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Albert Severn, Colonel United States Air Force Reserve (Retired), a longtime Howard County resident who dedicated himself to a lifetime of government, military and community service, died suddenly on March 28th at the age of 73.
Known to all as “Big Al,” he boasted a kind heart, a tireless work ethic and a joyous sense of humor that left a positive mark on all he met.
Throughout his life, Al displayed a strong commitment to helping others. A member of the Church of Holy Apostles (the Episcopal Church in Arbutus) for over 50 years, he served as Senior Warden, Treasurer, Vestry member and Chair of the Finance Committee. In addition, for the past 12 years, he had organized a monthly meal for the Baltimore County Westside Men’s Shelter. As a member of the Glenwood Lion’s Club, Al enjoyed cooking at the group’s facility at the Howard County Fairgrounds. He was also a Past President of the Baltimore Chapter of the Data Processing Management Association.
The Right Reverend John Rabb, retired Episcopal Suffrican Bishop of Maryland and a former pastor of Al’s at the Church of the Holy Apostles, praised him as “a friend who was generous, joyful and deeply committed.” Chuck Vaughn, a retired EMS Captain with the Baltimore County Fire Department and longtime friend, noted that “Al was your friend from the minute you met him. A genuine, gentle man of strong convictions. His is a loss to all who knew him.”
Born in August 1944 in Arbutus, to Edwin F. Severn and Susan E. Severn, Al was the youngest of three children. He graduated from Catonsville High School in 1962. Two years later, while also working full-time, he became a member of the inaugural class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After transferring to the University of Maryland, College Park, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management in 1970.
Al began his civilian government service in 1968 when he took part in the Data Systems Training Internship Program with the United States Department of Defense in Fort Meade, MD. This entry-level IT position was first step in what would ultimately be a 39-year career. Along the way he served in a variety of roles, including Computer Operator, Systems Programmer, IT instructor, Chief of the Information Systems Branch, Chief of Systems Management and Administration and Project Manager. He retired in 2007.
In addition to his civil service, Al also enjoyed a 35-year military career that saw him rise from the lowest levels of the enlisted ranks to the upper echelon of the officer corps. In October 1964, he joined the Maryland Air National Guard as a member of the 135th Communications Flight at Martin State Airport in Middle River. After five years of enlisted service, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He then served the Communications Flight in a variety of leadership roles that culminated with his appointment as the Flight’s Commander. In 1982, Al transitioned to the Air Force Reserve and was assigned to the 512th Military Airlift Wing in Dover, Delaware. Over the next 12 years, he held numerous positions and eventually became the Executive Officer of entire wing. In 1994, Al transferred to the Pentagon where he provided support for the Secretary of Defense until he retired in 1999 at the rank of full Colonel. Over the course of his career, he earned a series of decorations including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Air Force Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
In April 1975, Al married the love of his life - Janice Rifenberick, a former Naval Officer who was born in Oil City, Pennsylvania. In 1977, they moved to Lisbon, in western Howard County where they raised their son, Stephen (born of Al’s first marriage in 1969). Recently, the couple relocated to the Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant in Ellicott City.
Al’s personal interests included golf and all things aviation. He began taking flying lessons while still a teenager and eventually earned his private pilot’s license. Nothing gave him greater joy than flying model gliders or playing flying-related video games with his grandson William.
In addition to his wife, son and grandson, Al is survived by his sister Mary, his daughter-in-law Susan, his sister-in-law, Patricia, and a number of cousins, nephews and nieces.
Visitation will be held from 2PM to 4PM and 6PM to 8PM at Harry H. Witzke’s Family Funeral Home in Ellicott City, MD on Tuesday, April 3rd. Burial service will be held at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Arbutus, MD at 10AM on Wednesday, April 4th at 10AM.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Church of the Holy Apostles.
The Church of the Holy Apostles
4922 Leeds Avenue, Arbutus MD 21227