As I sat in St. Olaf Lutheran Church Monday afternoon watching the pews fill to overflowing with those who knew and loved Andy Horner I found myself awestruck by how very many people were there.
One person I overheard later at the reception said it was an “eclectic” crowd. I think that was a fine way to describe the gathering of 400 or more people from all walks of life who came to say goodbye to a truly unique human being.
Although many came from Devils Lake and the surrounding area, I know many also came long distances from points beyond our shores. I know there were equally as many people who would have loved to have come if they could have made those arrangements, like my sister, Lynn, who lives in Tucson, Ariz.
Everyone who knew him loved Andy.
Lynn and I were raised with the Horner kids - in fact our babysitters when we were little were the older Horner girls, so our folks - Leland and Millie and Merle and Cora - could all get gussied up and go to the Eagles dancing or out playing cards for the night.
How many picnics did we all share out at Sullys Hill or in Roosevelt Park or our front yard on the farm or at their house? How many softball games or wieners stuck in the fire charring on the green branches we stripped of leaves? How many group photos where so many are squeezed onto the bandstand at the park or on a flat-bed trailer to be pulled by a tractor? Too many to see all the faces clearly.
It seemed as if we were always together, every chance we could get, all our families treasuring good times, good food and lots of laughter.
Lynn and I talked about Andy on the phone after I’d heard the news and called to let her know. We shared some stories and fond memories.
She told me that she had gained quite a reputation for sneaking people into the Starlight Drive Inn theater and that the guy at the front gate - was it Roger Knoff? He must have decided that he was going to “get” her for it. She said as she and some of her friends sat in her car watching the show - Andy was among them - this guy sneaked up, lifted the hood of her vehicle and pulled her coil wires so that when the show was over, her car wouldn’t start. While they were hunkered down in the car watching he did this!
Andy assured Lynn not to worry. They all finished watching the show and when the lights went up Andy popped up front and within moments had re-attached the wires so they could leave.
Page 2 of 2 - She said as they drove slowly past the front gate kiosk, they grinned and waved “goodbye” to the fellow who had tried to cause the trouble. They laughed about that for years afterward.
Another time Andy came to my sister’s “rescue” was when she and her pal Mary took Dad’s pickup and camper to Winnipeg for the weekend when the folks were gone on vacation to California. Lynn knew that Dad would have written down the mileage on the odometer to make sure no one drove it too far. (Leland was no dummy!) So what did she do? She found someone to unhook the odometer so they could go to Manitoba and back again without being caught.
It was Andy who hooked it up again for her so she wouldn’t get in trouble with Pops. No one was the wiser.
Everyone who knew him must have a favorite “Andy story” or two.
Maribeth Bradley said it the best at the reception when she said, “That was Andy.” Here’s a church filled with people and each one of them there because Andy had made them each feel as if they were his favorite. He always had a smile, a wink or a huge bear hug for you. Always had time to help or to give or to talk.
He was a kind and gentle soul with the voice of an angel.
My favorite memory of Andy was the time he and I sang a duet - it was “Summertime, and the living is easy” at a Gong Show at R-Place and we did not get gonged. It was the only time I ever experienced a standing ovation where when the moment the music ended, the crowd lept to their feet and burst into applause, cheering. It gave me goose pimples! That’s how I remember it. His voice was the voice of an angel and he made even a mediocre voice like mine sound good with his harmonies.
At his funeral on Monday two local singers with much more talent than I ever had, Tom Wade and Donovan Foughty, each sang a different hymn in between the readings and prayers. If you listened really carefully you might have heard Andy singing along from heaven as he found that perfect harmony to complement their voices, too.
Keep singing, old friend! Rest in peace!