Andre "Andy" Pedersen has Alzheimer's, but he also has a dream: to keep the memory of his fraternity pledge class alive. The 54-year-old inspired a...
Andre “Andy” Pedersen has Alzheimer’s, but he also has a dream: to keep the memory of his fraternity pledge class alive.
The 54-year-old inspired a 30-year reunion last April for 19 University of Idaho Fijis — members of Phi Gamma Delta’s Mu Iota chapter — who pledged in the fall of 1972. Rallying around a sick brother was an amazing experience, but no more remarkable than what has happened in the six months since.
As soon as Andy returned to his home in Wichita, Kan., he began sending individual e-mails with his strongest memories and what each of us meant to him. Then he would reinforce his powerful message with a phone call.
The reason for Andy’s e-mails was devastatingly simple: He didn’t want to forget any of us. The honesty and emotion of those e-mails and calls are something none of us will forget.
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In late July, Andy took a bus trip to Boise, Idaho, where about 20 Fijis attended a barbeque and several brothers accompanied Andy on a camping trip into the Stanley Wilderness Area.
Andy then flew to see me and another pledge brother in Seattle, and my wife and I treated Andy to his first major-league baseball game in 35 years.
Andy is back in Wichita, but we talk on the phone almost every week. The reconnections he stirred continue to swirl around him.
A Fiji brother came through Seattle on vacation, and we had dinner with our wives overlooking Elliott Bay. My wife and I traveled to Carmel, Calif., and spent a day with another brother and his wife. This month, I spent three days in the Boise area visiting my sister and seeing several other brothers.
Andy’s doing well, though he has good days and bad days. He gets frustrated when he can’t remember things, but his spirits are lifted when he is reminded of the reunion he inspired and the renewed bonds that are drawing his old friends back together.
“I am humbled by it,” he told me when he visited in July. “I am so pleased, so glad because you are my brothers. I see every one of you ready to help me at the slightest whisper of trouble.”
For now, trouble is in the future. His rich present is spent connecting with the fraternity brothers he rediscovered and reunited.