Andrew loved his family. He was a wonderful son to Martha and me and a great brother for Christina and Ryan and grandson for Iris. They all loved being with Andrew and he went out of his way to take care of them. All Andrew ever wanted was for everyone to be happy. That was his central theme and driving force in life.
Andrew “Red” Harris
Andrew loved life and believed that if he worked hard and worked smart he could accomplish anything he attempted.
And he was usually right.
Andrew loved his family. He was a wonderful son to Martha and I and a great brother for Christina and Ryan and grandson for Iris. They all loved being with Andrew and he went out of his way to take care of them. All Andrew ever wanted was for everyone to be happy. That was his central theme and driving force in life.
I watched Andrew get better and better over the years. He was always a good athlete and he made lasting friends on his teams in JTAA and later at Jupiter Middle School and Jupiter High School. He was gifted at basketball and golf and had the unusual distinction of being listed on the Palm Beach Post All Area team in the paper for both sports on the same day. He was the MVP of the Jupiter High School basketball team his senior year.
The golf course picture in the collage was of Andrew’s 217 yard hole in one with a 4 iron. He was playing with Ryan and I that day and joked that since he was giving Ryan two shots a hole and Ryan parred it, he needed the hole in one for a tie.
You see some of his friends in the pictures on the collage, but there are many, many more. Everywhere Andrew went he met new friends, young and old, it didn’t matter. And he stayed in touch with them and they became better friends.
Andrew had a lot of fun in high school and got good grades, but I was concerned that his academic approach wouldn’t work in college and regularly told him so.
Florida State was the only school he applied to, but he didn’t get accepted with his first application. Andrew refused to apply to any other schools. He was sure he could get accepted at FSU. Andrew spent hours and hours every day for the next six weeks doing SAT practice work at home. I have never seen Andrew work harder at anything.
When he retook the test he raised his SAT by over 100 points and was accepted at FSU.
Andrew worked hard when he got there and became a dean’s list student.
Andrew joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and enjoyed the atmosphere and traditions. But it was hard being a freshman pledge having to taxi the upperclassmen everywhere as the designated driver, the moment they called, and having to do every other menial task for them that they could think of.
But the next three years it was Andrew’s turn to lord it over the lowly pledges. Of course he included his non-fraternity friends as “honorary members” to benefit from the pledge’s driving services.
One of those honorary members told me how he watched the pledges cut the grass at Andrew’s off campus house with scissors while Andrew instructed them over a microphone.
Andrew graduated with a Risk Management and Insurance degree and a minor in Entrepreneurship.
Andrew was determined to live his dream and run his own insurance agency. He rejected the safer route and began working with me, finding his own customers, as soon as he graduated.
He peppered me with questions via phone, text, email and in person all day long in the beginning, but I saw that the volume of questions steadily declined as he became more seasoned. Once he was comfortable with the answer he rarely asked the same question twice.
By this year I was asking him as many questions as he asked me.
“Obamacare” was great for Andrew’s business.
Last year every employer wanted to know how the new law would affect their employee health insurance plan and there were moves employers could make to delay and reduce the impact.
Andrew became an expert on the new law’s byzantine regulations and quirks. His natural communication skills helped him convince many local employers that, although he was very young, he knew his business and they could trust him to help them. And many local employers made Andrew their agent and his agency’s growth accelerated even more.
Many of Andrew’s clients have written to us.
The following is typical of what they have said:
“Andrew came into our lives full of energy, persistent to gain our attention and become our insurance representative. Time and again he would come to our office and received the same rejection over and over, until one day we said yes. The biggest mistake we made was not welcoming him into our lives sooner. His knowledge in the insurance industry and his professionalism was certainly appreciated and respected. He will be missed dearly. We are very proud to have known this young man and grateful that he was able to touch our lives”.
Andrew had a lot of clients and his earnings were already many times what he would have made working for an insurance company. I was immensely proud of his success and loved talking to him about the cases he was working on.
A friend of Andrew’s wrote us a sympathy card in which he said:
“Andrew and I were having drinks together at the Square Grouper about a year ago and we were talking about how were going to become successful and wealthy. When I asked him why he wants to be wealthy, he told me that money gives you freedom to spend your time how you please – doing what you love and spending time with family. Andrew is the only person I have met my age that shared that viewpoint with me”.
It was impressive to see how much better Andrew was at 20 than he was at 15 and how much better he was at 26 than he was at 20. Andrew had put it all together and was well on his way to reaching the lofty career goals he set for himself.
A local general agency that Andrew accessed several of his group insurance carriers through posted the following:
“In over 20 years in the insurance industry, we have rarely witnessed the intelligence, perseverance and drive displayed by Andrew. Most young agents are timid and wait to be hand-held…but NOT Andrew!
He jumped right in, learned all the new Affordable Care Act rules with zeal, and didn’t let his youth or inexperience keep him down.
He was handsome, polite, witty and always willing to take instruction. Our office is mostly made up of women old enough to be his mother so we cherished watching Andrew growing from a green FSU grad to a sophisticated and successful insurance broker”.
