02 Jul 2018
Bro. Andrew LaCombe, SDB (1932-2018)
Story and photos by Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB
Bro. Andrew LaCombe died on June 30 at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, where he had been hospitalized with terminal cancer for a short time. He was 86 years old and had been a professed Salesian brother for almost 67 years.
Bro. Andy was a member of the provincial residence community in New Rochelle, N.Y., arriving there in 1967 in order to study architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and assist Bro. Fiore Da Roit in the province architect’s office. He completed his master’s degree at Pratt in 1972, was certified by the American Institute of Architects and various state boards, and became the New Rochelle Province’s architect, carrying out that service until his final illness.
He was fond of telling the story of his acceptance by Pratt’s dean of admissions even though he didn’t have a high school diploma, the dean sympathetically recognizing his novitiate courses for credit.
Bro. Andy was born and raised on his family’s farm in Verner, Ont., the son of Jean and Anna LaCombe. He entered Don Bosco Juniorate at Haverstraw, N.Y., as an aspirant in 1948, made his novitiate in Newton, N.J., and professed his first vows at Newton on September 8, 1951.
Bro. Andy returned to Haverstraw as part of the juniorate support staff (1951-1957), then went back to Newton in the same capacity (1957-1967). He was a very capable maintenance man and property manager. He liked to recall how, when he was at Haverstraw, the Palisades Interstate Park police would often call him at all hours to fetch a deer just killed along the parkway; the aspirants ate a lot of venison in the 1950s.
As the province’s architect, Bro. Andy worked on many buildings from Tampa to Boston for both the Salesians and the Salesian Sisters and consulted on projects also in other parts of the world. He was very active in the prestigious New Rochelle Art Association, including serving as president for several years and often as a member of prize juries. In October 2012 the Association honored him with a special award for his many services.
Besides being the architect for the province, at the provincial residence Bro. Andy did extensive work in the house and on the grounds—decorating for every feast day, barbecuing on holidays, tending flowers, cutting up fallen timber, repairing damaged ceilings, plowing snow in the winter, and much more. He was also famous—or infamous—for telling jokes.
At some long-forgotten date in the mid-1990s, a stray cat adopted Bro. Andy. The province bookkeeper, Helene Lorenzo, named her Tinkerbelle, and she became Brother’s companion—well accepted by the confreres, as well—for the rest of her long life.
Bro. Andy was, moreover, a treasured confrere, reliable, faithful, modest, and prayerful. He hated to be away from the community. His annual vacation consisted of less than a week, driving included, to visit his family at Lake Simcoe in northern Ontario toward the end of every summer.
On his 60th anniversary of profession in 2011, Bro. Andy said, “I am thankful to God for giving me the perseverance and talent to help our province and some of our missions in many ways, especially as an architect.”
Bro. Andy’s funeral was celebrated at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw on July 2. He was buried in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y.—the design and maintenance of which was another one of his many province projects.
As of this writing, specific information on survivors isn’t available. He had several siblings and many nephews and nieces.
A large photo collection is available at https://pix.sfly.com/JmSuTg. The last photo was taken on June 3 while Bro. Andy was at the Wartburg Home in Mt. Vernon—apparently a selfie by Jimmy Tuccillo, one of Diego’s Boys (who were very fond of Brother).