church to sponsor refugee families from Vietnam, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. He helped these families find jobs and places to live."
Along with his son and wife of 46 years, survivors include another son, Gregory Pinelo of Bethesda, Md.; daughter, Marcella Dale of Fort Thomas; brother, Armando Pinelo of Florida; and four grandchildren.
Visitation will be 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, Sept. 11, with service following at Highland United Methodist Church, Fort Thomas. Burial will be in Evergreen Cemetery, Southgate. Dobbling, Muehlenkamp-Erschell Funeral Home handled arrangements.
Memorials: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, Grand Central Station, P.O. Box 4777, NY, NY 10163-477; Highland United Methodist Church, 406 N. Fort Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas, KY 41075; or Mearns/Proud Family Endowment, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY 41099.
Online condolences to www.dmefuneral.com.
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Published in the Kentucky Enquirer from Sept. 11 to Sept. 12, 2013