SMYRNA — Looking from the outside, there could be a misconception about the man known as “Mr. Positive.”
“My humor is my way of dealing with fear, emotions, dissatisfaction that comes with this life,” said the man named Al Kraft, a retired 68-year-old Navy and Marine Corps Vietnam veteran dedicated to brightening lives in any way possible.
“When you get a person to laugh, they take their foot off you long enough for you to get close to them.
“What stresses I’m going through, nobody knows. That’s why I laugh, so I don’t cry.”Smyrna Diner regular Al “Mr. Positive” Kraft makes it a point to stop and chat with folks like Al Morris of Smyrna and spread some cheer.[/caption]
And from the moment of first personal contact, it’s clear why Mr. Kraft often goes by “Mr. Positive.” The nickname came during a mid-1990s stretch of homelessness in Elkton, Maryland, that didn’t affect his outwardly sunny disposition.
At that point, Mr. Kraft was getting by selling hot dogs from a cart in front of a post office; the community newspaper noticed enough to write a story which brought the Mr. Positive nickname that remains 20 years later.
After serving in Vietnam and taking shrapnel in the leg, dodging the major brunt of explosions and rolling over in a jeep during his wartime adventure, Mr. Positive is thrilled just to look across Lake Como near his Smyrna home and enjoy some serenity.
“I saw devastation and bad things in life,” he said of his combat time during a southeast Asia stay in Da Nang. “I saw hunger, I saw death. So many people don’t appreciate how nice it is to wake up in a safe environment.”
Fellow Vietnam veteran Bob Fox has accompanied Mr. Positive, who also is a chaplain, on many a food and clothes distribution trip to a needy veteran’s family or to Milford’s Home of the Brave for ex-military members transitioning back into independent living.
“He is Mr. Positive,” Mr. Fox said. “He comes with a handful of smiles and a bag full of food.”
Mr. Fox described Mr. Kraft as “a very religious man who likes to get to the point. He’s a happy camper and very much happy to give back. He’s one of the finest guys you’ll ever meet.”
Alan Greenwell, a former Marine, recalls being afflicted by kidney stones at 11 p.m. one night, making a call to Mr. Kraft and having an American Legion ambulance arrive for transport 10 minutes later. After the issue passed, Mr. Kraft provided the ride back home to Smyrna.
“For me, he’s the epitome of a true patriot,” Mr. Greenwell said. “He’s there any time a veteran has a need for anything.”Al “Mr. Positive” Kraft of Smyrna walks into the Smyrna Diner Friday morning with a a big smile ready to spread his positive message.[/caption]
On Nov. 4, 2013, Mr. Positive was honored by the town of Smyrna “for his unwavering and dedicated service to our town, state and nation.”
Signed by Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten, the proclamation concluded with, “Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to keep the spirit of hope and the promise of peace alive and well.”
For Mr. Positive, the dedication to community comes easily.
“My mind moves 900 miles per minute,” he said. “I’m a person who believes putting theory to practice and not just talking about it. I can’t talk, I have to do.”
An outreach chaplain in the Veterans Administration’s “I Care Program,” Mr. Kraft considers his service as non-denominational; he attends Mount Friendship AME Church near Smyrna.
He can officiate weddings and funerals in Delaware, and loves to sing gospel music. He said he’ll go to a hospital to pray for a family member if asked.
His positive stuffed animals and bears routinely are given away.
He’s effusive to say the least, and an hour-plus media interview requires just a few questions to get a whole lot of wide-ranging story material.
Where he’s from
Mr. Positive describes himself as a two-year boxing champion in the Marines and a former semi-pro football player.
“I was fast and had fun,” he said. “I could hold my own, I will put it that way.”
There was at least one boxer he knew through family connections and admitted having no chance in the ring with — former heavyweight champion/legend Muhammad Ali.
A Louisville, Kentucky, native, Mr. Kraft knew Mr. Ali when he was named Cassius Clay in their West End section of the city and hadn’t developed the bravado and style that came with being known as “The Greatest.”
“Cassius wasn’t a talker like that then,” Mr. Kraft said of his neighbor. “He was a good boxer but his brother was better. He was a street fighter and boxer.
“Cassius was completely devoted to boxing, and his brother gave it up because he would never step into a ring and box against his own brother.”
Now married for 20 years, Mr. Kraft is blessed with two children and eight grandkids. He’s also proud of 37 years of abstaining from alcohol and knows he can relate to those who have trouble with the bottle.
“I can drink, but I can’t and I won’t, but I want to,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things going on inside.”
Mr. Positive was delivered and mostly raised by his grandmother Bessie until she died when he was 15. She left him with a favorite quote — “A successful person digs a well and allows others to draw hope from it.”
Ending his career as a staff sergeant in 1983, He said he’s retired on full disability and now setting a comfortable pace in his life.
He’s written five books on spirituality, which he says is “belief in a higher being of greater power.”
With a positive mindset that never wavers outwardly, Mr. Kraft founded Positive Eagles Soar Inc., a nonprofit that teaches life lessons through comic strip stories. More information is available online at www.positiveeaglessoarinc.com.Smyrna Diner waitress of 47 years Mary Anderson, of Clayton, says “We love Al” as she gets a hug from Al “Mr. Positive” Kraft of Smyrna[/caption]