OBITUARY

Andrew John Kubica

May 2, 1923February 19, 2019
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Andrew “Andy” Kubica passed away on February 19, 2019, at the age of 95. He was born on May 2, 1923, on his family’s dairy farm in Greenfield Center, near Saratoga Springs, New York. Andy was a Specialist (A) 2nd Class in the US Navy, serving in the Philippines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Syracuse University in 1951.

Andy was recruited by the Air Force as part of their special propulsion systems. That began his career in the jet propulsion field, becoming an integral part of the space race. He worked on the X-1, X-2 and X-15 aircraft as well as tactical military rockets such as the Sidewinder, which was also used on the Budweiser Rocket Car in an attempt to break the sound barrier on land.

In 1962, Andy moved his family to Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles where he worked for Rocketdyne on every major space project, from the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo programs, to designing the navigational engines for the Space Shuttle. He was working on the International Space Station when he retired in 1986.

In his later years, Andy and his wife moved to Villa Serra/Sunrise Assisted Living in Salinas in 2010. For 63 years, he was the beloved husband of Elizabeth “Sandy” Kubica, who passed away in 2017. He is survived by his five daughters: Kathy (Phil) Higerd, Judith Jackson, Susan (Callie Shively) Kubica M.D., Cheryl Kubica, and Jacquelyn Kubica-Aronoff; eleven grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.

Andy’s family is especially appreciative of the excellent care by the staff that facilitated our parents’ independence at Villa Serra, the outstanding nursing care they received at Madonna Manor, and the amazing support of Virginia Castillo, Michelle Cardenas, and Martha and Jorge Del Valle from Dr. Kubica’s office.

Visitation will be this Friday, March 15 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm at The Paul Mortuary Chapel in Pacific Grove. Graveside services will take place at Monterey City Cemetery the following day, Saturday, March 16 at 11:00 am. Please visit www.thepaulmortuary.com to sign Andy’s guest book and leave messages for his family.

Services

  • Visitation Friday, March 15, 2019
  • Graveside Service with Military Honors Saturday, March 16, 2019
REMEMBERING

Andrew John Kubica

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Andy saluting

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Sandy & Andy at the Alta Sierra Girl Scout Reunion in Cour d’Alene, Idaho, October 3, 2008

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Cheryl, Judy, Jackie, Susan & Kathy with Andy at Susan’s wedding – September 29, 2018

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Sandy & Andy have been reunited again

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Andy & Frank Kubica @1928 (5 & 8 ½ years)

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Frank, Andrew Sr. & Andy – 1928

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Frank, Julia & Andy

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Andy & Mrs. Durlicka (neighbor) with poodle

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Andy & two dogs @ 1928 by the barn across from his home in Daketown, NY

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Andy saluting

FROM THE FAMILY

Sandy & Andy at the Alta Sierra Girl Scout Reunion in Cour d’Alene, Idaho, October 3, 2008

FROM THE FAMILY

Cheryl, Judy, Jackie, Susan & Kathy with Andy at Susan’s wedding – September 29, 2018

FROM THE FAMILY

Sandy & Andy have been reunited again

FROM THE FAMILY

Andy & Frank Kubica @1928 (5 & 8 ½ years)

FROM THE FAMILY

Frank, Andrew Sr. & Andy – 1928

FROM THE FAMILY

Frank, Julia & Andy

FROM THE FAMILY

Andy & Mrs. Durlicka (neighbor) with poodle

FROM THE FAMILY

Andy & two dogs @ 1928 by the barn across from his home in Daketown, NY

Biography

His father, Andrew Sr., was from a mountainous region of Slovakia known as the High Tatras, near Ostrava. He trained as a sheet-metal worker before serving five years in the elite Austrian-Hungarian ski troops. He came to America in 1914, just before the start of World War 1, during which he served in the US Army until 1918. He spent the majority of his life working on cars, both doing body work and rebuilding engines. This planted the seed for Andy’s knowledge of engines and cars, particularly Fords.

