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Louise Andryusky's words resonated with residents of Hernando County

It won't surprise anyone who knew Louise Andryusky to learn that she died preparing to honor a veteran.

She had made plans to visit the grave of her husband, Bill, at Florida National Cemetery near Bushnell on Sunday, as she did every Memorial Day weekend, said her granddaughter, Jenifer Halkais of Palm Harbor.

"She got up and got dressed, and a friend of hers was going to take her to see Grandpa. She loved him so much," Halkais said.

After suffering an apparent heart attack in her room at the Atria Evergreen Woods assisted living facility in Spring Hill, "she never answered the door," her granddaughter said.

It's been awhile since the Hernando Times published Louise's last column — memories of her native New York in the wake of 9/11 in 2001. And if you don't remember Louise, she was famous for writing from the perspective of the typical Spring Hill retiree.

Her columns were about the joys and strains of entertaining grandchildren, about missing her former home in New York City while being thankful she could retire to Florida, about her Irish mother's soda bread.

She remembered the deprivations of the Depression and, especially, the heroism of Spring Hill's many World War II veterans.

Her neighbors related to these columns so completely, former Hernando Times editor Ned Barnett once told me, that the paper's circulation here jumped noticeably after her column started appearing in mid 1988.

"People loved her stuff, just loved it," said close friend and retired longtime Times reporter Collins Conner.

And it wasn't just what she wrote about, Conner said.

"There was just this tremendous patriotism that came out in her writing. I don't think she ever got over thinking that soldiers and sailors were heroes."

Maybe that was because she came from a family of Navy veterans, her son, William R. Andryusky of Spring Hill, said. Both he and his brother, Steven, served. So did Louise's father — in World War I — and, of course, her husband, who saw action at the invasion of Normandy.

Maybe, William Andryusky said, it was because she listened to news of WWII on the radio as a teenager and idolized the men risking their lives the way later generations idolized rock stars.

"That was just her era," he said of his mother, who was 85 at the time of her death.

Not that she glorified everything about her generation.

Throughout her life, Louise was ambitious.

"She worked in Manhattan, (as a secretary) in a lawyer's office, and I think it was her dream to make it big in the city," Halkais said.

She was "enthusiastic and curious about everything," William Andryusky said. "She couldn't pass a scenic overlook without stopping."

She filled journals with her writing long before she filled up newspaper columns, he said.

She loved books, including the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, said Halkais, who remembers that her grandmother not only pushed the county to build the West Hernando library branch as a community volunteer, but frequently took her to the smaller branch at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

"I didn't find a love (for books) until my Grandma helped with that," said Halkais, who went on to become an English teacher.

"I learned that was something I could have and I could own."

Even though Louise was an outstanding student, she was not allowed to finish high school. Her father, a New York City police officer, forced her to drop out and work to help the family through the Depression.

She later earned a diploma through the General Educational Development program and returned to community college to get an associates's degree. Along with landing a regular column as a Times correspondent, obtaining her degree was her proudest accomplishment, her granddaughter said.

Louise, being as warm as she was spirited, forgave her father, judging from the eloquent, moving Father's Day column from 1989 that I read, along with several others, in our old, bound editions of the Hernando Times. (It didn't seem right to just fish her columns out of our electronic archives.)

Her father, killed by a rolling train shortly before he was due to retire from his second career with the Long Island Railway, never fulfilled his dream of seeing the West. And when her airplane had recently landed at the airport in Salt Lake City, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, she wrote, "I was seeing their breathtaking beauty through tears as I saw them for my father and for myself."

But maybe she didn't completely forgive the times that kept women from achieving their ambitions.

In one column, she praised a local car dealer for holding a "powder puff" car clinic for women, even as she poked fun at the name.

"I always wondered why men attach powder puffs to so many activities that involve women," she wrote. "You'd think we were walking around in a cloud of powder half the time."

Then there was her column about the impracticality of 1940s women's fashions: white gloves that were impossible to keep clean in the New York City subway; nylon stockings that cost $3 at a time when that was a sizable chunk of her weekly salary; women subjecting themselves to the torture of binding, slimming undergarments.

"I can't believe that in all the years when I was thin enough not to need a girdle, I wouldn't be caught dead without one," she wrote.

Clearly this was a woman who didn't like constraints.


Louise Andryusky

Visitation for Louise Andryusky is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Brewer and Sons Funeral Home, 280 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill, with a brief service at 7 p.m. She will be buried Friday at the Florida National Cemetery near Bushnell.

Louise Andryusky's words resonated with residents of Hernando County 05/29/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 9:36pm]
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