William Andy Wade (Andy) just died. I wanted to come out to his place last weekend for our usual every other Sunday visit, and he texted me he was too sick to have company. Tuesday night I got another text from him informing me he was in the hospital. As a stubborn “tough guy”, going to the hospital had meant things were grim. I saw him twice Wednesday and the same on Thursday. My last visit Thursday night was indeed grim. He was in a lot of pain, and seemed to not be aware of much else. A bunch of people came to say goodbye during the day. His friend of 42 years, Gary and I stayed with him at night until the meds finally relieved the pain and knocked him out. Gary and I left about the same time, but Gary went back for a while later that night. I received notice the next morning (Nov. 2, 2018) that Andy had died. He was 68.
Through all the stories I have been privy to, it is clear I knew Andy in his “calmer” years. He lived in Brownwood for 21 years, and I knew him for about the last 15. I always felt like I was holding onto the tail of a comet as it was finishing its orbit. As a metallurgist / quality control expert / international pipeline inspector plus numerous other titles, Andy was regarded as one of the best in his field. He once slept in a large pipe lifted off the ground with a crane in Iran (“the scorpions will definitely kill you in the night”), and inspected pipeline hundreds of yards long, deep underground on a mechanics sled. The only air to breathe had to be pumped into the pipeline. He lived in Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Paraguay, London, and Hong Kong to name about one third of the countries he lived and worked in. Everywhere he went, his work was held in extreme regard. One person said, “Whatever job Andy took on, he became the master of it.”
He worked hard, and from the numerous stories shared with me, he played hard. He was a tall, Shakespearean actor-looking guy. Long silver hair, a handlebar moustache and pearl white teeth, he attracted attention wherever he went. Sometimes positive attention, sometimes not. Someone recently shared this little glimpse into his past: “We were in the airport and Andy never took his sunglasses off. Once we were in the plane, Andy was sitting across the aisle from me, and I asked him why he kept his shades on. He took them off to show me a really huge black eye. He told me last night he was at a ghetto bar (they were in Rio de Janeiro), and he whipped everyone at the pool table. When he walked outside with all their money, six of them jumped him. The last thing he remembers was a boot coming down on his head. When he woke up it was dark and he had no idea where he was. And it smelled bad. He reached up and opened the lid: they had tossed him into a dumpster.” There are many stories, including his throat cancer, misapplied radiation “therapy” that destroyed every one of his teeth and slowly killed his right hand and arm, and other ailments he had to deal with.
But here’s the story we all needed to know. He came over our house to introduce to his great friend Gary a few years ago. After enjoying listening to them reminisce, I asked Gary how he first met Andy, and he began, “Do you remember the old telex machines?” [single line of paper coming out of a machine- the precursor to the fax machine]. Andy got inexplicably got mad and walked out of the room muttering, “I don’t have to listen to this shit”. Gary continued, “A telex came through the office that one of our guys in Indonesia was in a horrible flat boat accident. Everyone: men, women and their children were drowned. Everyone except Andy and a young newlywed couple. He was able to get to them and swam seven hours, all night long and saved them. I decided then that I wanted to meet him when he got back.”
Although I am pleased to share my friend’s greatness, I am so sad as I close this. William Andy Wade, all of us that knew you well knew we were the privileged few that got to be your friend. I will always be grateful to having been a friend of yours. I close by quoting you when you wrote a kind note to Denise shortly after she shared that her Mom had just died. “Head stones are for those left behind. As a child of God she is free of all earthly things and now is basking in the glory of the Lord.”
As are you my fine friend. Faretheewell.