His mother, Julia Potrok, was one of 13 children born in Piestany, a small farming village near Bratislava. Located in the lowlands of the Slavic country, it was very similar to the farmlands of Kansas. Her father was a sharecropper and she was one of thirteen tall, robust children. She learned how to run the farm and be a caretaker, as well as learning seven languages. Life was very hard in Austro-Hungary for the Slovak people, and her father was very strict and authoritarian. Some of Julia’s cousins had already moved to the states, and in 1910 at the age of 25, she followed them to America. She left her infant son, Josef, to be raised by her sister and parents until she could afford to have him follow her.

When Andrew Sr. and Julia met in America, they decided that New York City was no place to raise children. They bought a 170 acre dairy farm outside of Saratoga Springs, New York, on the edge of the Adirondack Preserve. Andrew continued to work on automobiles, while Julia ran the farm. Their two sons, Frank and Andy, were born and raised there. There were a large number of other Slovak families in the area, and the Kubicas were a member of the local Sokol (the Slavic word for falcon), a societal organization where children learned gymnastics and adults fostered old traditions and received community support. Andy was also an active member of the local 4H, competing in forestry and agriculture. They never had a telephone on the farm, and didn’t have power, water, or indoor plumbing until Andy was a senior in high school. Their main form of entertainment was live music; Andrew Sr. played the accordion while Andy played the fiddle. Julia would make a feast for their guests, and they’d throw back a few beers and have a sing-along.

Andy started his education in 1930 at a one-room school house where a single teacher instructed grades 1 through 8. When he started school at seven years old, he only knew Slavic. He wasn’t alone, though; almost half of the students were learning English for the first time. Many were also first generation Americans who spoke languages like German, Hungarian, Russian, and Slavic at home. The modest schoolhouse’s water supply was a bucket with a dipper for all the students to share. A pot-bellied wood stove provided heat. A two-holed latrine in the back of the school had one side for girls and the other for boys.

When Andy and his classmates graduated from eighth grade, their teacher took them on a field trip to Albany, New York. The visit, which included the museum and airport, left an impression on Andy. He was awed by the size of a DC-3 twin engine commercial aircraft. He was also impressed by the tall, good-looking pilot; Andy would later say that he looked like Superman in his flight jacket, flared riding pants, and shiny boots.

When Andy was 14, tragedy struck. His older brother Frank celebrated his sixteenth birthday on Christmas Eve. A week later, on New Year’s Day, 1936, he and five other boys were killed in a car crash. The Kubicas were wracked with grief, never fully recovering. Christmases and birthdays were a somber affair for the rest of their lives. Andrew Sr. had started his own business - Kubica's Body Shop - in Balston Spa, NY. His dream was to have Kubica & Sons Auto Agency, where he, Frank, and Andy would sell and service cars. Frank’s death left Andrew so heartbroken that he sold the shop and eventually went to work at the International Paper Mill; Andy’s future was no longer clear.

In the fall of 1938, Andy entered Saratoga Spa High School. A family friend had advised him to enroll in the science program in case he wanted to go to college. It was a perfect fit. Andy completed four years of math, physics, and chemistry. His best course was physics, thanks to Mr. Irminson, a teacher who kept giving him Ds. Andy was motivated to study hard for the New York State Regents Exam, and as a result, he earned one of the top grades in the county.

Andy was not only a top student, but a hard worker as well. He was responsible for milking 21 Guernsey dairy cows by hand twice a day, and working 170 acres with the help of his horses. His mother Julia kept ducks, geese, guinea hens, and at least 300 chickens, in addition to a garden that fed the whole family. To “keep him out of trouble” as it were, 15 year old Andy was given 2 acres of land to grow potatoes for his own profit. The family also grew corn, oats, clover, and hay. Despite living through the Depression, Andy was fortunate enough to never be hungry. His family had enough that during summer vacations, cousins and friends in New York City would send their kids up to the Kubica farm, where they would be taken care of without fuss. The farm, the center of life for the family, was also instrumental in forming Andy’s political views. FDR’s New Deal brought power to the farm, making Andy a life-long Democrat.

