Her husband, Steve — “the love of my life,” she said, sobbing — died Sept. 28 after nearly three years with cancer.
“I think people need to realize how short life is,” Andrea said. “Twenty-five years went so fast.
“Take that extra time to tell that person you love them,” she added, “because you don't know what tomorrow is going to bring.”
People who know Steve and Andrea are invited to a memorial event Saturday at Living Faith Missionary Church, 17718 Bluffton Road in Yoder. The family will receive visitors from 10 to 11 a.m. A service will follow at 11 a.m., officiated by the Rev. Joel Gregory.
Andrea had answered a few personal ads without any success before she answered Steve's in 1986.
She was living with her parents at Pleasant Lake at the time. Her mother saw Steve's ad and suggested she reply to it. She agreed, but vowed it would be the last ad she answered.
Ironically, it was a mistake in the ad that caught their eyes. Steve had intended to say he was looking for a woman who was honest, sincere, intelligent and caring. Instead, the ad said he had those qualities.
Andrea replied, he called and they talked for hours. They met Oct. 1, 1986, and picked out wedding rings the next month.
“We just both knew,” she said.
She placed a Valentine's Day classified ad to him in February 1987. A reporter from The News-Sentinel called to ask about them meeting through the personals. Somehow the idea of getting married in the Fort Wayne Newspapers lobby came up, and, before long, it was reality.
On June 6, 1987, her father escorted her, then age 29, down the steps that lead to the lobby from the second-floor newsrooms of The News-Sentinel and Journal Gazette. Steve, then 37, was waiting there with his then-6-year-old son from his first marriage, Erick Cade Brangan, — now a strapping 31-year-old — who served as best man.
Steve was everything she could have hoped for in a husband, Andrea said.
“He remembered our anniversary, birthdays,” she said. “He remembered Sweetest Day. He remembered everything.”
She learned not to give him a long list for Christmas because he tried to get her everything on it. They talked every day at lunchtime when both were at work.
Andrea said she's going to miss “a million little things” about him.
“He was so witty,” she said. “He just came up with little quips and one-liners. Everyone was amazed how he maintained his wit, even at the darkest hours.
“One big thing I will miss is his voice,” she added. “He had the most fantastic voice. I always loved how he said, 'I love you, darlin'.'”
She said Steve also was a real people person. “He would do anything for anybody.”
Life changed in November 2009 when doctors diagnosed Steve with stage 4 colon cancer. They estimated he'd live no more than 20 months; he made it nearly three years.
Andrea believes one of the things that kept him going was making it to their 25th anniversary. They also had a lot of people praying for him.
“I believe prayer works miracles,” she said.
The spent their anniversary at a cabin in the Smoky Mountains, and she arranged for them to renew their wedding vows while they were there.
“It was a cloudy, misty day,” she recalled. “The minute we faced each other to repeat our vows, the sun came out and stayed out! We both felt time stand still, and we were back to our wedding day looking into each other's eyes (and) feeling like no one was there but us, saying, “I do.”
She was at his side the last six weeks of his life, first in the hospital and then at Visiting Nurse and Hospice Home. Then the man whose brief personals ad changed her life forever was gone.
“I know I have to go on,” she said sadly. “I'll go on for Steve. That's what he would have wanted.”