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John Andrus III

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Obituary: Philanthropist John Andrus III was champion of nature

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • January 3, 2013 - 9:52 PM

The white pines that tower over Hwy. 61 between the Silver Cliff and Lafayette Bluff tunnels near Two Harbors, Minn., stand as a scenic testament to John Andrus III's commitment to preserving natural wonders.

As a member of the Minnesota chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Andrus led the effort to protect the majestic conifers, which overlook Lake Superior and stand on private property known as Encampment Forest.

His love for the northern woods fueled his passion for the conservancy's mission, said Peggy Ladner, current director of the Minnesota field office, which serves Minnesota and North and South Dakota. Andrus served on a number of boards between 1976 and 1989, and was the honorary chair of the 1998-2002 fundraising campaign that carried the theme, "Saving the Last Great Places, the Minnesota Campaign for Conservation." His photo appeared on the brochure, along with a quote in which he said, "I hope all those who care about our shrinking lands will invest in our efforts to save Minnesota's natural heritage."

"John was a great leader for the Nature Conservancy," Ladner said. "He worked hard. He had a great sense of humor, and everyone who had the privilege of working with him loved John."

Andrus died Dec. 27 at age 103.

Andrus served on the Nature Conservancy's national Board of Governors in the 1970s, and was a major player in helping the nonprofit establish its Land Preservation Fund. He led the $20 million fundraising drive (at that time the largest in the nonprofit's history) to create the fund, which lends money to state chapters for land acquisition. For his efforts, Andrus was given the Chevron Award for service in the cause of conservation and the Oakleaf Award, the Nature Conservancy's highest honor.

Andrus founded the Deep Draw Corp., a metal fabricating plant in Minneapolis that he ran for 30 years. But along with being a businessman, he had a long career in philanthropy. He was director and chairman emeritus of the New York-based Surdna Foundation, which was started by his grandfather. Locally, he served on numerous civic boards, including as an independent trustee of the family-run Marbrook Foundation.

"He had terrific knowledge of the charitable and nonprofit worlds," said Marbrook Foundation spokesman Conley Brooks Jr. "He provided wise guidance. He was always insightful. We very much appreciated his counsel."

Andrus also loved the arts and was a trustee at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He served as a trustee from 1962 until his death, and was board chair from 1966 to 1969.

He brought his "keen intelligence, discerning collector's eye, leadership and expansive generosity to all of his endeavors at the museum," said museum director Kaywin Feldman. "John was a friend to all of us, sharing his warmth, kindness and humor. Whenever I called John to tell him about a new hire at the museum, his first question was always, 'Do they have a family?' John always cared about people."

Andrus brought his leadership to the Wayzata City Council from 1958 to 1961 and to the city's planning commission in the 1980s. He also was deeply involved at Wayzata Community Church, said the Rev. S. Lindy Purdy, who is the church's minister of pastoral care and will officiate at Andrus' funeral. He joined the church in 1945 and served as a trustee, on the church council, was an usher and greeter, and in 1958-59 was the church's moderator, which is the highest lay position in the church, she said.

Andrus grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Marion. He is survived by three daughters, Elizabeth Haynes Andrus and Catherine Cole Andrus, both of Wayzata, and Julie Dyckman Andrus, of Minneapolis; a brother, Stephen Andrus, of Cohasset, Mass., seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The service will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Wayzata Community Church, 125 E. Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 Twitter: @timstrib

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