by: Willem Oosterveld
The first time I met Andy was -how could it be otherwise? was in a bookstore, and this was the one in the central square in Annapolis, where he and I were attending a student conference at the Naval Academy back in 2005. Little could I suspect how Andy would end up becoming such a great friend, introducing me to many more, and, on top of that, shape my outlook on the world. I was finishing up my studies in New York, and was going to move to Geneva a few months thereafter. Once there, he was first person I met.
Since I lived in Grand-Lancy at the time, I was only a few minutes cycling away from where he lived, and I came to spend quite a few Sunday afternoons at his place, talking away about many, many things--and getting quizzed, literally, on things like how the wives of Henry VIII came to their end, and in which sequence. Or asking about what president died when and how. Does that sound familiar? That was typically Andy in my mind.
I still remember the first time stepping into his living room, being baffled and fascinated at the same time that anyone would still live in an interior like that, and checking out the old volumes on Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau that were neatly lined up in the library. As many people have said over the past weeks, that room breathed Andy, and it said a lot about the Enlightenment values that he -and I- treasured --some of which were born in Geneva and carried subsequently to the United States.
I think it's only one way in which Andy's consciousness about being alive and what it means have a shot at life on our little plant expressed itself. Not just did he have a strong historical awareness, but he was also very conscious about his own place in that whole context, and that it was worth fighting for something, because he felt that a single individual CAN make a difference if he or she wanted to. Of course, at one level, this is a personality trait, and one which I am sure was nourished by that one time that he went around DC as a young boy checking in at the office of Acheson it was I think, and realising that there is nothing that cannot be achieved.
At the same time, his contrarian streak must also have been given a boost by that time when he was hospitalised in his twenties or so, when he was told he would succumb, and then felt that he had gotten a new lease of life when he recovered. He said that he had reached a seventh incarnation with which he could do whatever he wished, without the need to respect life's conventions or to answer society's expectations. And that's how he went about: fearlessly, indefatigably, doing things in his own way.
I think that is what made him so special, liberated him, and also what helped him being so generous with so many people, making all of them feel that they were his best friend. Even if I have known him only for a short time compared to some of the others gathered around this table, I am equally grateful that he has been a part of my life, and also to be able to continue my friendship with you in the years to come, thanks to Andy!