I first remember seeing Andrew’s unusual determination when he was six years old and tried to play catch with an adult using a Velcro tennis ball and a flat disc at a birthday party. It bounced off every time for 20 minutes but Andrew never slacked in his efforts to catch it and wouldn’t let the adult quit.
How many six year olds do that?
I saw that same determination throughout Andrew’s life.
He always believed he could do anything.
Andrew loved to travel with friends and family to ski in Utah, go to out of town weddings, go to Las Vegas, go to the Bahamas. He and I were scheduled to be on a four day liveaboard spearfishing trip to the Dry Tortugas today.
Another friend of Andrew’s wrote us the following:
“I recently met Andrew when I took him to the Bahamas for the day with a friend we have in common. Although I only had the opportunity to spend one day with him, a day on a boat crossing the ocean and back can be a lifetime.
I could tell Andrew had a passion for the water and a great appreciation for life. I learned of his brother who was recently drafted, his Dad who also has a passion for the water, and all about the insurance business.
After a morning of fruitless fishing and a long day diving I put the boat on autopilot and grilled burgers while we brought organization back to a boat deck that looked like a bomb went off in a dive store. The ocean was calm, the skies were clear, and everyone aboard was happily content with the results of our day.
After order was restored and our burgers were enjoyed, I pushed the throttles down and we headed for home. I usually call this part of the trip, “happy hour”. I have crossed to the Bahamas literally hundreds of times in my life and I always enjoy observing the happy hour behavior of my crew. One or two always pass out. One or two usually have a few drinks with me. Either way, no matter who engages in what on the way home, the feeling of euphoric exhaustion I am sure is fairly uniform for all.
I am sure you may be trying to guess which category Andrew fit into.
Did he sleep? We did meet and leave the dock at 4:30 AM and spent the whole day on the water.
Did he enjoy a drink or two?
No, Andrew took it to another level. He went to the cooler and grabbed a beer and then fumbled through the bag he brought with him and took out a giant cigar. He lit the cigar and promptly informed me he was ready to go.
He sat on the starboard gunnel, beer in one hand, cigar in the other. As we cruised across an ocean that looked like a cobalt I95 without all the traffic, Andrew looked as if he was on top of the world.
The cocktail he enjoyed on the way home consisted of a celebratory cigar, a few beers, a shot of peacefulness, a healthy helping of happiness, and a dash of exhaustion.
It’s a feeling only boaters know and a feeling that is very hard to explain.
One thing that can’t be mistaken was the happiness on that boys face as we crossed the ocean on the way home!
Upon cleaning the boat, and the fish, and putting things away back at the dock, Andrew offered to give me money for the trip and I declined. What Andrew didn’t know was that his obvious enjoyment and outward excitement were all the compensation I needed.
Now Andrew has made the crossing to a new life leaving behind a family he loved dearly. As we are all left with sorrow and sadness crossing an ocean of tears, I’d be willing to bet that Andrew has a cigar that would make Fidel Castro blush, a nice cold beverage, and a look on his face that’s worth the price of admission to eternal life and happiness just as it was on my boat a few weeks ago.”
Andrew lived in a waterfront condo on Jupiter Island where most of the other residents were in their 60s and 70s. A twenty something renter living in a small condo building with retired owners is not usually a good recipe, but, as usual, Andrew made friends and left an impression.
One of his neighbors wrote the following:
“Andrew’s zest for life and love of all things to do with the south Florida lifestyle was palpable and contagious.
Polite, well mannered and so generous always with his catch. Neighbor and trusted friend. It is nearly impossible for me to imagine a place where he could give more smiles and joy than he did here among us.
Those who were fortunate enough to know him; I grieve for us all as we are bereft, numb and mute with sadness.
Andrew, you will be so very deeply missed and never, ever forgotten.
I will endure every day to keep your spirit and appreciation of life and beauty alive in my heart always. You were truly inspirational. You taught me never to waste another moment. I will continue to thank you all my days for your valuable lesson”.
Last year Andrew was invited to go to jet ski races in Orlando. I asked him what the plans were and he told me he didn’t know, he hadn’t asked questions.
He came home from the races and reported that he had seen the racers and wanted to buy a jet ski to race against them.
I later heard that he had spent an hour talking to a seaplane pilot at the races and wanted to get a seaplane as well. I don’t doubt that given time he would have done both.
The picture that is in the center of the collage and projected on the display of six year old Andrew on a beach with Martha, Christina and Ryan with the Jupiter Inlet in the background was taken on the only day in my memory that the sandbar a ¼ mile off the Jupiter Inlet rose out of the water creating an offshore island.
Twenty years later Andrew’s last day would end in the background of this picture.
Andrew believed that living life is as much about making the people around you better as it is about making yourself better.
I chuckle when I think back on a day last year when Andrew and I were finishing a round of mid-week late afternoon golf. One of the guys we were playing with asked about going in to the clubhouse for a beer when we were done. Andrew declined, saying he had a playoff game for his men’s league basketball team to get to and didn’t have time. When he was kidded about skipping the game and getting a beer he said, “if I don’t show up we’ll lose by 60 points”!
I thought about that for a second and asked what would happen if he did show up and Andrew replied,”we’ll only lose by 30 points”!
Andrew was a great team player. He made everyone around him better.