I don’t want to remember Andrea. I want to have her here with us, the way it should be. I don’t even want to write these words. I never did. I knew it was coming, we’ve known for a while that it was coming, but I never wanted to write these words.

She’s not supposed to be gone. I don’t want to write about her in the past tense. I just don’t. 

But here I go:

Andrea Rich was one of the best people I’ve ever known. Hands down. And I know there are a lot of other people who feel the same way. Everyone in the libertarian movement knew her or knew of her. I had known about her for years, mostly from the little essay she would write on the inside of the Laissez Faire Books catalogue I received each month, but I didn’t actually meet her until I was in my 30s (a big mistake on my part) and had just met my husband. He introduced me to Andrea and Howie, who had both taken him under their wing when he had first arrived in the US. From that point on, they were like family to us. Our Thanksgivings were spent in their home while we lived in New York, they threw an engagement party for us there, Andrea was Godmother to our son – and we all spent some time puzzling over what that meant.

Andrea’s accomplishments are well known: Most notably, she ran Laissez Faire Books, “the world’s largest collection of books on liberty”, from 1982 to 2005. But this was no ordinary bookstore, and as proprietor, Andrea did much more than just “run a bookstore.” What she did, in fact, was to bring people together. This was kind of a big deal back in the eighties and nineties, when libertarians were still pretty small in number, and often very isolated. The physical book store, and even the catalogue, provided a way for us all to connect – or at least to feel that we were connected. It is no exaggeration to say that LFB was a critical piece of the foundation of what is now a thriving community.

Yet it wasn’t Andrea’s accomplishments that made her so wonderful. It was who she was every day with the multitudes of people who knew her. She was very, very generous: with her time, her energy, her wisdom and advice, and a great many people have benefited from that. She was an incredible hostess. The gatherings she created were stimulating and fun, and each one memorable. She had a gift for creating a space around herself in which others could flourish, but in which she was never the center of attention.

She was a delight to be around. Andrea cared very much about being genuine, and was always very real in her communication. She had very little tolerance for bullshit, while at the same time being perfectly gracious to everyone around her. It had to be a tough combination to pull off, yet she managed it effortlessly.

She had a sneaky, wicked, sense of humor that you might miss if you weren’t paying attention. A meeting with her would turn up real bits of wisdom from a life well lived, and some powerful insights disguised as light conversation. It is only in hindsight that I now realize just how much she had going on in her life all those times we were with her, and yet we never felt that there was anything more important than the conversation we were having, our meal, catching up… she was always completely there for the people she was with in the moment. Completely herself, no pretense. I would say she was “the epitome of class”, but she was so much better than that.

Andrea was 79 when she passed away a week ago today. For anyone who knew her, it was far, far, too soon.