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Andy Angelo, a gentle soul of quiet passions, compassion and grace, died Tuesday as he had lived. Andy, 55, longtime news editor of The Grand Rapids Press, was surrounded by those who loved him. He was encouraging, inspiring and organizing with his last breaths. He struggled with asthma his entire life and died as the result of respiratory complications.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church, 811 Chicago Drive SW. Following the service, the family will greet friends at the Cook Arts Center, 644 Grandville Ave. SW.

Born into a newspapering family, Andy devoted his professional life to the craft of journalism. He was dedicated to its mission of reporting and presenting the news of his community and the world around him clearly, honestly, fairly and completely. “All of us went into journalism because we wanted to make a difference,” he wrote a colleague as he prepared to retire this spring from The Grand Rapids Press after 26 years. Make a difference he did, professionally and personally. He was the epitome of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s definition of effective leadership: “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head-that’s assault, not leadership.”

Most recently, Andy, the consummate organizer, served as news editor for the Booth Newspapers copy desk and oversaw the consolidation of the copy desks of The Grand Rapids Press, the Kalamazoo Gazette and the Muskegon Chronicle. After joining The Press as night metro editor in 1985, he later served both as metro editor, overseeing local news coverage, and news editor, overseeing daily production of the paper. He also had worked at the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, the Port Huron Times Herald, The Associated Press, Detroit Bureau and the Cadillac Evening News.

“Andy was truly a gentleman and an inspiring leader in the newsroom of The Grand Rapids Press for many years,” said Paul Keep, executive editor of print for MLive Media Group. “His team would do anything for him because he would do anything for them.”

He received national recognition as the 2010 Robinson Prize honoree for excellence in copy editing from the American Copy Editors Society. He was a member of and served as the president of the Michigan AP Editorial Association, a statewide group of newspapers editors. His Italian roots and knowledge of the language served The Grand Rapids Press well in 1989 when he traveled to Italy to chronicle the early days of Grand Rapids businessman Peter Secchia’s tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Italy.

He also was a freelance book editor and edited “Gathered at the River,” an award-winning history of Grand Rapids churches, “AIDS and the Sleeping Church,” mystery novels and most recently, “I remember … A History of Grandville Avenue,” by his wife of 18 years, Mary Angelo, director for Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association on Grand Rapids’ Southwest Side. The couple shared their passion for their community, the arts and humanities.

He worked tirelessly on behalf of the Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, which he served as a board member and as president. For a decade, he served as chair of the organization’s annual fundraiser Dia del Sol, which raised more than $320,000 over the years. “His leadership helped sustain and grow the Arts Academy from its beginning, and he always had a soft spot for the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood, its people, and especially its children,” Mary Angelo said.

He served as president of Circle Theatre’s board during the year in which Circle’s new home at Aquinas College opened, and was a key figure in the $5 million capital campaign to build the new theater. If Angelo were prioritizing his passions, family would come first. “We believe he was kind of a little guy when he was here, but he’ll be a very big angel up there,” Mary said. “He’ll be watching over Sarah, Michael, Lily, David, Kyle, Tyler, Lindsay and Kaden.”

He loved cooking, which grew out of his Italian roots, and his greatest pleasures included celebrating and bonding his family over his famous Chicken Marsala or Spaghetti Bolognese. A Kalamazoo College grad, he was born and brought up in the Detroit area.

Nicholas Andrew Angelo was the son of the late Betty and Frank Angelo. Andy’s father was the long-time managing editor of the Detroit Free Press; his mother was a news reporter for the Detroit News and a columnist for the Birmingham Eccentric. Community service was a family tradition: His grandfather, Albert Stoll, outdoors editor at the Detroit News, was instrumental in getting Isle Royale designated as a national park. He is survived by his wife, Mary; brother, Frank, his wife, Suzanne (Suzie) and their children, Nicholas and Alyson of Portland, Oregon; son Michael Retheford and his children, Kyle and Tyler; and daughter Sarah Otis (Beau) and children Lily, Kaden, David and Lindsay. Memorial contributions may be sent to: Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities; Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association or Circle Theatre.

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