Andrew James Gray, age 47 years, 4 months and 25 days, was born in La Crosse, Wis., on March 3, 1970, to Dr. James and Karen Bonnette Gray.
He was baptized on March 29, at the Easter Sunrise Service by his godfather, Rev. Rolf Hanson, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Spring Grove.
He grew up in Spring Grove and Mabel, attending the Spring Grove elementary and high schools. During the decade when he was 6 to 16, there was no TV in his home fostering Andrew’s love to read at an early age. He was especially interested in the study of World War II as well as exhibiting fascination with airplanes.
He loved his Easter basket kitten, Bonaparte, from age three until going off to college; likewise, his pet horse Gypsy, from age five for 13 years.
At age six, he rode Gypsy in the Bicentennial parade in Spring Grove ignoring a cold soaking rain; and when he was eight, he rode next to Governor Al Quie through Beaver State Park, visiting all the time during their 20 minutes together.
Andrew began his work-life delivering newspapers, and his first job, age 16, was as a DJ at KQYB evenings and weekends and building bridges for Miinowa Construction Company summers during college.
During his high school years, he loved singing under the direction of Almore Mathsen and playing in Gary Reedy’s band that marched at the Fiesta Bowl.
He spent a lot of time hanging out with his best friends, Eric Frydenlund, Christian Myrah and Steve Storlie to name a few. They watched Top Gun and Caddyshack until they wore out the VHS tapes, reciting all the lines. These two movies were listed as his favorites on his “Get to Know Me” patient chart at Methodist Hospital.
In 1986, Lutz Klinkhardt, our exchange student from Weener, Germany, joined our family for a year in Spring Grove, and our hearts forever. Andrew and Lutz backpacked in Germany and Europe the summer of 1988. Lutz wrote in his application, “I will live with any family that doesn’t have lions or tigers.” Andrew said, “Let’s choose him. He can have our bedroom that is papered with lions and tigers on the walls and ceiling.” And so, a great friendship was launched.
Andrew graduated in 1988 and headed off to Luther College where he embraced the Norse life! And with the help of Mabe’s pizza and late night study sessions with lifelong friends like Lara Wold-Mendez ‘92, and Dr. David Jorde ‘92, he graduated in 1992 with a degree in elementary education.
He sang with the Norseman his freshman year and sang bass for three succeeding years in Nordic Choir under the direction of Weston Noble.
During the Russia tour, he was honored to serve as Dr. Noble’s personal valet. He experienced a deep respect for freedom while watching tears streaming down the faces of Iron Curtain citizens as the choir performed national anthems that they had been forbidden to sing.
He served as President of the WIMI Fraternity, a service organization. One of Andrew’s early goals was to be President of Luther College someday. He was passionate about Luther’s philosophy and mission to shape young people spiritually, educationally and for service to others.
During his senior year, he was recruited to a position with Lutheran Brotherhood, A Family of Financial Services for Lutherans, in La Jolla, Calif., where he lived with a good friend, Jonathan “JD” Doering ‘90, in the San Diego area. After five years on the coast, he was homesick for the Midwest, and secured a job at the LB Home Office in Minneapolis.
Next, he took a management position at Davenport, Iowa, as recruiter and trainer of Lutheran Brotherhood representatives.
Andrew loved to learn new things, so he decided to try a new career path and studied the anatomy of the human nervous system and ventured into introducing to health care providers, pharmaceuticals that would help people affected by maladies related to the nervous system. This took him to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he purchased his first home. During all of these years as a single guy, Andrew was a great uncle, brother, and son, but he wanted more and kept searching for the perfect “Mrs. Gray.”
In 2004, while living in Cedar Rapids, a good friend, Carrie Faust ‘94, told him about her friend Carrie Willett that “Andrew just had to meet.”
The couple wed on May 28, 2006, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Spring Grove. Andrew and Carrie’s early years were spent building a home together, socializing with friends, family, and neighbors, hiking with their dog Sam, traveling and running (including a couple of marathons). In June 2011, their son, Kyle Beaman was born, and the family became complete in Oct. 2013, when Karna Raine joined the family.
Andrew’s passion for helping others make important decisions regarding their finances and life goals led him back to Thrivent Financial in 2011. The young family settled into life in Northfield where Andrew enjoyed working every day as a wealth advisor.
Andrew loved being a husband and a father and shared his love of music, friends, faith and learning with his young children. He delighted in asking them questions, and waiting for them to formulate answers.
He also eagerly brought them to his parent’s cabin in Canada where Andrew was just in heaven – he loved everything to do with the “cabin life.”
On Saturday, March 12, 2016, Andrew was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
His lifelong friend, Lara from Spring Grove, and Megan Kraby and others from Northfield, stepped up in a big way and started community donor drives throughout the areas attempting to find a donor who would be a perfect match for his eventual stem cell transplant.
Many individuals in the communities of Spring Grove, Northfield, Decorah and Brooklyn responded by registering with Be The Match.
Andrew’s Thrivent colleagues were also very supportive of Andrew, his family, and his clients during this challenging time. Andrew loved his work so much that he continued to do what he could for his clients during treatment in Rochester, which also served as an important spirit booster for Andrew. Some Thrivent advisors even graciously volunteered their time and expertise to assist Andrew’s clients when he was not available, including Jonathan Doering ’90 who regularly traveled in from Calif., to work in person when needed.
Throughout his 16-month journey of chemo, radiation and transplant, his parents were by his side as caregivers while Carrie divided her time with her three loves, Andrew, Kyle and Karna.
Carrie’s mother, Lorraine, was also a godsend caring for the children for months at a time allowing Carrie to spend time in Rochester with Andrew and continue to work at St. Kate’s in St. Paul.
All of the friends that Andrew had and continued to make during this time carried him through his treatments along with his unshakeable faith that kept him until the very end.
Andrew passed away on July 28, 2017, at Methodist Hospital in Rochester. As our friend Dan said, “God didn’t take away our son and friend, but received him.” Soli deo Gloria
A celebration of the life lived by Andrew was Aug. 1, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 203 E. Main St. in Spring Grove. Visitation was in the Trinity Sanctuary. Burial will be in Trinity Cemetery.
Survivors include his wife, Carrie, and children, Kyle and Karna, all of Northfield; his parents, Jim and Karen Gray of Spring Grove; a brother, Paul (Heather) and their children, Ben and Hannah of Spring Grove; Carrie’s parents, Gene and Lorraine Willett of Brooklyn, Iowa; brother-in-law Kelly Willett of Grinnell, Iowa, and his son, Chase, and daughter, Mallory; sister-in-law, Mandy (Dustin) Westerdale of Brooklyn, Iowa, and their three sons, Garrett, Mason and Trace; numerous aunts, uncles and their families; and a host of dear friends.
The family prefers memorials be given to Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, where Andrew, Carrie and his parents spent so many hours recovering and healing. Donate online at gift-of-life.org/donation/ or call 507-288-7470. Two Northfield non-profits are equally important to Andrew: Prairie Creek Community School, 27695 Denmark Avenue, 55057 which Kyle attends, and Northfield Montessori northfieldmontessori.org where Karna goes daily.