Andrew Bruce Secrest passed away Twenty Fifth of Sixth Month, 2013 at home in Lakeport, California, after a year’s struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Andrew was born Eighth of Sixth Month, 1957, in Washington DC, to John and Barbara Secrest. A convinced Friend, Andrew first joined the Religious Society of Friends in 1980, as a member of Sandwich Friends Meeting on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Andrew attended Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio. As part of his college experience, Andrew spent 2 years in Heidelberg, Germany. He developed his fluency in German, French, Latin, and Greek during his college years, majoring in German literature. Andrew attended Earlham School of Religion from 1983 to 1986, during which time he represented ESR at the 1985 World Gathering of Young Friends in Greensboro, North Carolina (at the time the most diverse gathering of Friends ever). Following that experience, he felt led of God to travel in the ministry beginning in 1987, with concern for Christian unity among Friends.
It was under that exercise that Andrew made his first visit to Berkeley Friends Church. He came to worship with us on a First Day morning, bringing with him his traveling minute from Sandwich Friends. It was the first traveling minute many of had ever seen. We signed, and thought no more about it, expecting never to see him again. In the summer of 1987, he also attended the Young Friends of North America gathering in Ben Lomond, California. There he met his future wife, Mary Miche. He moved to San Francisco Bay Area in the fall of 1988 to develop the relationship with Mary. For the first of many times, Andrew surprised us and returned as an attender at Berkeley Friends Church. He became a member of the Meeting in 1989.
Andrew was a careful and thorough student of Friends’ history and the differences that led to the various splits in our past that still divide us. He had a passion for the reconciliation of these differences. He worshiped with us and worked with us on the issues of our Meeting, serving on Ministry and Council for a number of years and attending meetings of Friends Church Southwest and Friends United Meeting. He also forged strong connections with unprogrammed Friends in Berkeley and beyond, serving on the Nominating Committee for College Park Quarterly Meeting and attending sessions of Pacific Yearly Meeting. His ministry was to build relationships among Friends across all divisions.
The most significant of the relationships he built was with his wife Mary. They were married on 28th of Fifth Month, 1990, under the care of Friends from both Berkeley Friends Church and Strawberry Creek Meeting. Andrew referred to their union as an intercultural union of cross-cultural Friends.
Their son Nathan Makepeace Miche Secrest was born Eleventh of Eleventh Month, 1991. Andrew and Mary chose to have Nathan attend both Friends’ groups.
Andrew trained as a nurse at Samuel Merritt College of Nursing, receiving his BS in Nursing in 1990. He then worked as a hospice nurse for several years, although he was ultimately unable to continue in this vocation because of his difficulties with charting. Andrew transitioned to being a full-time dad and home gardener in 1996. He was an avid reader, often with 30 books checked out of the library at any one time. These were supplemented by his diverse personal collection of 5000 books. Andrew’s sister once remarked that he did not need to keep all the books in his library since he was the only person she knew who actually remembered the contents of all the books he had ever read.
In 2003, Andrew and his family moved to Lake County, California. Andrew became a full-time gardener, training with the Master Gardener program. He also was a volunteer with Hospice of Lake County. He greatly loved living in the country, but continued to visit us regularly at Berkeley Friends Church, attending our retreats and Quaker Heritage Days. He was also a regular attender at unprogrammed gatherings, helping with the children’s programs at Friends General Conference and Pacific Yearly Meeting. Andrew was an integral part of the El Salvador Projects, an outreach program of Palo Alto Friends Meeting. As a nurse who was fluent in Spanish, he traveled with the program numerous times to introduce Friends, young and old, to the work of Friends in helping rebuild services after the war in El Salvador.
Andrew was tirelessly affable and had a quiet, even sometimes sneaky, sense of humor. His one-liners kept us all in good cheer, even when there was unease among us. He loved the children’s songs Mary sang, and would sing them with enthusiasm. He also would frequently rise in the quiet of worship to sing, often choosing the Shaker hymn, “More Love”.
To the end of his life, Andrew continued to call all of us to more love. Even as we miss him immeasurably, we give thanks to God for his ministry, in our midst and within the diversity of Friends.
Approved by Monthly Meeting of Berkeley Friends Church, 21st of Seventh Month, 2013