Richard James Andrews
April 16, 1928 - August 19, 2000
My dad, Dick Andrews, is/was my hero. Mostly, I suppose, because he was always so very kind to me and I loved him for it. But he was also capable of what we normally think of as heroism. He was the first on the scene of a head-on car accident once in 1979 outside of Vernon BC, where he was stationed for the summer in his job with the federal forestry. The two cars in the accident had locked together from the collision. One of them, which held two people, two adults, was on fire. The occupants of that car were either dead or unconscious. It was not possible for dad to get them out. The fire prevented it. The other car held a man and his son. Dad tried to get them both out, but the father was pinned by the steering wheel. Dad did manage to get the boy out, however.
Meanwhile, the fire had spread to the car that had held the father and son. Dad tried again to get the father out. By now, more people had arrived on the scene. None of them came to help him but, instead, shouted at him to get out of there because the fire was worsening. Dad had to get out of there, finally. All perished in that accident except the boy that dad managed to extricate.
That was my dad, Dick Andrews. He was a brave man who was not afraid to put himself in harm's way to help others. I never saw him be really fearful for his own safety, though the pain and troubles of others disturbed him. When he got home from work the day he rescued the boy, he was shaken and depressed like I saw him but few times. He was so sad that the other people died and he couldn't save more of them. And the boy he saved had lost his father.
I only saw him cry once, and that was during the frustrations of dealing with the disease called shingles in his last years, which were difficult ones for dad because of shingles and the heart problems he had and finally the lung cancer that he fought very bravely for about six months, at the end. Those last years were tough ones for dad.
He was also an incredibly kind man. He had a naturally sunny disposition and loved kids, as you can see in the pictures. Both he and my mother, Evelyn Andrews, helped many people in times of difficulty. Financially and otherwise. They were not so much interested in making money as in making other things, and spending time with friends and family.
Dad loved to make things in his woodworking shop behind the house. He created many types of things, from bowls to tables and desks. Some of the photos show the reindeer he made, the “dear deers” as we called them. He loved working with wood, and his job involved wood also: he worked in the Survey section of the federal forestry. His job was to survey forests for insect activity.
He was born in Trail BC on April 16, 1928. His mother passed away when he was three, so he was raised by his sister Lucy Milne, who was seventeen years older, his sisters Violet and Pat, and his father Albert James Andrews. Most of his time growing up was spent with Lucy's family: her husband Jim Milne and Lucy's three children Isabelle Blair, Doreen McCullough, and Jimmie Milne. He was more like a brother than an uncle to Lucy's kids.
The whole family moved to Castlegar/Kinnard in 1943, to Ladner in 1944, and then to Langley in 1945, and as Dick grew to adulthood, he worked as a logger and also was a sailor in the Canadian armed forces during the Korean war.
In 1957, he took a job in Vernon BC with the federal forestry. He worked in that job for the next 35 years. My mom was working there as a secretary; that's where they met and married in 1958 (I came along a year later). He had great friends at work in Vernon such as Ernie Morris, Bill Taylor, and Don Doidge. All three of whom moved to Victoria when the facility moved to Victoria in 1969.
Dad wanted to stay in Vernon, because Mom's whole family was in the Vernon area. But he couldn't get a job and, after a year of odd jobs, decided to move to Victoria and take his old job back. That was the source of the biggest conflict Dick and Evelyn ever had. But Mom finally gave in and decided to move to Victoria. Which we did in 1970.
At this moment in 2010 I'm sitting in the house we moved to in 1970. We were the first people on this street, in what was a new development of houses in Colwood, a suburb of Victoria. This has been home to Dick, Evelyn, and Jim for 40 years. Dad was a very house-proud guy and worked hard at making the place look nice. And Mom was always a great housekeeper of the inside. The life of Dick and Evelyn was for each other, for me, and for their friends and family. They had lots of dinners for friends and get togethers and visitors from a small circle of friends such as Bob and Maureen Erickson, Ernie and Tootie Morris, and our neighbours, Gino and Emily Peri and Grace and Dennis Smith.
And we had many pets over the course of the years. Many cats, especially, such as Maui, Susie, Fred, Bobbi, Digger, Spike, Pepi, Allie, and Baby. There were usually two or three cats in the house.
Dick was not a church-goer, but he was a spiritual kind of a guy and also valued independent thinking. I remember coming home from Sunday school once, when I was quite young, and being upset because they told me God was always watching me. Dad asked why I was upset; I told him. That was the end of my religious training. And he always told me, as I grew up, that he wanted me to be whatever I wanted to be, and he felt it important that I make up my own mind about that. But he was also a man of faith in the existence of a greater good, a God of some sort, and a purposeful, joyous universe. He was a man of deep joy, most of his life.
Dad passed away from cancer in 2000, in his house, at the age of 72. He was cared for, at the end, by his wife Evelyn, her twin sister Elinor, and me, his son, Jim. The disease takes everything away one or two things a day, and he suffered it with the courage and the active resistance, until the very end, that I associate with Dad's active, enduring, life-loving nature.
Toward the end, he talked about wanting to go home. This was metaphorical, but his usage of it was not. He was in the house he'd lived in for 30 years. Sometimes he meant Langley, sometimes Trail, it seemed. Sometimes I couldn't tell. Certainly it did seem that he was reliving parts of his earlier life before our eyes, at times, and he spoke of the past as though he were in it and it was happening at the moment. He was between worlds, quite literally, in his last week and a half. This was confusing for me (not to him), but it was nonetheless very beautiful to be with him in this transition. So this 'home' he spoke of, and wanting to go there, was ultimately to whatever lies beyond death, if anything, but also the homes of his childhood. I gather it is not unusual for people at the end to speak of wanting to go home in the manner in which Dad used the word. It is as though they are traveling between worlds.
In some sense, home was heaven (in which he believed, by the way), in others, he may have referred to the homes of his childhood. Or just back to the origin, the source of life, home. In any case, it seemed very real to him and on one occasion he wanted me to drive him there as he stood at the bottom of the stairs at 3 in the morning, asking me to get the keys to the Buick and drive him home. That was kind of terrifying for me, actually, because I'd woken to find him missing from his bedroom, and the front door wide open at 3 in the morning, and he so very ill and apparently missing till I found him downstairs trying to open the door to the carport.
Dad liked his westerns, his dusters. Toward the end, in his last few days, he spoke once of going home while he had two pillows under one arm, while speaking with Elinor, mom's twin, and he said "Come on, Elinor, you take the saddle, I'll carry the horse." Something surreal about that horse, of course, that he could carry it under his arm, legs dangling downo. Unless what was in his mind was what my mother suggested afterwards, giving it her usual careful, thoughtful consideration. Dad had made a rocking horse once, not too many years ago, that he could reasonably carry under his arm. And so Mom thought that perhaps he was referring to that horse. And she says that that horse certainly needed a soft saddle. And so I think of my father, really my hero—I think he was a bit of a hero to many of us—going home, either riding off into the sunset as in a western, or with his rocking horse under his arm, his lovely rocking horse taken as a gift for the children of his new/old home, our common home where there is something of us all, perhaps.