He was a banker, an arts advocate, a community builder and a leader who had his hands in projects that touched all sectors of St. Paul, from serving for 24 years on the St. Paul Public Housing Authority to helping establish the Northern Clay Center, a nationally recognized center for ceramic arts.
But W. Andrew Boss—Andy Boss to all who knew him—probably will be remembered most as the man who always had time to listen to people and develop the relationships he insisted were at the center of building community and getting things done.
Boss died March 12 at his home in St. Anthony Park after battling Parkinson’s disease for several years. He was 81.
The former president of St. Anthony Park Bank (now Sunrise Banks), which his grandfather helped found, Boss has an extensive list of accomplishments in the city and in the St. Anthony Park community that stretches over decades. He worked with state and city organizations such as Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Voyageur Outward Bound School, Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Port Authority. And he was a pivotal supporter of many St. Anthony Park institutions: the Children’s Home Society, St. Anthony Park Home, Music in the Park Series. He commandeered the fundraising for the children’s wing in the St. Anthony Park Library in 1996, and he launched the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation, which is marking its 15th year.
In a Bugle interview in 2012, Boss said that getting to know people was the key to good leadership. Many of the projects he accomplished were a result of the “very satisfying” relationships he built with others, he said.
“He always had time for people, for their problems, for their dreams and opportunities,” said Rick Beeson, one of many St. Paul leaders who say Boss helped shape their own sense of community and governance. Boss hired Beeson to work at St. Anthony Park Bank (now Sunrise Banks) in 1988. Beeson is now chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and executive vice president for corporate development and government relations at Sunrise Banks.
“I consider him the greatest St. Paulite in the last 50 years,” Beeson said. “I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. It’s a strong statement, but it’s simply the truth.”
The word “mentor” is overused, Beeson said, “but he really was a great mentor. He may have invented the word. He helped so many people who were down on their luck.”
He lifted their spirits and gave them practical ideas for getting back on their feet, Beeson said.
“My lasting memory of him will be the twinkle in his eye, the curiosity of his mind and the kindness of his heart,” said Jon Schumacher, executive director of the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation. “He understood the true meaning of community in a deep and inclusive way, and never stopped promoting that vision.”
It was Boss’s curiosity that led to the establishment of the Park Bugle in 1974. In the 2012 Bugle interview, Boss said he simply wanted to know more about putting a newspaper together. He approached Roger Swardson, the publisher of the Grand Gazette, about starting a newspaper in the St. Anthony Park community, and the Bugle was launched. Within a year, Boss had helped establish Park Press Inc., the nonprofit board that has been publishing the Park Bugle ever since.
“He loved the Bugle,” Beeson said. “He may have loved the Bugle more than anything else he did. It was doing his community work for him.”
Raised in St. Paul, Boss graduated from St. Paul Central High School in 1950. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and later graduated from the Northwestern University School of Business. He served two years in the U.S. Army, then moved to Chicago, where he began his banking career. He returned to Minneapolis in 1964 to help found National City Bank in Minneapolis.
He became president of St. Anthony Park Bank in 1970, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a founding director, and his father, a director. Andy soon became owner of that bank. He sold the bank in 1993 to the Reiling family, owners of Sunrise Community Banks. The bank’s named changed to Park Midway in 2004 and then to Sunrise Community in 2013.
Boss is survived by his wife of 28 years, Linda; children, Cathleen Gruen, Christine Kiebert-Boss, Wallace Boss, Kevin McCarthy, Kathleen Robertson, Michael Boss, Mary Boss, James Boss, Michael Phillips and Kari Phillips; grandchildren, sister Janet Albers; and many nieces and nephews.