‘One in a billion’

EVERETT — The fact that more than 1,000 people attended singer Gerry Andal’s memorial service on Sunday showed the effect he had on those around him, speakers at the event said.

“When I think of Gerry, I think of what a beautiful difference one single life can make,” said Bob Drewel, a close

friend of Andal’s and former Snohomish County executive.

Andal, 67, of Arlington, died of cardiac arrest on March 11 in Everett, two days after surgery to repair a heart valve. His memorial service was held Sunday in a ballroom at Comcast Arena in Everett.

Tears flowed as Andal was remembered not only as a country singer and entertainer but as a father, an athlete and a businessman, and for his warmth and generosity.

“He was one in a million,” said Mick Brown, his brother-in-law. “No, one in a billion.”

Andal always found time for people and was keenly interested in everyone he met, speakers at the service said.

“Gerry could fit more into 24 hours than anyone I have ever known,” said Drewel, who often went horseback riding with Andal. “I never, ever heard him say to anyone, ‘I don’t have time for this’ or ‘I really need to go now.'”

Andal went to great lengths to remember people’s names, speakers said.

“I’ll bet if he were here today he’d know the names of 90 percent of the people in this room,” Drewel said after the service.

Brown knew Andal growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada. From the time he met him he knew he was special, Brown said.

“He had audacity, he was a superb athlete, he was intelligent and he was insufferably good looking,” Brown said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

“To say he was charismatic says little about his true appeal. To say he was a people person understates how he treasured the uniqueness of every person he met.”

Andal excelled in football, hockey and baseball and came to Seattle in the early 1960s on a football scholarship to the University of Washington.

His football career was cut short by a broken neck, but he went on to play hockey at the University of Michigan, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration.

Returning to the Seattle area, he opened a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Burien and became known in the ’70s for having a live, fully grown cougar on camera with him in commercials.

He later started a country cover band, Gerry Andal and the Roughriders, and had a weekly TV show in Seattle. 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.

His band performed at his restaurants and at venues around the region, and opened for stars such as Johnny Cash and Reba McIntire.

In recent years, he was a regular at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, where he would ride out on his horse, Rocky, and sing. Once, at the fair, as Andal rode out, the saddle began to slip to the side and Rocky ran him into the wall at full speed, recalled his oldest son, Greg Andal. He stayed, though, to sing the national anthem.

Though Andal was literally purple from his shoulder to his leg, he mounted Rocky and performed again the next day.

“He would not let people down who were counting on him,” his son said.

At the service, Drewel read a statement from Snohomish County Council Chairman Dave Somers that the first day of the fair this year would be declared “Gerry Andal Day.”

The injury at the fair was just one instance of his dad’s toughness, Greg Andal said. Gerry Andal was still playing ice hockey three weeks before his death, he said.

Andal also performed free of charge at nursing homes and for other groups. He did a weekly show for seniors at his latest restaurant, Gerry Andal’s Restaurant and Lounge in Stanwood.

He was involved in a long list of charities and non-profit groups and coached youth sports, speakers said.

One of his grandsons, Riley Andal, recalled how his grandfather rarely missed his sporting events and always called within a couple of days to talk about the game.

“My grandpa’s been my hero for as long as I can remember,” Riley Andal said.

The memorial included recollections and a tribute song by friend David Sparks; a slide show of photos from Andal’s life, and many of his songs. Photos and other memorabilia from his life were on display outside the ballroom.

Andal would have been pleased with the turnout, his son said.

“Dad always loved to play for a full room with his friends and family,” Greg Andal said.

Sandy Van Putten, a waitress at Andal’s Stanwood restaurant, attended the event.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “He would have loved it. He was a great man and he was remembered in a great way today.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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