Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Perp Can't Diminish Warm Glow of Pat McAndrews' Life

Driving across Capitol on 13th at about 2 p.m. yesterday, I saw OWH reporter Erin Grace crossing the street on foot going the other way. If I hadn't been in a hurry I would have circled the block and congratulated her on the story she wrote about Pat McAndrews.

McAndrews was killed. It appears he was murdered by a young man who was found driving McAndrews' car. Many of us who knew Pat were shocked and saddened by the news.

It's possible that the suspect is one of the troubled souls that Pat befriended over the years. Pat must have known that hiring homeless or down-on-their-luck people for odd jobs was risky, that the odds might catch up with him and someone would do him wrong. He did it anyway.

Pat supported my political campaigns and I would see him a few times a year when the Cathedral High School graduate would turn up at St. Cecilia's Cathedral. Stricken with multiple sclerosis, Pat would lean on the pews going to and from communion, but without any drama or negativity. An encouraging word or a joke was typical.

Erin captured that and more in her story, which is below. Thanks to Erin's story, the crime is not the last word on Pat's life.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Published Tuesday May 6, 2008

McAndrews, 72, had generous life cut short


Maybe it was being third oldest of 13 children. Or graduating from Cathedral High in the 1950s when practically every Catholic kid, it seemed, was a Cardinal.

Or perhaps it was Pat McAndrews' 41 years in retail work with the Gordman family that led him to think of Omaha not as a city, but a small town.

The place where everyone knew everyone.

The place where, if you've got a disease such as multiple sclerosis that won't let you do for yourself, you hire down-on-their-luck strangers to help out, and you shrug off the worries from relatives.

That's the kind of trusting, generous person Pat McAndrews was, said Mike McAndrews, one of Pat's many nephews.

"He felt like he knew everyone in Omaha. And he did know a lot of people in Omaha. So I think he didn't really recognize the dangers," Mike McAndrews said Monday, two days after his 72-year-old uncle was found dead in his apartment at 3068 S. 60th St.

Police have called the death a homicide and have arrested a suspect who was pulled over Sunday while driving Pat McAndrews car, a blue 2000 Honda Civic. John W. Runnion, 19, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.

Police think the killing was not a random act.

"We do believe they did know each other," said Lt. Darci Tierney, an Omaha police spokeswoman. "We're still investigating what their connection was."

Any link remained a mystery to Kevin Reid, who served as Runnion's foster father for less than a year.

Reid said that when he opened his home to Runnion, the teenager appeared to be getting back on track by enrolling in a general equivalency degree program and holding a part-time job at an Arby's restaurant.

"He was doing pretty good — working, saving money," Reid said Monday.

Yet Reid said he asked the state to remove Runnion from his home, which the state did in January, because Runnion stayed out at night without coming home and broke other rules.

"He didn't do what he was supposed to do," Reid said.

Reid said he last saw Runnion April 27, when Runnion approached him at church to tell him that he was moving out of town.

"I wished him luck," Reid said.

Then Runnion showed up at Reid's southwest Omaha home on Friday, when Reid wasn't home. Reid said his wife answered the door and asked about a blue car Runnion was driving. Runnion told her he bought it. Reid's wife didn't let Runnion in.

Neighbors have said McAndrews would hire homeless people to do chores, but the city's largest shelter, the Siena-Francis House, has no record of the 19-year-old ever having stayed there.

Mike McAndrews said he has been asked by police not to say anything about the crime publicly. He credited police with making such a quick arrest.

He stressed that his family would prefer to remember a beloved brother and uncle by the qualities of his life rather than his sudden death.

"He was a man full of life, generous and caring, loyal to his friends and family and an important part of the lives of so many people," niece Chris Kramer of Des Moines wrote in a tribute.

She is one of 34 nieces and nephews who grew up listening to their Uncle Pat's repertoire of jokes and who begged for rides — and if lucky enough, driving lessons — in their uncle's 1966 Ford Mustang convertible, a car that was later traded for a sturdier sedan and safer driving lessons.

Pat McAndrews never missed a family event and remained close to members of Cathedral High graduating class of 1954.

Good with faces and names, McAndrews was a natural in retail and held a long career with the company now called Gordmans.

In the 1970s and 1980s, McAndrews helped open Half-Price and Richman Gordman stores. He retired last year.

McAndrews suffered in recent years from a rare form of multiple sclerosis that attacks the central nervous system and causes dizziness, according to Kramer. This made walking a struggle.

But his mind remained sharp, and so did his love of jokes.

"He always had a good joke to tell," Mike McAndrews said. "We were laughing yesterday that we heard them all 100 times."

The elder McAndrews will be remembered during a wake service Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Heafey-Heafey-Hoffman-Dworak-Cutler's West Center Chapel, 7805 West Center Road.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon Thursday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 48th and Grover Streets.

Pat McAndrews is preceded in death by his parents, Anthony and Audrey, and by brothers Jim, Jack, Bert and Mike.

Survivors include brothers, Duane, Tim and Dennis McAndrews, all of Omaha; sisters Mary Sick of Omaha, Jeanne Johnston of San Jose, Calif., Audrey Sesto of Overland Park, Kan., Carole Farris of Goodland, Kan., and Judy Johnson of Cheyenne, Wyo.


OmaSteak said...

Yet another tragic story of a good life taken by some souless creature and another poster boy for why we need to have and use the death penalty.

dudleysharp said...

I so wish there were more stories like this. The innocents murdered are, so often, forgotten in the public square.

I wish, much more, that such stories never were needed.