Recalling My Brother Al—1958 to 2013—and His Career in Chinese Medicine

Al Stone played a conga drum for the last time at the Venice Beach drum circle on April 13, 2013.
Al Stone played a conga drum for the last time at the Venice Beach drum circle on April 13, 2013.
Al Stone survived the Omaha tornado of 1975, years of financial hardship and several stormy love interests to become a pioneering webmaster, world-renowned herbalist and doctor of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

But despite the combined efforts of eastern and western medicine, Al couldn’t weather cancer.

On Friday, the youngest of three Stone boys passed away at age 54 in his beloved Santa Monica apartment. Al died in my arms about 4:50 a.m. I was his oldest brother.

His ocular cancer—treated with a radiation cap behind an eyeball at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute—had been beaten, we thought. But in early March, the melanoma returned. It had spread to his liver.

On March 27, Al wrote me:

My oncologist gave me a call this evening to discuss treatment options. He’s assuming that it’s metastasis from the eye. This particular cancer grows quickly so he wanted to discuss things with me and get the balls rolling with insurance approval.

He’s suggesting an immune boosting IV treatment taken every three weeks for four times. The treatment principle is kind of to my liking in that it address what in fact seems to be problematic—my body's ability to recognize and kill cancer cells. There are some side effects, and treatments for the side effects too, so that’s that.

Overall, nobody’s really talking about a long life at this point, but if there’s some decent quality of life left, I’m up for whatever comes.

Eventually bedridden, Al lived another two months. But his closest friends—whom he termed his Board of Directors—coordinated his care, including food visits and dishwashing. He also received palliative care via Skirbal Hospice.

Old friends visited. Oila Katz, a former love who lived nearby, stopped by frequently to help. Her young adult children—Greg and Vita—were like Al’s own kids, and Greg visited hours before he died.

His family knew him as Loren—his middle name—since his father is Albert, and we called him Loren to distinguish from the other Al in the house.

He was born Sept. 4, 1958, in Detroit but grew up in north Orange County and Omaha. He attended several Yorba Linda schools before the family moved to Omaha in summer 1971, where he graduated from Harry A. Burke Senior High School in 1976.

In May 1975, while taking part in an afternoon theater program, he was caught along with dozens of other young teens in a deadly F4 tornado.

He told me about the screams of girls being drowned out by the twister’s locomotive roar as it passed over a school where he was hunkered down in a hallway.

Afterward, he went to our family’s 1964 Ford Fairlane 500, opened the shattered-glass door and allowed the debris to drain out. Then he turned the ignition and drove home.

He followed me to the University of Kansas in the late 1970s but studied music therapy only a few years.

He then joined our divorced mother, Geraldine, in Long Beach, and took some radio classes at Cal State Long Beach. He also attended UC Irvine, where he had his own radio show on KUCI.

For a while, as a member of the Morningland group, Al called himself Ishvara Das, where he referred to himself as “We” instead of “I”—leading to confusion at restaurant visits with his family when he said: “We shall have a salad.”

He eventually was kicked out of the cult—supposedly for asking uppity questions of the leader, Sri Patricia—but kept his friendships with ex-Morninglanders until the end.

Several days before he died, Loren told me how he got interested in Oriental philosophy. It was from watching the 1970s TV show Kung Fu, starring David Carradine.

He later learned TM and other meditation forms.

 “While employed as a radio announcer in Big Bear Lake … in 1987, Al began to study martial arts and the Buddhist way of life. It was here that Al had his first taste of traditional Chinese medicine in the form of the defensive and therapeutic disciplines of the Shaolin temple,” he wrote in an online biography.

In 1990, Al began studies at the Taoist Institute of Los Angeles, a martial arts school. He was a restaurant cook and a Kung Fu expert in his own right, and took part in competitions.

He also did tai chi and called the Venice Beach drum circle his church. He was there every Sunday, often with his conga drum or just present to dance in the sand with moves adapted from Kung Fu.

