STANWOOD — Gerry Andal, a local businessman and musician with a country flair, died Friday morning in Everett after undergoing heart surgery.
He was 68.
Andal could easily have claimed the title of Snohomish County’s singing cowboy.
He was a fixture at the annual Evergreen State Fair and other local events. At the fair, he would ride out on horseback to begin singing from the saddle as front man for his band, Gerry Andal and the Roughriders.
For the past two years, Andal had been running a restaurant in Stanwood bearing his name, the latest of many restaurant ventures in the region. He also was involved in numerous civic causes.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of people in this community who would tell you that Gerry Andal was the most caring person they ever met,” said close friend and horse-riding partner Bob Drewel, a former Snohomish County executive. “It’s just a huge void for many people.”
Andal had undergone surgery on Wednesday to repair a heart valve, said family friend Gary Weikel, who also was Drewel’s former deputy. By Thursday, Andal was up walking and joking at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Colby Campus. Early Friday morning, however, he went into cardiac arrest and couldn’t be revived.
Weikel described Andal as, “Low-key, just very level-headed.
“He was your long-lost friend when you met him — it didn’t matter who you were,” he said.
Born in Canada, Andal attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship. He also was an avid hockey player, recently playing in a league for older players.
After the UW, Andal received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan, Drewel said. He landed a job with the Ford Motor Co. as a representative working with dealers throughout the western U.S. and eventually bought his own franchise, Gerry Andal Lincoln-Mercury in Burien.
At some point, though, Andal realized that singing and playing guitar were his true joys, Drewel said. He left his dealership and opened restaurants, where he would perform.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he ran Gerry Andal’s Ranch Restaurant, with locations in Everett, Auburn and Olympia. Earlier, Andal owned the Longhorn Bar & Grill in Seattle’s University District.
That’s where fellow musician and horse enthusiast Cookie Spirk remembered seeing him on stage for the first time.
“He didn’t have the world’s greatest voice, but what he was so good at was entertaining,” she said.
He had a vast repertoire and an amazing ability to play tunes that people would call out, most of them cover songs.
More recently, Spirk had been Andal’s landlord. He had been out of the restaurant business for a few years when he approached Spirk in 2008, asking if he could take over her restaurant, Blazing Saddles.
“I’m too young to retire,” she recalled him saying.
On Jan. 1, 2009, he opened his Stanwood restaurant.
He drew big crowds on Wednesday afternoons, when he played free shows for seniors.
Andal also had performed at Silvertips hockey games, rodeos and an array of local venues. In the past, the Roughriders had opened for top-tier country acts such as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, Ricky Skaggs and Roy Rogers.
From 1992 to 1995, he hosted his own Country Music Jamboree in the county each July. Andal also had produced and starred in his own local-broadcast TV show for 15 years.
He belonged to the Everett Rotary Club and worked with the Greater Everett Community Foundation. He served on boards for the Everett Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Restaurant Association. He is a past president of the Snohomish County Big Brothers and Sisters.
Andal is survived by his wife, Rhonda; two sons, Kevin and Greg; daughter, Ashley; and several grandchildren. Plans are underway for a public event to remember him.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, email@example.com.