The Wit and Wisdom of Andy Greeley (by Melissa Wilde)

One of the very first times I met Andy, I had to pick him up at his hotel and bring him to the Survey Research Center at UC Berkeley.  He and my advisor Mike Hout were planning to spend the day crunching numbers.  It was during that trip that they probably wrote the first draft of two, if not more, of their many co-authored pieces in the American Journal of Sociology or the American Sociological Review.

When he came out to my car and got inside, he looked at the clock and gave a little start, “I didn’t realize it was that late!”  (Andy hated to be late.)  I said, in true Berkeley-graduate-student-style, “Oh, don’t worry about it.  It is ten minutes fast.  I set it that way so that I’m on time.”  Andy’s response, “Well, that’s stupid!”

My clocks have been on time ever since.

Over the next few years I got to know Andy as I worked on papers with him, talked to him about my ideas (I did not always listen, as he wouldn’t hesitate to point out, but he never held that against me), and sent him dissertation chapters (which he usually read and commented on within 24 hours).  Time and time again, I was generally amazed, as was everyone who ever met him, by his energy, his sheer productivity, his unbelievable quality of mind.  He was often just waiting for people to catch up with him – patiently.

During this time, my fiance and I realized that we actually had to plan our wedding.  I really didn’t want to impose on Andy, I knew he was a busy man, and we were getting married way up in the middle of nowhere in Raquette Lake, NY.   But, we couldn’t think of a single other person we’d rather have marry us, so I gathered up my courage and asked him (actually, I had Mike ask him for me).  His response, “I was wondering when she was going to ask!”

So, in July of 2000, Andy (and Mike, and his wonderful wife Flowe) trekked all the way up to the Adirondacks to meet our family, friends and a multitude of black flies.

I learned many things from Andy that weekend.  For instance, I didn’t realize that the bride wasn’t supposed to direct the rehearsal until Andy asked the crowd, “Is she going to let me do anything?”

But, honestly, it didn’t really register with me, even then, just how much I, the bride, was not in charge until the next day.

The afternoon of the ceremony, I walked out of the building and got ready to walk down the aisle with my soon-to-be husband.  I looked out toward the lake where the altar was set up.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  And, right smack dab in front of the altar stood Andy, wearing some sort of silver Celtic breast armor, glinting in the sun.   All I could think was, “He did NOT approve that with me!”

But, then I looked again and realized that he didn’t have to.  It was awesome, despite the fact that the Celtic symbolism was all but lost on about 95% of the crowd who were either Italian-American or Oklahoman Methodist-Baptists!

Andy didn’t ask permission for much, if anything.  He would ask forgiveness if he needed to, I’m sure.  But, his instincts were so good that that was probably an extremely rare occurrence.

Rest in Peace, Andy.  We’ve missed you these last few years.

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