In Memoriam: Alvin R. Loosli, M.D. (1942-2022)Jul 27, 2022 10:37AM ● By Deborah Burstyn
All of us at Walnut Creek Magazine are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Al Loosli, a Walnut Creek sports medicine legend and community champion of athletes. He leaves behind his beloved wife of 55 years Connie, his children Jenna, Becca, and Clay, plus many grandchildren, and people near and far whose lives he touched with compassion, dedication, and love.
“One of the things most amazing about my dad is that whether you were Paul McCartney, Matt Biondi, or a high school athlete, he treated everyone the same way. He always made you feel like you could get better. Once you were seen by him, he gave you the tools. He was passionate about people and believed in the power of healing.” –Jenna
ACCIDENTAL TOURISTS: CONNIE & AL LOOSLI
NOTE: This story first ran in the Summer of Love 2017 issue of Walnut Creek Magazine
At age 21 Connie Loosli wasn’t in Kansas anymore. She and her husband Al Loosli had just gotten married in her native Kansas and immediately drove off to California. “It was June 17, 1967; a very nice country club wedding,” she recalled. A week later they moved into an apartment at 848 Ashbury Street in San Francisco where Al was in medical school at UCSF. The Grateful Dead were their neighbors, one block down at 710 Ashbury Street. While they didn’t know it then, the Looslis had landed at the epicenter of a cultural revolution.
Soon they discovered that a large commune lived upstairs. “They were very nice,” said Connie, who retired as the educational director for the Lindsay Wildlife Experience. Al was a Walnut Creek sports medicine doctor who served as an advisor to many high school, college, and U.S. Olympic athletic teams. “One time a man in a robe and long beard came down the stairs and asked me if they were too noisy. They weren’t. Everyone was really good to each other in the Haight Ashbury then. That’s why it was called the Summer of Love.”
Although the couple were not part of the swarm of flower children flooding into San Francisco, they were young and open-minded, finding their way to the free rock concerts in nearby Golden Gate Park where they saw their neighbors, the Grateful Dead, perform. The anti-Vietnam War movement was also a dominant presence in the Haight. “The peace symbol became an emblem of hippies and the Summer of Love. But it really stood for being against the war back then,” noted Connie.
As City Hall turned a blind eye to the changing Haight Ashbury environment, the Looslis recounted how the neighborhood organized to take care of itself with free food, free clothing, and free medical care.
Al credits rock concert promoter Bill Graham with organizing benefit concerts for the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. “He worked with bands who were becoming famous and saw a need to look after all the runaway kids who had come to the Haight for the music.”
Dr. David Smith, a UCSF resident who Al met while playing basketball at the school gym, opened the Free Clinic on Haight Street with funds from Graham. Al started volunteering at the clinic weekly, treating patients for things like strep throat. “There were no drug overdoses or anything like that,” he recalled. “The hard drugs didn’t come until a few years later. These were mostly young kids, some as young as 13, who didn’t want to tell their parents they were in San Francisco, much less that they were sick.”
That summer the Looslis became accustomed to seeing women in long gypsy skirts, gay men and hetero couples openly expressing affection, young people sleeping in the park, and smelling the scent of marijuana everywhere. Connie started substitute teaching in schools all over the city and discovered her lifelong passion for education. “It was scarier for me to drive those hills with a stick shift than face classrooms full of kids who spoke no English,” she recalls.
Within a year they moved on, carrying with them the cheerful acceptance of other people they had learned from their Haight Ashbury neighbors, and turning it into decades of work with young people. For the Looslis, who moved to Walnut Creek in 1972, the Summer of Love will always be the one in which they got married and became part of a generation that changed the world.