My plan was to drive back to Grand Rapids, Mich., today and spend Saturday pounding nails and raising walls on a Habitat for Humanity home. But I’m not over a stomach bug that has been bothering me for a week now. I can’t risk making someone else sick, so I’ve sent my regrets, bitterly disappointed that I won’t be able to pay such a fitting tribute to my old boss and friend, Andy Angelo.
Andy died last summer, much earlier than he should have, because of asthma. He was metro editor at the Grand Rapids Press when I started, and he became my supervisor as news editor. He brought out the best in those who worked under him by working harder than any of us and caring deeply about the news that was delivered to people’s homes every day. He was a journalist who could remind us what journalism is all about. He also was a friend, caring about our comfort and happiness at work and at home, always willing to lend a hand professionally or personally.
The House that Andy Built is a testament to Andy’s willingness to help out wherever he could. Dozens of former colleagues, friends and family members are building a Habitat house on Grandville Avenue SW, near the community arts center. Andy helped his wife, Mary, create that neighborhood center, and he served on the board.
In 2010, Andy’s assistant news editor and I nominated Andy for the Robinson Prize, an honor the American Copy Editors Society gives to an outstanding copy editor each year. His selection gave me a chance to spend some time with him and Mary again at the annual conference in Phoenix in March, 2011. His acceptance speech was spontaneous and touching, and, for Andy, predictable. He spoke of the young people he sat with at the banquet and how they gave him confidence in the future of the craft.
At the hotel lobby bar afterward, Andy bought drinks and, unusual for Andy, reveled in a bit of recognition. He was happy, and if you’ll forgive my lack of humility, I felt wonderful knowing I played a part in connecting such a worthy person with the recognition he deserved.
Those working hard at 661 Grandville Avenue SW will have that same feeling. Andy touched many, many people, and only the most jaded among us could fail to be moved by the opportunity to give something back and to contribute to the ideals he exemplified.
I write this partly as a way to vent my frustration, partly as a way to honor Andy, since I’m unable to do so with sinew and sweat. If you are moved to contribute in a small way, the House that Andy Built is accepting donations. If you believe in the power of a nice guy to make a difference in the world, this is an appropriate way to reinforce that belief for others. The world could use a few more Andy Angelos.
The donation page for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is here: http://www.habitatkent.org/Donate/DonateOnline.aspx. Under the drop down menu, select “Andy’s House.”
The youth news bureau at Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities renamed itself the Andy Angelo Press Club. In March, some of its young reporters took a look at Andy. Here is the result: http://therapidian.org/young-journalists-honor-andy-angelo-legacy.
Here is the story I wrote for the ACES website after Andy’s death: http://www.copydesk.org/3018/2010-robinson-prize-winner-andy-angelo-dies-at-age-55/.
Here is the Facebook page for the House that Andy Built, which I hope will have photos of Saturday’s build: https://www.facebook.com/TheHouseThatAndyBuilt.