Who was Kate Andrus?
Kate Andrus was my neighbour. Her front porch was always occupied and it symbolized life in the lower city and what I love most about living below the escarpment as someone who grew up ‘on the mountain’ as a child – a rarely vacant, rotating display of conversation between Kate and the who’s who of community activists, volunteers, and politico’s. We often talk about life on the ‘mountain’ as a backyard experience versus the front yard activity on display when you walk through these lower Hamilton neighbourhoods with your partner, your children, your cat, or just by yourself on a short stroll for fair trade coffee, empanadas, or a fresh baked loaf of bread.
Kate was a staunch NDP’er as is her son Karl who talks about campaigning for the NDP as a child. This site with it’s coloring scheme both as it relates to Pumpkin Prowl and INSE may seem like a New Democratic front, but both our entities are non-partisan. Our event does happen to occur not far from our cities steel past and present and my sister happens to be the 4th generation in our family to work at Stelco, but the color scheme, ads, and sponsorship’s simply represent a mix of our social circles which dip into varying partisan supporters, a community that has been NDP-lead since the creation of the Hamiton-Centre federal boundary in 2004, and the creative genius of Brad Dean at Jet Propelled who designed both the Pumpkin Prowl and INSE logos with orange at the forefront.
On the topic of partisan politics, Kate’s son reminded me that Kate prided herself “on reaching across party lines in finding the common threads of community that extended across partisan lines and connected us all. Her porch graced many a liberal, green, conservative and even the odd libertarian”, which of course was very true.
You may recognize the name Kate Andrus when you recall a gasification plant that had been proposed for our community. She fought hard against that proposal and when Kate set her mind to something, she brought well researched facts and spoke to you in a way that helped you see the side that wasn’t talked about in nearly as much detail in the media or at community meetings held to discuss the benefits of this plant.
Regardless of your views as to the pros and cons of the gasification plant opening shop in our community, I believe we can all be inspired by the passion, dedication, and learned knowledge she put into ensuring that not just the residents of the community fully understood what the proposal and the company itself represented. She also made sure our leaders had a broader understanding through delegations at City Hall, broadcast with a courage matched by both her height and a voice that didn’t demand to be heard, but commanded it with how she professional but pointedly presented her research.
When we decided to recognize Kate’s part in starting Pumpkin Prowl by adding her name to the bill, her fight, her drive and her contributions to this very community were all front and centre in that decision because regardless of partisan politics, our children can learn so much through the example of a single mother who had very little, but passed down a wonderful passion and drive to her children and taught them what it means to be a part of a community and fight for what you believe in. She raised three children on her own. She volunteered. She wrote about her experiences so that others might know they are not alone and others still could learn the truth about the struggles in our own communities. She also didn’t jump up and down, stomp her feet and scream loudly when she didn’t agree with decisions being made. Instead, she fiercely opened her computer, did her research, called oversees herself to dig up the info she needed to plead her case, corralled a team, and spoke passionately yet respectively to you, to me, and to those in charge of making these kinds of decisions which wasn’t just in the hands of local leaders where the gasification plant was concerned.
This one lady, single mom, neighbour, took on some big players and won and we all benefited from someone who gave so much including during the most challenging times in her life as she battled cancer, so that we could at least know the truth and make a fully informed decision.
I also enjoyed talking education with Kate as a Trustee candidate in the 2014 municipal election. She shared a passion for keeping the historic Delta Secondary School a place for education and community and started a petition that seen well over 1,000 residents and Alma mater alike sign it. The online petition only shows 499 signatures but there was also a printed version bringing that total to over 1,000. The Facebook page also still exists with Kate’s final posts in 2011 and the profile pic she used in those final days; a gas plant with a line through it that reads ‘No More’ (seen above).
Kate was also a published writer and under the pen name Emily Bell, wrote the ‘Welfare Diary’ which was a series that touched on her challenges as a single mother raising three children on social assistance. Her also very talented writer and advocate of a son, Karl Andrus, wrote about this work and included Emily Bell original content in a four part series on Raise the Hammer.
We said our goodbyes to Kate at a wonderful community gathering at The Pearl Company on January 23rd, 2016 – a week to the day of her passing at the young age of 57. I call her house the Andrus house (top). It’s seen a few owners since and has mostly been either vacant or seemingly abandoned since her death, except for a beautiful (although now un-kept), pollinator garden out front that her family created when she was ill so she could enjoy the sights and smells while spending time in her Crown Point office (front porch) in her final days.
A new couple moved in recently and has been doing a lot of work to bring the Andrus House back to life. They seem extremely pleasant. It’s almost time as they settle in, to ask if they mind if we use their front porch for a little community discourse.
Thank you for everything you gave Kate and special thanks to her children, Karl, Lauren, and Colin, for allowing us to honour their mother’s memory in this way.
Pumpkin Prowl also now has a mascot named in Kate’s honor and fittingly, she is a larger than life dragon. You can find more about the evolution of Kate the Dragon by clicking on the cartoon image below.