Toledo has lost an important and prominent member of its art community
and members of VFW Post 250, in East Toledo, have lost their beloved commander.
Bernard “Bernie” Kirk Andrews, 59, of Toledo, passed away June 20 at his home. Andrews had been diagnosed with colon cancer in August of 2009, after a tumor in his colon had ruptured.
Andrews was born October 5, 1950, in Toledo, to Lewis and Dolores (Sweet) Andrews.
After graduating from Waite, Andrews went to culinary school at Owens Technical College and served an apprenticeship at Belmont Country Club, his father, Lewie, said.
Upon finishing at Owens, Andrews was drafted during the Vietnam War. Andrews joined the Navy and served on the USS Providence, a guided missile light cruiser, as a cook during the war. The Providence was involved in a number of raids against the port of Haiphong and other areas in North Vietnam.
After being discharged from the service, Andrews went to San Diego State University. He opened and maintained an art studio in Julian, a small town in the mountains which overlooked San Diego, for 14 years.
Andrews returned to Toledo in 1987, setting up Bernard Andrews Studio in the Andrews River East Building, named for his father who served as chairman of River East for several years.
Andrews was known for his beautiful art glass, blown glass as well as his stone and metal sculptures. During his career, Andrews worked with artist and architect James Hubbell. One of the major projects that he assisted Hubbell with was The Palace Doors of Abu Dhabi.
Andrew’s artwork can be seen many places locally including two large stained glass and beveled windows for B’Nai-Israel Temple, a beveled window at The Toledo Hospital, the beveled and sand blast carved entry for the Oliver House at the Maumee Bay Brewing Company as well as a wall of honor for All Saints Church in Rossford. Andrews also once designed and created the Prism Award trophies, now hosted by the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Andrews moved his studio to the Woodville Road location after the city closed the River East facility.
In an article in The Press, Andrews expressed his concern for finding a new home for his business as well as how he felt about leaving the building and his business neighbors he grew to love.
“This just breaks my heart. I’ve been trying to get over that part of things and try to move on to more constructive things, but it’s really difficult,” Andrews said. “We’ve all been neighbors for almost two decades. That’s a long time to know somebody and then just get cast into the wind.”
Holly Gusky, who served as the administrative assistant for River East, said Andrews will be sorely missed.
“He had a heart of gold. He was just a nice guy,” Gusky said. “He helped at River East a lot. It broke his heart when he had to move. When the pipes froze in the middle of the night it was Bernie and I down at the building. He was always willing to help out.”
Gusky, who owns several art pieces and a few pair of earrings made by Andrews, said the artist viewed his world in a positive way.
“The glass always seemed half-full for Bernie,” Gusky said. “He was so artistic and such a perfectionist. It is a shame to lose him so early.”
As a Vietnam vet, Andrews also had a passion for helping other veterans in need.
Andrews was a member of VFW Post 2510 for many years, serving as commander twice. His term as commander would have ended June 28.
According to Robert “Rocky” Newbold, past commander, the VFW post would not currently be in existence if it were not for Andrew’s hard work and dedication.
“He helped cook meals every Friday night,” Newbold said. “At one point we were almost bankrupt. Bernie recruited a lot of new members to the VFW. He always thought of the VFW as much more than a bar. He really cared for all of the veterans.”
“He visited members and auxiliary in the hospitals and did a lot of work around here,” Newbold continued. “Don’t get me wrong but Bernie was an artist and he could be difficult. Everything had to be just so. He was a perfectionist. I just loved the guy. He had a heart as big as Ohio.”
Newbold said that the VFW would continue with what Andrews started and continue to keep the VFW post active and recruit new members.
“We will pick up the pieces and head on,” Newbold said. “We have been able to build up a solid foundation because of Bernie. We do not owe anyone any money. We would have been sunk if it wasn’t for him.”
Dwight Griffin, a member of the VFW, said although Andrews did do a lot for the VFW, he believes that Andrews really would want people to remember him for his incredible artwork.
“Bernie would want to be remembered as an artist first and foremost,” Griffin said. “His artwork is all over southern California and northwest Ohio. He made a glass picture of the American Flag waving for me which is hanging at the Toledo Elks on Central Ave. He was just an outstanding artist.”
Bryan Susor, owner of Midwest Biomedicals Associates, was a long time friend of Andrew’s. Susor’s company was also located in the River East small business incubator.
“I was at River East for 11 years with Bernie,” Susor said. “It was a lot of small businesses and when we had time we would all just hang out together. If someone needed help with something, we would pitch in.”
Susor said that in the beginning, he had been taking business classes at Bowling Green State University. Andrews strongly suggested that he take glass blowing as an elective.
“For five years, he kept on me to take the glass blowing classes,” Susor said with a laugh. “So, I took it in my last semester. After I graduated, I went back to BGSU and took three more glass blowing classes.”
Susor credits Andrews with his continued love of glass blowing and sculpture.
“Glass blowing is an activity that needs two people. One is a gaffer, one is the assistant. Bernie and I began blowing glass together at the Toledo Museum of Art. Whenever he had projects, he would ask me to help. He got me into welding, and I started doing sculpture, which would not have happened without Bernie.”
Besides creating art together, the two would attend concerts together and share their mutual fondness for the music of the late Frank Zappa.
We enjoyed the same music and Bernie loved Frank Zappa,” Susor explained. “A little while ago, he brought me his Zappa poster and asked me to hold onto it for him. He loved that poster so I guess I will continue to hold the poster for him.”
Susor added that his friend will be fondly remembered for being a little “different” but as someone who did what he loved to do.
“A lot of people dance to a different drummer. Bernie was a different drummer,” Susor said. “He knew what he wanted to do in life and he followed it. He was a free spirit.”
Andrews is survived by his parents; siblings, Robert (Deborah) Andrews and LuAnn Zeisler; nephews, Aaron, Adam, Alan Zeisler and Mark, Kyle, Grant Andrews and many friends.
Services were held on Thursday, June 24, at the Freck Funeral Chapel, in Oregon.
Members of the VFW are trying to help with Andrew’s funeral expenses. A wake will be held Wednesday, June 30, at the post, located at 207 Second St., from 2-5 p.m. Donations will be accepted at that time.