John set a loving example

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Posted 1/23/18 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

I feel as if I’ve known John Andrist his whole life. And that’s thanks to all of the many wonderful stories he’s left all of us about his beloved home town of Crosby, his childhood growing up during the Great Depression, through succession of the newspaper from his dad and on to his son, Steve, through his service in the state legislature including becoming ever more liberal in human ways, to his grief at losing his beloved, Elaine, to his desire, above all, to encourage those of us who can to give to causes we care about.
No one could accuse John of living an unexamined life. He took stock weekly through his newspaper column -- sharing wisdom, political views, and a great deal of emotion -- from what it feels like to be the father of a daughter who wins a state basketball championship, to what it feels like to be the grandpa on a three-generation bicycle ride. As generous as John has been with his money -- giving millions of dollars to an array of local and statewide projects he championed -- he was  even more generous with his thoughts, his feelings and his philosophies. 
He always called me “Cec,” not Cecile. And it endeared him to me immediately when I came to work at The Journal because that’s exactly what my grandparents always called me.
I’d known of John Andrist my whole life, since our family were subscribers my entire life. Upon actually getting to know the man, I regarded him as a parental surrogate of sorts. Never close to my own dad, I look back on so many discussions with John and knowledge he so freely shared and it makes me appreciate how fatherly he always was to me. I needed a father figure in my life and I appreciated his attention greatly. 
John not only invested in successful stocks and community projects, but in people -- the greatest capital of all.
Among the things he taught me: what pure love feels like. When John gave you a hug it felt as if he were literally drinking in and appreciating everything that was wonderful and unique about you, while at the same time projecting good wishes that you might experience every good thing he knew life had to offer, because he’d experienced those wonders himself.
He also taught me:

  • There’s little sadness that can’t be cured by reaching out to help someone else.
  • You’ll never miss money you donate to a cause you believe in.
  • Political foes don’t have to be nasty to each other.
  • Service is its own reward.
  • There’s no sense in not printing a letter to the editor, even if it criticizes you personally, as long as no one is going to get sued over it.
  • You’ll never regret bidding hundreds of dollars on a rhubarb-juneberry pie if you can share it with friends.
  • Medora really is a wonderful jewel all North Dakotans can be proud of.

Someone asked me last week what Crosby would be like if not for John Andrist. John would be the first to tell you any of his successes were due to working with other people, not on his own, but nearly every major institution benefitted from his care. From the nursing home, to the hospital, to the saving of the Penny’s building, to the community center, to the daycare center, Cal Andrist Field -- even Crosby’s trees -- all are better for having been touched by John’s attention.
I’ve missed John these past three years he’s been in Fargo. I will miss him always, but his example will always be with me. I’ll never stop wanting to feel he would be proud of me and of our newspapers. I hope I wind up just like him: old, wise, and loved by many.