The Lutheran Church of the Atlantic in Iowa, where an Iowa State University student who died in a car crash two days before Christmas was a member posted on social media on his birthday visit: “Each person receives the gift of spending time on this earth to live, learn, love and leave a legacy.
Although the one-line message did not specifically mention the late Avery Andersen, it seemed appropriate that people turned out in numbers that surprised even Andersen’s parents to remember and honor the life, learning, love and legacy of their son – including as a man of faith, a cyclone enthusiast and a hunter of cyclones and other extreme weather events.
Andersen, 20, died Dec. 23 after his car lost traction on a frost-covered road about a mile from his home in the Atlantic and rolled into a ditch.
Andersen was a member of the class of 2019 at Atlantic High School, studying meteorology at Iowa State, and a life member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Atlantic.
His mother, Sue Andersen, said the church had been set up to accommodate 400 people for her son’s funeral on Tuesday and the church was full.
She and her husband, Steve Andersen, Avery’s father, said members of their son’s fellowship, church youth, members of the Bible camp he worked at and some of his fellow elders from the ‘Atlantic High School all volunteered to sing at the service without being asked. .
In addition to his visit the previous day, friends had gathered for a candlelight vigil at the church the night Avery died, and Steve said the church was full at that time as well.
He and his wife remembered after the funeral what their son would like to be remembered for and what they hope to be remembered for.
“We have more weather radios in this house than I think they have at Best Buy”
Avery’s obituary notes that he was born during an ice storm on February 24, 2001, during the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines. Steve explained that he worked for a radio station covering the tournament and had been live before receiving a call from Sue, informing her that her waters had broken at their hotel.
He said he dropped his headphones and walked out, beating up Sue and a friend who was with her in hospital after what Sue described as a “very slow and scary journey”.
She said what really sparked Avery’s interest in the weather was the summer of 2004, when Avery was 3 and the family spent a lot of time in their basement under the warnings of tornado.
They tried to explain to their scared little boy what was going on, and from there, they said, that’s all he wanted to talk about.
Steve said Avery could identify the model of a weather siren just by the sound it made. “We have more weather radios in this house than I think they have at Best Buy,” Sue added.
Once he could drive, Avery chased the storms in his 2005 Buick Century—”He didn’t really care what his car was,” Steve said, “just that it ran.”
Avery had a separate Twitter profile for his storm scouting, which featured a pinned tweet explaining that he wanted to use the account to document the experiences he was having “while doing what I love”.
Steve said Avery was excited when mainstream national media picked up footage he captured of a windstorm sweeping dust from a dry cornfield near town.
While storms were his calling, his faith was his cornerstone
Avery’s passions included more than chasing storms, however.
He played trumpet for the Cyclone Hockey Pep Band and piano. He also sang the national anthem at Des Moines Buccaneers games, including the team’s home game against the Omaha Lancers on the Friday before his death.
Steve said Avery couldn’t skate, but he was learning. Despite this, he embraced the sport. An aunt had taken him to Bucs games at an early age and he was also a Boston Bruins fan.
Avery was also a counselor and lifeguard at Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp.
Sue said he mainly worked with families spending a week together at camp, helping them with activities and leading Bible studies. Being a lifeguard has allowed her to continue working during the pandemic, even when the camp has reduced the number of people who can attend.
“He would have done it for free,” considering what Avery got out of camp, spiritually, Steve said.
Camp director Rod Quanbeck wrote on social media that when Avery was young he “already touched so many lives with his continuous encouragement, love for creation (especially the sky and weather) and sharing God’s love and life with others Bravo, good and faithful servant.
Steve said he hopes Avery will be remembered for “the man of faith that he was”.
Avery, like his father, was involved in Greek life and was a member of the Iowa State chapter of the Beta Sigma Psi Lutheran fraternity.
Trevor Roubadeaux—Avery’s roommate, fellowship brother, and meteorology classmate—said that Avery represented the spirituality of the fellowship well.
Roubadeaux said Avery always takes notes about how God has a purpose and a plan for people’s lives, and keeps Bible study updates on his whiteboard.
Avery ‘wanted to be a scientist’ – and meteorology called him
Steve said that although Avery loved preaching and sharing the Word, “he wanted to be a scientist” and meteorology was what called him.
Sue said she knew Avery’s goal in meteorology was to be able to warn people of severe weather and give them the time they needed to get to safety.
She also said that Avery specifically wanted to be a broadcast meteorologist. Having been a performer since his days in school plays, choir and band, “I think it was natural – he loved being in front of the camera.”
“There were too many performances in this boy to be behind the scenes,” she said.
Videos shared to Avery’s Storms Twitter account showed his on-air work with “Cy’s Eyes on the Skies,” a student-run television weather show produced by the State of the State Student Chapter. ‘Iowa from the American Meteorological Society.
The chapter tweeted at Christmas: “Avery will be greatly missed in our program; he always brought laughs and energy wherever he was, and he was emerging as a key member of our show airing this semester.
Roubadeaux said Avery “puts his heart and soul into everything he does”, distinguishing himself in meteorology by his enthusiasm and his smiles.
“I hope people will remember how nice he was, how sweet he was,” he said.
Roubadeaux added that Avery also has a strong personal drive to be a hard worker, something he hopes to continue in his own career and faith.
Avery was disappointed not to have been home for December’s derecho, when one of the many tornadoes that day touched down nearby and Steve said storm chasers were within a mile from their home.
Avery posted on Facebook: “Yes, there was a North Atlantic tornado today. Passed just north of my house. Of course that’s when I’m not home.
Like that tornado, people who knew Avery called his life powerful, even if it was short.
“Obviously we’re crushed,” her father said. “But we are also very proud of our son.”
“Knowing him meant a lot,” Roubadeaux said, adding it was hard that he just got to know Avery and is now dead. “I didn’t expect it to be so soon.”
Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be contacted by email at [email protected] He’s on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Iowa State University student remembers his faith and love for the weather