Andy graduated from high school with a scientific diploma in 1942. They were nicknamed the Victory Class with the hopes that the graduates would indeed aid in bringing the U.S. victory in World War II. Most of Andy’s classmates went on to enlist in the service, but Andy was given a deferment because he was the only son on his parents' dairy farm, which provided dairy products for the war effort. Andy operated the farm on his own from his graduation just after he turned 19 until he turned 21 in 1944. During that time, Andy also worked the swing shift for American Locomotive on the crash assembly line program in Schenectady, New York. The company supplied 1900 narrow-gage locomotives to Russia via Victory Ships. Carrying 1 billion dollars’ worth of American lend-lease food and materials, they brought aid to besieged Leningrad.

Despite helping the war effort through his work, the stigma of being a healthy, able-bodied young man who wasn’t in the service became too much for Andy to bear. Too many of his friends weren’t coming back from the war. He eventually decided to sell the farm and move his parents to a house in Corinth.

Andy enlisted as a selective volunteer on October 4, 1944. He was able to choose between the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Since the field trip in eighth grade, Andy had wanted to be a pilot, and he had taken lessons at Saratoga Springs Airport for $75 in 1943. As such, he told the recruitment officers that all he wanted to do was fly. However, all of the flying schools were closed at the time. He didn’t want to be in the European theatre since he had close family in Eastern Europe who were fighting for the enemy. As a result, he was enlisted in the Navy and sent to the South Pacific, which was the last place Andy wanted to be. The fit, older farm boy was chosen to be a physical fitness instructor and was sent to company commander school before being shipped out.

On his train ride across the country, Andy was able to see how beautiful and vast the USA was. He was particularly impressed by the Hoover Dam outside of Las Vegas. He was fascinated by the idea of using clean, free, hydro-electric power, as well as the vast agricultural implications it could have. This later inspired him to go into mechanical engineering; he wanted to feed the world.

Andy arrived in the Philippines and was assigned to a land-operating Naval Advanced Base Unit (NABU) on Mindoro Island, the Subic Bay, and Luzon Island. Andy’s job was twofold: give the new arrivals an outlet for their energy after having crossed the Pacific, and get them back in fighting-trim to see action. Andy constructed obstacle courses and said it was incredible to watch the men who had so much pent-up energy from being holed up on a ship for months.

Andy’s unit was called up in August 1945, and was slated to invade the Japanese mainland with the British 8th Expeditionary Army. The night before Andy was to see action, they were treated to the film "Oklahoma". During the intermission, they were told that the atom bomb had been dropped and they wouldn't have to fight. The group believed the A-Bomb had saved their lives. Andy was honorably discharged on June 12, 1946 at Lido Beach, Long Island as a Specialist (A) 2nd class, USNR.

Andy returned to the United States and completed his studies with the help of the GI Bill of Rights. He started his college education at Champlain College in their pre-engineering course; he was on the track team and ran hurdles, although he admits he didn’t jump them well. He graduated in 1951 from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. His father gave him a four-door Mercury sedan as a graduation present. But Andy left school with more than just a car. Andy told his grandsons many stories of his antics with his college buddies, Cromwell and Art Brown. They’d play pranks on a fellow roommate “Dirty John”, who was a couple years older than they were, got great grades without ever seeming to study, and had a way with the ladies; they’d sneak into his room using their shared balcony to lock him out of his bedroom so he had to sleep in the bathtub after a late night out, or they’d flip his dresser drawers so that his clothes fell onto the floor when he opened them, making his room even more of a mess. Andy learned fast to always try to sit with the girls at the mess hall; the food was served home-style, and if he sat with the fellas, the plate would be empty before it reached the other end of the table, so you could get meat or potatoes, but not both; with the girls, there was always plenty of everything to eat.

Andy had hoped to go to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority after graduation, building damns, but they weren’t hiring. Instead, Andy was recruited by the Air Force as one of sixty engineers to support their Special Propulsion Program, launching Andy's career in the aerospace field. At Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Andy had a 10 week orientation. He was working in the power plant group, trying to Americanize a British engine called the J-65, which would put the US on level with the MIGs we were fighting in Korea. However, he had to leave his new job shortly after starting. His father died on May 31, 1951, of a massive heart attack, and he needed to help his mother.

