Feb. 17, 1931 – May 15, 2017
Theatergoers will recognize her name immediately.
Joan Kostick Andrews and her husband, Peter Connors Andrews, provided the major gift in 1998 that allowed the Irish Classical Theatre Company to complete construction of its current venue, the Andrews Theatre, on Main Street in downtown Buffalo.
But her philanthropy and other support for the arts and culture here and in the Washington, D.C., area, where she had lived since 1968, “was small considering the breadth of her existence,” says her daughter, Molly.
Mrs. Andrews died May 15 in her home in Washington’s Georgetown section. She was 86.
Born in Buffalo, Joan Louise Kostick was a descendant of Eliakum Zunser, the Lithuanian Yiddish-language poet, and the daughter of Benjamin Kostick, executive vice president of the Kleinhans Co. men’s clothing retailer. A 1948 graduate of Buffalo Seminary, she received her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1952 and landed a position with the Buffalo Courier-Express as a reporter and feature writer.
There she met her husband, a photographer at the newspaper and nephew of the publisher. They were married in 1955. When her husband was in Washington on business in 1965, she made headlines when she awoke her children and the family’s housekeeper, Minnie Jetters, and helped them escape an overnight fire that heavily damaged their home on Middlesex Road.
Before her husband became the Courier-Express Washington Bureau chief in 1968, Mrs. Andrews was a member of the first board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Buffalo, served on the Studio Arena Theatre board and did much to help develop girls’ rowing teams at Buffalo Seminary and other schools.
In Washington, she completed a master’s degree in Shakespeare performance at American University and studied with leading Shakespeare scholars. She was a consultant to Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre and was active with the Folger Shakespeare Library, the world’s largest Shakespeare collection.
She was board member on Washington’s Arena Stage for more than 25 years and a co-founder of the Spring Hill Educational Conference, which promotes educational outreach programs for major theaters. She also was a reader for the Library of Congress.
"She was a genuine, genuine lover of theater, passionate down to her fingernails," said Irish Classical Theatre co-founder and artistic director Vincent O'Neill. "It's a huge loss, and not just as a sponsor and a lover of theater, but as a friend."
The Andrewses hosted distinguished guests in their Washington home and traveled extensively around the world. They visited Antarctica, rode a Russian icebreaker from Siberia to the North Pole and took a lengthy safari in Africa. They celebrated her 70th birthday in India.
“They loved life with such an intense liveliness,” her daughter notes.
They also maintained their ties to Buffalo. They spent summers at a vacation home in Bay Beach, Ont. They made the first donation of a Burchfield painting, “December Storm,” to the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
"She was as smart as can be about theater and the aesthetics of performance," said Anthony Bannon, director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center and longtime friend of the Andrewses. "Being with them was very much like a salon. It wasn't gossip. It was about ideas, always, and we all feasted on the challenge of how to make great theater in Buffalo in our time."
The Andrewses also arranged for the Buffalo Zoo to acquire a mate for its lonely polar bear, Maggie.
Mrs. Andrews was a board member of the Irish Classical Theatre and a life trustee of Buffalo Seminary. She received an honorary doctorate from Canisius College.
An accomplished pianist, she and her husband were ardent concertgoers and regularly attended the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. She also supported the annual Joan Kostick Andrews Spring Concert at Buffalo Seminary.
Writing about the couple in 1998, Buffalo News reporter Paula Voell noted that Mrs. Andrews “erupts in volcanic bursts of enthusiasm, curiosity, dogged insistence. It comes from the depths of her passion – sometimes about theater, sometimes about injustices and sometimes what she views as small thinking.”
In addition to her husband of 61 years, survivors include three daughters, Julia, Molly and Louise; three sons, Peter, Benjamin and David; a sister, Rita Ann Gold; and 11 grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Sunday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.