Barbara A. Andrews

What a moving experience it was to attend the funeral of Barbara (Brice) Andrews on Saturday. She was Ashley’s half-sister, the daughter of his mother and her first husband. She was a truly remarkable woman.

Though she worked at various jobs and volunteered her time, especially at the church where her service was held, her main focus was family. She was married to Eugene Andrews for sixty-two years, an amazing feat in any age. She bore two daughters, only to see one die as a small child. Another survived long enough to attend school but she, too, left this plane before adulthood. Mrs. Andrews did not let their deaths devastate her as I’ve seen happen to so many men and women whose children predecease them. In fact she went on to raise two more daughters who are now successful, accomplished women.

The Reverend Robyn Franklin Vaughn, who delivered the homily, spoke eloquently of how Mrs. Andrews fought well into the 1970s to make the law of Brown vs. Board of Education, issued in 1954, a reality in Boston. She fought for true inclusion for all children. And she gave courage to another young mother to be who was at risk of losing her baby because the two had been seriously injured in a car crash. Reverend Robyn spoke from the heart, referring to Mr. Andrews as “Uncle Gene” and saying that part of the Christian tradition was to laugh and cry, even to do both at the same time when the spirit moved one.

Mrs. Andrews’ obituary gave the outline of her life, but Ash provided color and tone when he spoke of the Sunday dinners when he was little. At one such occasion  there wasn’t enough room at the adults’ table, so Mrs. Andrews joined the children. He thought she had more fun with them than she did with the grownups.

Her two surviving daughters, Adrienne and Jennifer, and their families are certainly a testament to their mother’s abilities as a parent. They are beautiful, gracious women who welcomed me, a stranger, in their midst. I learned also that the family’s roots in Boston date to at least the early nineteenth century, so they are a match with the Boston Brahmins.

The Church of St. Augustine and St. Martin in Roxbury has a history almost as long. It is high-church Episcopal, and I was very glad to be near an open door because of the copious amounts of incense. I found the chanted mass inspiring, nevertheless.

The church holds perhaps 300 people, and it was overflowing. The ushers kept adding chairs in the side chapel. Parking was impossible, so I took a mini-tour of Roxbury before I found a space around the corner and down the street. I was glad that Ash walked me back to my car because the bar on the corner was hoppin’ by the time I got ready to leave.

The drive was fairly uneventful, though I had forgotten that the drivers in Massachusetts (Smash-a-chusetts) are hopeless. They don’t signal turns and when they change lanes on the highway the cut in as close as possible. But the cheap gas, about $0.30 a gallon less, made the journey worth it.

All in all I was very glad to have made the journey and to have met this wonderful group of people. RIP, Barbara A. Andrews.

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