Back in New York, Andy got a job at General Electric and was responsible for working on one of the best propulsion systems created in the US – the Hybrid. It was a mono-propellant, but became a bi-propellant, discharging clean exhaust. However, it couldn't operate at -40 degrees Fahrenheit, so that put them out of the race. It was a ground-to-ground tactical missile designed to carry a 500 lb. nuclear warhead. They bundled a bunch of rockets together and fired them successfully. However, GE had a rocket that kept burning up, and eventually decided they didn't have a future in the rocket business. Andy was out of work.

In the meantime, Andy was a devoted son to his mother’s care. In 1952, Julia became ill and spent some time in the hospital. His mother’s hospital roommate took note of the devoted son and told her friend, Betty Sanford (“Sandy”) about him, saying, “He’s too old for me, but you might like him.” Sandy was in her junior year, studying nursing at Plattsburg State Teachers College and serving her nursing rotation in the hospital. She was impressed by Andy’s dedication to his mother. The couple hit it off, but Sandy’s mother insisted they wait to be married until after Sandy had completed school. Sandy graduated in June of 1953, and Andy married her a month later on July 18, at St. Luke’s Church, Schenectady, New York. The reception was held at the GE Women’s Club, with the food inside and an outdoor reception despite 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. As Sandy said, “We were dying from the heat!” The party then moved back to the Sanford’s house, where the couple departed, after which someone brought a keg of beer and the party continued! They even invited the postman to join in as he delivered the Saturday mail!

Andy and Sandy moved around the country as Andy’s work as an aerospace engineer during the Space Race dictated. They eventually went to Seattle where Andy worked on the Bomarc, which was a ground-to-air interceptor to be placed all over Canada to intercept Russian bombers. Andy only stayed there for 6 months because Sandy developed bronchial asthma and they had to leave the damp climate of Washington. As he said, “I’m taking you home now, before I have to ship you home in a pine box!” On their way back to New York, they went to Los Angeles so Andy could look for another job. It was on that trip down from Seattle that they drove through Lake Tahoe; Andy fell in love with the place, as it reminded him of Lake George, near where he grew up. Andy got some job offers, and though Sandy’s bronchial problems eased up once they reached Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, she was still having problems breathing. As a result, they turned down the offers and went to Buffalo, New York instead.

Andy went on to work for the Buffalo Electro-Chemical Outfit (BECO). There he talked to all the corporations in the defense business, supplying them with technical information on propulsion. He also supplied NASA with engine models to use in wind tunnels. His innovative hydrogen peroxide model was the only safe option, as others utilized toxic propellants. With it, he saved the Mercury program. Bell Aircraft's rocket motors weren't working, and NASA didn't know what to do. Without a reaction-control program to manage the project’s orientation, Mercury would be defunct. Within 2 weeks, Andy had a navigational engine on the test stand working at -40 degrees Fahrenheit without problems. For that, he received an award from NASA for $1500 (which he split with his boss) and they made Andy an associate fellow of the AIAA, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

In December of 1955, Andy and Sandy welcomed their first daughter, Kathy, into their family. She was followed closely by Judith in March of 1957, and Susan in November of 1958. When the couple had met, Andy had asked Sandy how many kids she wanted, to which she replied, “Enough to fill a station wagon.” They were well on their way! In 1959, Bell Aircraft threatened to put BECO out of business, and Andy was out of a job again. He took a new job with TRW in Cleveland, where their fourth daughter, Cheryl, was born in April of 1960. They’d had 4 girls in just over 5 years, stair-stepped! After that, Sandy said she had as many kids as she could handle.

Andy and his family arrived in Los Angeles, CA, in 1962. He came to work as a Specialist-Researcher in the Advanced Projects Group of the Space Engines Department at Rocketdyne, working on propulsion concepts for NASA. His monthly salary was $1200 based on a 40 hour week, with “premium rates for scheduled overtime.” That was crucial, as Andy had a very strong work ethic and would often fall in so deep that Sandy would call the office, let the phone ring, wait for someone on the cleaning crew to answer it, and have them go find the guy in the glasses who was still working long past the time he was supposed to be home for dinner. He was often the only one left in the building burning the midnight oil. They had bought their house in Woodland Hills to be close to Andy’s work at the Rocketdyne facility in Canoga Park, but he spent most of his career commuting 45 miles away to the Rocketdyne plant in Downey, often driving for over an hour each way.

