The Idaho Education Association family is grieving the unexpected loss of Allen Andersen, who died of a heart attack November 8 at his home in Pocatello. Andersen was a longtime teacher and former IEA Region 5 Director, as well as a state lawmaker. He was devoted to his family, work, and faith, and he will be sorely missed. Here are a few tributes to him:
Jim Shackelford recalled, “Allen worked for the IEA for more than 25 years, and in many parts of Idaho educators and the public saw him as ‘the IEA.’ While his primary area of responsibility was southeastern Idaho, his career as an advocate for public education and public school employees took him to every part of our state. His work touched and changed the lives and futures of thousands of public school educators, all for the better; and, in turn, those educators were more empowered to make a difference in their students' lives. I knew Allen as an amazing husband and father whose family was always first in his life, as a committed and effective legislator who stood tall for the values of equality and justice, and as an advocate for great public schools. But what I will hold most dear are my remembrances of him as a friend. He was a very special person, and I will forever miss him.”
Bert Marley wrote, “Allen Andersen, in his passing, leaves a huge hole in my life as I’m sure it does for many of you. He has been my mentor, my friend, my confidant, my advisor, my running mate and my example for the last twenty-seven years. … When I think of Allen Andersen four adjectives spring to mind; dedicated, courageous, hardworking, and passionate. His dedication to whatever he chose to do was incredible, whether it was teaching, working for the IEA, campaigning for public office, serving as a legislator, working for the Democratic Party both locally and at the state level, offering voluntary service to the community, serving in his church, or caring for his family. He had integrity and courage to stand up for his convictions and beliefs.”
“Words can not express the loss and sorrow I feel.” Teena Marley wrote on the funeral home guestbook. “Allen made me the Union person I am today, and I am so thankful for his help, example and patience. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Thank you for sharing Allen with so many of us. Imagine how many lives he has touched.”
“I was privileged to work with Allen as a colleague for twenty years, and I learned that he had a rare gift,” remembered Peggy Park. “He had the ability to make each person he knew believe they had a unique and special relationship with him, and they did. I will miss him tremendously, and send my love to his precious family.”
“My heart is unbelievably heavy,” Marcia Banta wrote on Facebook. “Allen shared his skills, his determination, his laughter and his love with so many of us and we are better for having been within his reach.”
“I know I have entered that age where my contemporaries can pass, as evidenced each day in the obituaries. I understand that life is fragile and that it ends,” Terry Gilbert said. “That does not assuage my sorrow for Bev and family or my feelings about losing this good man. Long live in our memories the ‘Larry, Darryl, and Darryl team,’ reduced now to just one Darryl.”
Diane Hall wrote: “Since Wednesday, November 9, I have been in so much pain. Early that morning I had foot surgery. Taking drugs for that pain did help, but nothing has helped the other pain of a broken heart that I experienced since receiving an email and two phone calls from former co-workers that evening informing me of the passing away of my dear friend and brother Allen Andersen. My heart is still so heavy with pain and shock!! 'Not my Friend Allen?!' Why, I just saw Allen and Bev at my retirement party a few nights before that and as usual, I received my big hug! Thank God for that hug and for Allen and Bev being there that night because that is my remembrance of Allen: a big giant of a man, but also a gentle bear who gave the best hugs ever! Whenever Allen and Bev came to Boise they always stopped in to say hello and give me those hugs … Peace to you my good friend Allen, you are loved and you will be missed.”
“I had the opportunity to work in the Region 5 Office with Allen for 23 years. I learned most of the skills that I now use as a Region Director from him,” wrote Linda Jones. “I am so thankful we had the opportunity to see him at Diane Hall’s retirement party. I confided in him that sometimes when I think I don’t know what to do, I 'channel' Allen Andersen and it helps me through. I’m glad I got the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated him and truly admired his skill and passion for advocacy. I always knew that no matter what happened, he would take care of our members. He was at all times there for the underdog.”
Janice Bisharat wrote of Allen stopping in the Region 5 office earlier this year, smelling good. She asked him what he was wearing. “He looked at me a bit taken aback, smiled, and said ‘Old Spice.’ I told him my dad used to wear that; we’d get it every Christmas for him. He remembered my dad passed away. He said his kid got him it. He gave me a hug, smiled, and waved bye. That memory will stay with me always.”
“His contributions to the well-being of teachers in this state were immense. I lost a good friend and mentor. Everything I was as an IEA leader I owe to Allen,” Bill Davis wrote on Facebook.
“Allen was always looking out for the people he worked with and for, anywhere, anytime. I could go on and on with the stories about Allen and his work, but Allen wouldn't want that,” wrote Rob Nicholson. “Suffice it to say that educators in Idaho wouldn't be where they are now without his talents as a teacher, staff member, legislator, colleague, and friend. He was an extraordinary human being, I will miss him tremendously.”
John Rumel, recalling Andersen, wrote of his first lunch with the IEA professional staff at Angell’s in Boise, “with Allen and Rob Nicholson both seated near the door, looking like the muscle (aka ‘union thugs’) for this union I was joining.” Among other memories, Rumel recalled one, probably retold by Rita Haggardt, “about Allen and Bev secretly holding hands under their desks during grade school, little knowing (or perhaps fully knowing) that they were going to spend the rest of their lives together.”
To honor Allen's passion for education, his family has established the Allen Andersen Family Endowment Fund through ISU. Donations may be made at http://isu.edu/gift/. Direct your gift to the Allen Andersen Family Endowment.
Donations to the Idaho Education Association Children's Fund are also being made in Allen's name. To contribute, send your check payable to the IEA Children's Fund, P.O. Box 2638, Boise, ID 83701. Designate Allen Andersen memorial on the memo line of your check.
Here is Allen's obituary as printed November 15 in the Idaho State Journal.