Network Answering Service, San Francisco, 1984: Way back in the day, many years ago, my wife Lori and I ran an answering service on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, with hundreds of musicians, actors, small businesses and the like for our clients.
And one day, a young woman came to San Francisco from the East Coast, to make her fortune. Her name was Andrea Lewis.
She showed up, and we gave her work, and the in-house communication training we did, and she became more and more self-confident and took on more and more. At one point, when I was off on some dumb adventure, the whole place was run by three women: my wife, Andrea Lewis, and our manager Mara Kimmel. That round-the-clock staff of 30+ was just humming.
It was sometimes tough times. And it was some really good times.
Andrea Lewis had a voice. A helluva voice.
She got a lot of encouragement from us, and began to sing in gigs, and found a spot on the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. They won four grammies, and performed in Carnegie Hall.
Alway political as all get out, sometimes she thought I was a warm and kind fellow, and other times she opined that I was a sexist, honky, capitalist pig.
And she’d tell me about it.
I liked her.
A VOICE ON THE AIR
Not long after the end of Network Answering Service, Andrea found her true home, as a co-host on popular San Francisco radio station KPFA, and she’s been a favorite voice on the air ever since.
On November 15, 2009, Andrea Lewis, age 52, died at home of a heart attack.
And I wish, from the bottom of my heart, that she was still on this planet to give me grief like back in those days gone by.
Her parents came in to the San Francisco Bay Area from Florida, because KPFA arranged a memorial service in Oakland.
Some of the old crew from Network Answering Service, including me, went to attend, to remember her and to think back on those days.
This woman who had come to San Francisco from Detroit many years ago, and found a home in the community that had arisen around our answering service company on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco.
With us and our gang she got employment, friends, communication training and lots of encouragement.
She went on to become a much-loved radio talk show host on popular radio station KPFA, along with achieving some great results with her music.
WE DIDN’T KNOW
When Andrea died last week, suddenly and unexpected, we were all shocked to hear the news. You see, she seldom said much about herself and we didn’t know she was seriously ill, even though for others, she used her gift at interviewing them, both making them feel at home and also getting them to open up on some of the tough questions.
Here is what her friends at KPFA Radio had to say.
The memorial service was amazing: Attending was the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the local congresswoman, Barbara Lee of Oakland, made arrangements to read Andrea’s name into the Congressional Record, and notable speakers remembering her included a Poet Laureate of California, along with professors from Stanford and University of California praising her journalism and mourning her as a friend.
They played recordings of Andrea singing, blues and jazz. Her former jazz band played, and there was even a performance of dancing girls with huge drums. It was a heck of a send-off. The only one who would have enjoyed it even more, Andrea herself, was unable to attend. Or maybe she did.
On the huge wall above the stage in this large church, bigger than life, they showed a montage of photographs, including several dozen from our Network Answering Service days together. Eight of us Network folk had come, some for hundreds of miles, to be there. To say good bye and remember her.
The large church was so packed that many had to sit on the floor, along the walls, and stand in the lobby outside.
And what does this tell us?
It tells us to cherish our friends.
It tells us .. not to let them slip away.
November celebrates Thanksgiving in the U.S., but there’s no reason it can’t be day of “thanks” everywhere in the world.
So I wanted to say “thank you” to all of you who have been a part of my life and times I’ve seen, down through all the years.
I just wanted to let you know I’m grateful.
Thank you for being here, on this planet, in these times.