Andy, Sandy, and the girls rented a house for over a year before Sandy found the house on Mariano Street. Woodland Hills was a lot different back then; cows grazed in vacant lots on Ventura Boulevard, and Andy’s favorite produce stand on Topanga Canyon was at the front of a corn field where a mall now stands. Andy loved watching Westerns, whether it was Gun Smoke, Bonanza, or Big Valley; he would quote John Wayne and talk about “Cool Hand Luke”, and Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, was his favorite actor. He had always wanted to have a ranch in Montana, but he had to settle for a ranch-style house in the San Fernando Valley. Just like in a Bing Crosby song: “I’m gonna’ settle down and never more roam; I’ll make the San Fernando Valley my home.”

The house was built in 1953, and when they bought it in 1964 for $36,000, they were its second owners. It was located on a quiet little cul de sac that ended at Calabasas Creek; there were no curbs or even street lights. They liked that the girls could go play in the creek and catch tad poles, or play safely on the dead-end street with kids from any of the other large families nearby. The Minsons had 7 kids, as did the Fishes, while the Jobes and Saunders only had two sons each. There was always someone to play with; all the kids had to do was go outside. Sandy would call the girls to dinner by ringing a loud cow bell; if they heard that, they knew they needed to get home fast! Things changed a bit in 1969, though; El Camino Real High School was about to open, so the creek was paved, becoming “the wash”, and the street now went through to the school. Their quiet little street by the creek was now regularly busy every morning and afternoon with school traffic.

Andy loved his neighbors. He’d loan them whatever they needed to get jobs done around the house. And in exchange he’d borrow their tools when he had problems finding his own, often mistakenly keeping them on “a permanent loan”. If a neighbor had a problem with their car, Andy was not only glad to help fix it, but he’d be glad to lend them one of his cars, too, until theirs was repaired. The neighbors would help look after each other’s kids, share the produce they grew in their yards, and even issued open invitations to swim in their pools! It was just like the neighbors he had growing up, just more close-by. When he was eventually encouraged to retire and move, he dug in his heels, saying they’d have to take him out of that house feet-first in a pine box.

Andy remained a devoted son. Later in her life, his mother, Julia, began to suffer from dementia, and in 1965, he moved her to Los Angeles to live with his wife and family. Sandy’s nurses training helped her take good care of Grandma Kubica. However, in 1971, Andy and Sandy had a surprise with the birth of their youngest daughter, Jackie, just shy of “Baby Cheryl’s” 11th birthday. Sandy said, “I can take care of a baby, or I can take care of your mother, but I can’t do both.” Julia was moved into a nursing home, where Andy visited her every evening on his way home from work. In the summer of 1971, Andy was finally able to arrange for his half-brother Josef Potrok to come from Czechoslovakia to visit their mother; she hadn’t seen him since she had come to America in 1910. On at least two occasions, Julia had sent money and paperwork to Czechoslovakia to bring Joe to America, but her father, Johan, had refused to let him come. As the Cold War progressed, it had been incredibly difficult to get Josef out from behind the Iron Curtain even for a visit. Thankfully, Andy was able to manage it, as Julia died shortly afterwards in 1972. Andy always remembered his family ties to the Old Country, and he’d send Christmas cards every year, with a $100 bill hidden inside them. He wasn’t sure if the families got them until one year, one of the kids took apart one of the cards for an art project and found the money; they then notified all of the other families who found their unexpected but much-needed gifts! In the early 80’s, Andy went to Italy to work on the International Space Station. He extended his trip and went to Czechoslovakia to see his parents’ homeland. He returned again in 1990 with Sandy and Cheryl, always glad to keep that family connection alive.

