Serving West Michigan Since 1899

Andrew R. Wilkinson

November 16, 1972 - December 10, 2023
Saugatuck, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Five months after the Watergate break-in, and about a month after Jackie Robinson made his last public appearance, Andrew Russell Wilkinson was born on November 16th, 1972. He was raised by men of science and capable, free-spirited women with fine taste and impeccable manners. He grew up in a house on the hill in Saugatuck - along with a younger sister, Birmingham Roller pigeons, a Bouvier des Flandres, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Newfoundlands, goats, chickens, and the occasional cat. Outside, several giant wind chimes sing out their meditations near the mossy-roofed cedar-wood sauna and giant telephone pole swing-set built by his father.

In November of 2023, Andrew returned to the solace of his childhood home when, on Halloween, he received the heartbreaking news he was terminally ill. He spent the next six weeks soaking up every second he could with his family, his beloved Erica, and some of his dearest friends. He passed away on December 10th, 2023 at the age of 51, surrounded by those he loved the most.

Andrew had a broad range of interests and talents. A true Cub Scout, his was somewhere between the mind of a farmer, an inventor, and an artist. He was adept with his family’s Farmall Cub tractor by the age of five and was always tinkering or taking something apart. His tastes were proudly, not Puritanical. He loved cookbooks and cooking, which typically included dirtying every pot, pan, dish and utensil in the house. His imagination knew no limits and no artistic medium could escape his natural talent. He could be captivated just by looking at a picture of the woman who voiced Lisa in The Simpsons or by hearing the sound of an engine he loved. He loved free lip balms from hospital drawers, their specific smell of vanilla triggered fond memories of snowmobiling with his grandparents. He lived as a poet enjoying the world and writing odes through his specific, and impeccable tastes, notably in sneakers, vintage camouflage pants with as many pockets as possible, vinyl records, gardening, sunglasses, and machinery. Only a poet would love his Audi and name it Lynda Carter, or tape over his KitchenAid mixer label, relabeling it “Bitchin’Aid.”

Andrew was a self-proclaimed “long haired hippie freak” and “Jack of all trades, master of none.” He loved live music festivals (think Rothbury, Electric Forest, Wheatland) and had a lovely singing voice, though only his inner circle knew it. He loved his Maine Coon cats as children, describing one as a “mensch” and regularly telling the other to “get off the turntables!” Together they enjoyed late-night walks around the neighborhood. He was always full of suggestions when his beloved “Poops” (Erica) would call with any conundrum. If he didn’t have the solution on hand, as an autodidact, he’d research to figure it out. He was quick to laugh and to gush, especially about her. Look at a picture of them and you’ll witness the unmistakable twinkle of adoration in his pretty blue eyes.

A perpetual learner he loved falling deeply into The Economist, Wall Street Journal, or a good Noam Chomsky article. He spoke Spanish without an accent and looked for any opportunity to incorporate his favorite word ferrocarril (railway) into conversation. Andrew studied architecture at Eastern Michigan University as a young man and was a proud graduate of the Michigan State University Master Gardner program. He could name all of the garden cultivars and native plants and the insects that pollinated them. He taught people to be gentle with Michigan spiders, but to watch out for the one (yellow sac spider) that might “run across a room just to bite you.”

A sentimental spirit, he sensed the sacredness of little things. What others might judge as an “ugly old rag of knots” was precious to him. He had a lifelong passion for his beloved security blanket “Mmm-Ha” aptly named for the sound of taking a deep breath. What was once a closely guarded secret as a young adult, grew into a proud source of amusement. He got a chuckle at his nurses’ reactions, when he’d reveal it from its silk traveling case. Fallen knots were given a proper memorial and sacred vessel for preservation. The only grudge he held against his mother was the one time she washed Mmm-Ha as punishment for being mischievous.

Andrew loved helping others, was a friend to anyone in need, and was known for his passion and kindness. He made a conscious effort to engage with individuals often overlooked by others, extending gratitude and dignity. Vehemently compassionate and nonjudgmental, he loved and he loved deeply. If you were a friend you knew it, and if you weren’t you didn’t.

Andrew was preceded in death by his mother, Ginger Wilkinson and his father-in-law, Ray Cook and is survived by the love of his life, Erica Cook; his father, Russell Wilkinson; his sister, Erin Wilkinson; mother-in-law, Dolores Cook; sister and brother in-law, Kimberly and David Balsam; and two nieces he adored, Riley and Kaitlan Balsam. Also surviving are cousins Amy Boetcher (Eric and son Han), and Kurt Boetcher (Dan); and his Aunt Martha and Uncle Bill Boetcher. Andrew leaves behind countless incredible friends and Jason Birkholz, the lifelong brother he chose. He was well loved by many.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to remember Andrew by extending small acts of kindness to people in need.

Join the family for a casual event to share stories and memories on June 10th, from 3-6pm at Capizzo Studio in Saugatuck. Music will be played by Andrew’s friends and hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served. Feel free to come and go as you like, there is no set schedule of events. Andrew liked to be comfortable, so guests are encouraged to wear their favorite t-shirt in his honor.