He was nicknamed “Amiable Andy” while in the Navy during World War II – an endearment that followed him throughout his life and reflected his optimism and kind heart. Born and raised in rural Iowa, he returned there with his bride in Autumn 1945, anxious to set up a home and use his training as an aviation electrician to realize his dream of owning his own farm.
For 50-plus years, he was a proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 347. Yes, he did achieve the purchase of that farm – a section of land that was one mile long and half a mile wide, with the bonus of another 80 acres in a different county – but much of his daily life revolved around the projects and friendships of his employment as a union electrician.
Commercial/institutional buildings throughout the Midwest landscape – hospitals, college dormitories, and more – rose in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and their reliability on electricity and power was ensured by Andy and his colleagues. With a determination to do the best job possible (long before the popular influx of “quality” training seminars), they worked through humid summers and frigid winters, finding ways to power and light buildings more efficiently and reliably, as well as more effectively for the end-user.
Except when he was a project’s electrical foreman, he earned the same paycheck as his fellow journeymen. Once, when asked how he handled similar remuneration for a higher level of work output, he stopped in his tracks. “It’s not only about the pay,” he said. “It’s about craftsmanship and pride. Look at these beautiful buildings. I’ve had a big part in helping create them. And,” he added, “make them better.”
That was an enlightening lesson to anyone that day who heard the query, which was posed by his young adult daughter. For he expanded on the issues of continual education in a craft; of striving for excellence each and every day – professionally as well as personally; of injecting humor into frustrating tasks; and of taking personal pride in earning the respect of colleagues for a job beyond well done. “That,” he said, “is craftsmanship.”On January 10, my father died peacefully in his sleep, and I miss him. But that conversation of 25 years ago is as fresh and vital a memory today, as it is – and will continue to be – a challenge and a promise.