Andy worked in the aerospace field for 38 years. He resolved problems on the B-29 Turbo-charged reciprocating engine, turbo jets, and tactical military rockets, including the Sidewinder missile. The last of which, he told one grandson, was drawn up on a napkin in a bar one night! In his spare time, Andy would buy old muscle cars and rebuild them as a way to relax and combat stress; he would often come home from work at night, change out of his suit, and then get to work on one of the cars he’d bought. It was his love for car engines, rocket engines, and breaking records with various projects such as the Air Force X-1, X-2, and X-15 that led him to a side-job; they eventually used the Sidewinder on the Budweiser Rocket Car to give it the additional thrust needed in its attempt to break the sound barrier on land. The bulk of his career was spent working on the NASA Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects, before finally designing the navigational thrusters for the Space Shuttle. His specialty was in reaction control rockets for attitude and orientation control in outer space. It was in 1986, while working on the International Space Station, that Andy was forced into early retirement by a stress-induced health condition.

The top-secret nature of Andy’s work mean he couldn’t talk about it with his family. When Jackie was in the first grade, she told her teacher that her father drove a train, because after all, he was an engineer. In 1979, Andy was able to share his work with one of his children, when he took Jackie to see the Space Shuttle in person while it was at Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster. In 1986, Andy was in tears as he watched the news coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s explosion; he stood in front of the television, watching the footage over and over, saying, “It’s those damn O-rings! I just know it! I told them to flip them over so the moisture could get out!” Sure enough, he was right. He grieved for the souls lost on the Shuttle that day, and also for the end of the Shuttle program, which he was sure it would bring. He was incredibly thankful that he was able to see a Shuttle launch in person when he visited his old neighbors, the Jobes, in Florida before the program ended. It wasn’t until 2008, as he was being honored for 50 years in the AIAA, that his daughters learned that Andy had actually worked with and knew all of the famous astronauts, such as Buzz Aldrin, in the course of their mission debriefs.

Andy was a brilliant engineer, but a bit of an absent-minded professor. He’d often come inside the house from working out in the yard on the weekend, tracking mud across Sandy’s just-vacuumed floors, leaving the front door wide open behind him, to her cries of, “Were you born in a barn!?!” According to family legend, his mother, Julia, was trying to finish taking care of the animals while she was in labor, so he very well may have been! He was known for finding new and unusual ways to solve problems, “Jerry rigging” things around the house (a throw-back to WWII, where they called the Germans Jerrys.) His solutions may not have been pretty, but they got the job done! He was also known for making impulsive decisions without consulting his wife; there were multiple occasions on which Sandy came home from a ski trip with the girls to find a new boat in the driveway or, even worse, a “For Sale” sign in the yard! You’d think he’d learn, but he tried to sell his beloved house out from under her at least three times over the years! There was a reason that, with all of those girls in the house, Andy always had a male dog. As he said, he had someone to keep him company when he was in the dog house! Andy loved his dogs: Bucky, Mateuse, Argus, Benson, Whitney (the only female in the bunch), and finally Skip, the Best Dog in the West!

Once Andy had to retire, he was forced to pay more attention to his physical health. He went on the Pritikin diet, went down to the Scripps center in San Diego, and started exercising “with Jane Fonda” at UCLA, and began walking and swimming laps on a daily basis. He also skied more, especially with his grandchildren, which was an activity from his childhood. In fact, Andy and Frank's first gift of substance was from their father in 1928; they were given skis when Andy was 5 1/2 and Frank was 8. Andy and Sandy had a joint love of the sport, and skied regularly and often with their daughters and grandchildren! When the oldest four girls were in their teens, they were on the ski team at nearby Table Mountain in Wrightwood; Sandy and her best friend, Barbara Campbell, were on the ski patrol. That meant that Andy was left to ski with baby Jackie in a backpack carrier on his back! He was very visible on the slopes with his distinct old-fashioned style of skiing, swinging his arms widely, wearing his bright red plaid trapper hat, shouting “Hoo-Ahhh!!!!”, much to the embarrassment of his daughters!

Despite having such a large passel of girls and being on a tight budget, Andy and Sandy traveled with them often. They skied in the winter and camped in the summer. The family had a travel trailer as well as a boat for many years. Living in Los Angeles, they’d often escape the heat by heading to their favorite campsite on the beach at Leo Carillo. Sandy was active in the Girl Scouts, so they frequently hiked in the Sierras. And nearly every summer, just like clockwork, Andy would take a couple of weeks of his paid vacation right before Labor Day and the family would head up to Meeks Bay at Lake Tahoe. Andy would drive the old Ford LTD station wagon, pulling the trailer, while Sandy or one of the girls would drive the ’69 Ford Mustang, pulling the boat. Each year, one of the sisters was allowed to bring a friend, which seemed to help the girls get along better. The girls would use the old fishing boat to go water skiing, and Andy would go fishing in the morning, trying to catch the big one! To this day, camping at Lake Tahoe is still an activity enjoyed by Andy’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Even in his retirement, Andy always kept busy with some project or another, often “up to his backside in alligators”. Whether it was refinishing all of the wood floors, paneling and cupboards in the ranch-style house in Woodland Hills; visiting his parents’ house in Corinth, New York, that he kept as a rental property; helping his sons-in-laws as they built their houses; traveling to visit friends, family or see new places; Andy was always up to something and rarely “burned daylight.” Well into his retirement, he continued consulting with aerospace engineering firms as they began to privatize. This included driving out to work with SpaceX in the 2000’s, when his eyes lit up at the prospect of fully reusable engines.

Andy was proud of his progeny, and he especially loved spending time with his grandchildren. As Kathy and Judy raised their families in Mammoth during the late 80’s he, Sandy, and Jackie would drive up at least one weekend a month to see the grandkids! He loved teaching his grandchildren to ride their bikes, chop firewood, or (unsuccessfully, with multiple collisions) to drive! Andy had learned how to hunt and fish from a Native American named Art Cole who helped out on the farm when he was growing up. As a grandfather, he loved being able to take Ryan or Jordan fishing or hunting for pheasant or elk along with his son-in-law Phil and the other grandsons to pass on that knowledge. He’d take the grandkids swimming, whether by going to a neighbors’ house or heading to the local pool. He had a hell of a time going to his grandson’s football games, whether that was Garrett, Gabe, Joel, or Grant. When Gabe got a college scholarship to play football for Azusa Pacific, Andy tried to make as many of his games as he could. He was so proud of Garrett for becoming an engineer like him. He was proud as punch of Gabe and David Joel’s military service. When he heard Hannah sing, he said she had the voice of an angel. He loved that his father’s skiing legacy was passed on and that Kathy and Judy’s kids skied for Mammoth High and on the Mammoth Mountain Ski team. Grant went on to race in the Junior Olympics. David Joel ran cross country in the spring and skied cross country in the winter. He loved having Rowan and Caitlin come visit from Belgium during the summers. And he attended every single one of Daniel and Elizabeth’s school performances, even when he couldn’t understand a word they said in their Shakespeare plays. As Andy and Sandy developed dementia and slowed down, they finally moved from the ‘Old Homestead,’ in Woodland Hills into an assisted living facility in Salinas in 2010. Nothing made them happier than having their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren come to visit.

If there were two things Andy was known for, it was his aphorisms and his generosity. He had a turn of phrase for every occasion. In fact, at his surprise 65th birthday party, guests were interviewed and asked to state their favorite Andy-ism, of which there were many! “I shoulda’ bought that place!” “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!” “What a Mickey Mouse way of doing things.” “That really gravels my backside!” “It’s hotter than the hammers of Hades out there.” “We’re on the down-hill pull!” And the rant-ending, “Now how’d that grab ya?” To which the only proper response was, “Like a jock strap full of fish hooks!”, in order to make Andy laugh!

Andy and Sandy’s home was always open to old and new friends with another place set at the table. Andy would make sure you never left hungry! Visitors were always welcome, and the daughters grew up surrounded by a steady stream of them. If family or friends came to visit California, Andy and Sandy would become default tour guides, taking their guests around the state. It was expected that when the family would travel, they would impose on their friends in kind. Andy and Sandy’s generous nature showed through as they opened their house not only to people they knew, but to backpackers they or their daughters would meet. Later, when the grandchildren were in school or youth groups, nothing would make Andy and Sandy happier than to have a group of youngsters come stay with them. Their door was always open, and chances were Andy would send you home with a bag of tangerines, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, plums, or tomatoes that he’d grown in the backyard.

Andy’s generosity wasn’t limited to household guests. If someone was broken down on the side of the road, he’d stop to help whenever he could. In addition to regular emergency items, he kept a well-stocked box of supplies to fix cars on the fly. On holiday weekends up in Mammoth, if there was a big snow storm, Andy would often be out in the Old LTD Wagon, helping pull people out of the snow, often without snow chains on his own car. As Andy said, that was just what you did growing up out in the country. “Life is a precious thing, and people are very interesting. I find most of the people, they’re fantastic people. They’re just trying to get along. Sometimes they run into trouble.”

Andy had an incredibly friendly nature. He may not have had a lot of close friends, but he could strike up a conversation with anyone, and was an avid correspondent with old friends. He was famous for his verbose Christmas letters, and his Christmas card list was lengthy, including any relative still living, current and past neighbors, work colleagues, college buddies, and people he knew from his childhood. Always the farm boy, his conversations inevitably included, “How’s the weather out there?”

Andy may not always have been good at saying “I love you” or showing affection, but family meant more to him than anything else. Having only having been 14 when his brother Frank died, he lived in the shadow of that lost potential. He was only 28 when his dad passed away, and didn’t even meet his brother Joe until he was 49. Andy always said, blood is thicker than water. He reminded his daughters to love each other, no matter what, and look after one another, because they might not always be around. When the family gathered, he always noticed who was missing. He didn’t know very well how to praise a person to their face, but you can bet he would be talking all about how proud he was of his children and grandchildren to others. Andy’s father passed away without ever saying he loved him, so it was a beautiful gift for his girls when, in his old age, he was able to start saying “I love you” freely. He may not have known how to express his love and pride with words or gifts, but he would make sure you had a roof over your head, a car to drive, food in your belly, and a little pocket change to tide you over.

Andy marveled at the scope of his life and the opportunity that his family found here in the United States. He felt fortunate to be a part of the melting pot of America, and he was proud that a son of poor Eastern European immigrants who fled from poverty and oppression could make his own fortune with some “moxie and hard work”. With strength, determination and resiliency, Andy lived the American dream. He was born on a farm without power, water, or indoor plumbing, not speaking English until he was 7; it took 45 minutes to get to his one-room school at Daketown with a horse-drawn sleigh in winter and a wagon in fall and spring. Yet he helped create the Space Shuttle, which started its re-entry 12,000 miles above the Indian Ocean, half-way around the earth at 18,000 miles per hour, and only 45 minutes later it would land in front of bleachers at either Edwards Air Force Base in California or at Cape Canaveral in Florida. As he said, “If anyone had ever said to our generation what the future held for us when we were in school, we would have laughed them out of town. And yet we won the war, landed a man on the moon, and the Space Shuttle with its payloads provides us with communication, weather and intelligence methods that we never even dreamed of. Based on what our generation has witnessed in our lifetime, I know we have only scratched the surface; and I’d really like to know what my grandchildren’s generation will be telling their grandchildren when they’re older. I can only say ‘Godspeed and Bon Voyage’. The future is only limited by your imagination.”
Andy was the beloved husband of Elizabeth “Sandy” Kubica for 63 years before her passing on June 23, 2017. He was the dedicated father of 5 daughters: Kathy (and Phil) Higerd, Judith Jackson, Susan Kubica M.D. (and Callie Shively), Cheryl Kubica, and Jacquelyn Kubica-Aronoff. He was a proud Gramps of his eleven grandchildren: Ryan, Jordan, and David Joel Nisbeth; Garrett, Gabriel, Hannah and Grant Higerd; Rowan and Caitlin Meert; and Daniel and Elizabeth Aronoff; as well as his eleven great-grandchildren: Caroline, Jude, Annabelle, Reed, Grace, Gideon, Rose, and James Higerd; and Eva, Ida and Andrew Nisbeth. He was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Julia (Potrok) Kubica, and his two brothers, Josef Potrok and Frank Kubica.