Hundreds celebrate the life and legacy of Andy Gajda at memorial

KILLALOE – Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Andy Gajda knew how devoted he was to the Killaloe area and it’s colourful, creative community.

As an avid volunteer and supporter of the arts, Gajda had a visible presence at many of the area’s musical or cultural events – from the Wilno Tavern’s weekly Tuesday Blues Nights to the Killaloe Farmers Market, where he sold his brand of Andy’s Wicked Pickles, to the South of 60 Arts Centre in Barry’s Bay. Gajda had an interest in just about everything and was more than happy to give his time and lend his talents to his many passions.

On the evening of February 23, more than 200 people filled the Killaloe and Area Lion’s Hall to celebrate Gajda’s life and legacy. The evening, which was a gift from Gajda to his community, included a mouth-watering Mexican dinner prepared by Garth Watterson and his team of volunteers, as well as musical performances by Continental Shift and Mumbo Jumbo Voodoo Combo.
Gajda, who died on October 5, 2012, was remembered throughout the evening with a video slideshow prepared by his brother-in-law Edwin Echavarry, and on-stage reflections, music and memories from his friends and neighbours, including Kathy Lampi who provided a brief eulogy and toast in Gajda’s honour.
“Andy was born September 9, 1944 in Ottawa and grew up along the Rideau Canal. He held a doctorate in biochemistry and was a professor at the University of Arkansas. He then spent the rest of his career as a manager for the same company – first in Arizona, then California and North Carolina,” Lampi told the crowd.
“Andy had a life-long connection with this area. Both he and his sister Dorota were involved with the Polish scouting movement and the family spent summers here. He always knew he would retire to this area and he came to live on his farm near Killaloe in 2002,” she continued. “Andy was many things to many people. He was a gardener and he was the pickle guy. He was a cook and a volunteer and a stalwart friend. He was kind and generous – a story teller and an entertainer. He lived life to the fullest.”
With the memorial event continuing well into the evening, many additional members of the crowd got the opportunity to share their personal tales of Gajda and how he made an impact on their lives. For event volunteer Irene Boucher, Gajda acted as a personal tour guide to the area and showed her many of its hidden treasures.
Story continues in the February 27, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.