In 1995, only a year after the Web was created, Al founded acupuncture.com—which won numerous awards and was nominated for a prestigiuous Webby, or online Oscar, in 1997 in Health and Living.

It also connected him with the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) community and made him many friends. He eventually sold the site.

Eagleherbs.com was the outcome of his 15 years of experience in bringing the highest level of herbalism to the online community,” he also wrote in his bio.

“Creating customized formulas following an extensive consultation was unheard of in the early days of the Internet, but because of Al Stone’s significant online presence, the need to provide this service became clear beginning in 1995. He had been working with individuals all over the world since then.”

He started other sites, including beyondwellbeing.com and Gancao.net, “which serves practitioners of Chinese medicine and provides insight into Chinese medicine diagnosis and the legalities surrounding the use of Chinese herbal supplements.”

Al studied acupuncture at Emperor’s College in Santa Monica and eventually earned master’s and doctoral degrees. He also served as an intern clinic supervisor and classroom instructor for many years.

After first graduating in 1997, Al was an intern at the Yunnan Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the southern city of Kunming.

“He worked side-by-side [with] elder doctors who were experts in internal medicine,” his bio said. “It was from these elder masters that he witnessed the profound benefits that herbal medicine can provide, as well as the path of the Lao Zhong Yi (elder Chinese herbal medicine doctor) that became his professional path.”

Al lived frugally in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, after he returned from China in 1998. He didn’t own a car for many years, instead tooling around town on a bike—a Shimano Nomad GT.

Al’s mostly online patients sought his help for digestive concerns, gynecology and male urology, dermatology and stress-related disorders. He’d diagnose me sometimes by examining my tongue.

Al also helped bridge the gap between western and eastern medicine via continuing education talks for physicians, nurses and acupuncturists.

He helped write several herbal medicine books, including some used for teaching new TCM students.

I’ve only scratched the surface of his career credits and hardly mentioned how much he was loved by his many friends and family. This blog will share those details as well.

Besides me, Ken Stone of La Mesa, CA, he is survived by his brother Roger Stone, of Orange; mother, Geraldine Stone, of Seal Beach Leisure World; father, Albert Stone, of Bloomfield Township, MI; a nephew, Robert Stone, of Northridge, a niece, Amanda Stone, of Orange; and cousins by the dozens.

He never married and had no children of his own. A Celebration of Life is planned. We’ll let you know the date.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Janet Muhm May 27, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Thanks so much for sharing Loren's story, Ken. There was so much about him I didn't know. What I did know was from Morton Jr Hi and Burke Hi, where Loren and I played in the orchestra. He was such a little guy then, sweet and goofy. Then he came up behind me at our 10-yr reunion, and he has grown about a foot, but was still sweet and goofy. I have thought of him often since, because he was one of the few people I knew at that time who was totally comfortable in his own skin. A beautiful soul. I was so fortunate to know him.
Joey DeStefano May 28, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Ken... thanks so much for sharing. He was, as Janet noted, a beautiful soul. We had so many odd things in common on our parallel tracks in TCM: from Sifu Share K. Lew to Emperor's to bluegrass music to your families short sojourn in Yorba Linda, just a few streets over from where I grew up. He remembered my own late brother from Glenknoll and BYJH... which is some ways been a consolation to me over the last few years. Our last "serious" conversation (if one could really ever have a truly serious conversation with Al) was at a multi-year reunion for Esperanza last year. We all have been fortunate to share time with him on this planet. I consider it an honor and a blessing to have known him.
Roberta Blanco May 30, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Sorry for your loss. I learned a lot with him. Tks, Al!
Ken Stone June 07, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Here is where donations can be made to Stone Memorial Fund: https://www.aaaomonline.org/donations/donate.asp?id=7445
Bruce Fisch June 09, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Gosh I will miss Loren. To me he was a great spirit, for I saw him so little yet he had a big impact on me.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »