From Electric Boat to real estate, retirement doesn’t suit Al Kinsall

East Lyme — Being retired for one year was long enough for Alvin “Al” Kinsall.

Then 76, he decided at the end of 2017 to leave his job at Randall Realtors and try retirement for a year. The decision came partly due to his age, and partly due to a desire to spend more time at home and with his grandchildren.

But he found he was spending the same amount of time with them, and he missed work.

“I missed the activity, I missed dealing with the people, I missed the money, so I talked with my wife and we decided I’d give it a go again,” said Kinsall, now 78. His wife, who is his age, has been retired for a decade.

Kinsall called up his manager last December to ask if his desk was still available, and he is now back to working 40 hours a week and then some.

One of the issues he hadn’t thought about was “being able to do a complete startup again,” in terms of reaching out to former clients and to attorneys.

He also has found a learning curve working with millennials, now the big driver of the real estate market. One difference he sees is that millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — already know what they want, having looked online, so it’s critical for Realtors to offer as detailed a description online as possible.

“To put it mildly, a lot of people my age can’t deal with the internet, the social media, and that’s one thing I’ve been able to grasp over the first year back,” Kinsall said. He also is working on a two-year plan, noting that “because the industry is changing so rapidly,” one can’t plan beyond that.

He usually gets into the East Lyme office about 9 or 10 a.m., and when he is out and about, he aims to pass out at least 10 business cards a day. That might be at Muddy Waters Café or Mr. G’s Restaurant, or shopping in Waterford with his wife. What is sometimes a good conversation starter is his Navy Veterans pin, which has an “R” on it. People ask the Realtor what the letter stands for.

Offering wisdom in 'the biggest transaction' of people’s lives

Locally, many people know Kinsall for his involvement in veterans affairs. He has served as commander of the U.S. Submarines Veterans Groton Base and chairman of the New London Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, of which he was a founding member in 2016. He also was grand marshal of the New London St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2016.

Kinsall grew up on a farm in Kansas and, when his stepfather died, he tried running the farm at the age of 14 or 15. The family then sold the farm, and Kinsall moved 15 miles west to the city of Pratt with his single mother.

He decided toward the end of his sophomore year to drop out of high school, and he joined the Navy, going to basic training in San Diego. He spent four years in the service, first working on aircraft carriers and then transferring to the East Coast in the late 1950s to work on submarines.

“It was really the best move I ever made in the service,” Kinsall said, adding that working on submarines “taught me a lot of discipline, responsibility, dependability for my shipmates, working as a team and being able to really put the ship ahead of self.”

Kinsall then worked 37 years in a variety of jobs at Electric Boat, starting in 1962. He began with testing systems dockside, then worked in engineering, human resources, and quality assurance for the Ohio class before working on the Seawolf and Virginia classes.

Kinsall started working as a real estate agent part-time in 1973 while working for Electric Boat. He left EB in 1999 and worked for Heritage Properties, William Raveis and RE/MAX before ending up at Randall Realtors in 2009. In 2014, Kinsall served as the president of the Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors.

He likes being an agent because “there’s challenges that need to be handled. I like meeting the people and helping them make the biggest transaction they will ever make in their lifetime.”

At 78, Kinsall feels he has become more observant, better at understanding people’s wants and needs, and more aware of when people say one thing but mean another. He said what older workers bring to the table is wisdom, and not having knee-jerk reactions.

“The older people, even though they may wear hearing aids, they — I think — have a better understanding of life, and what their customers or clients are trying to accomplish,” Kinsall said.

While it’s difficult to say, Kinsall said he will “probably” keep working for the rest of his life.

“A lot depends on health,” he noted. “As long as I have good health, I see no reason why I can’t continue.”

e.moser@theday.com

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