A Eulogy for Andre de Nesnera

My name is Jim Malone.  I was a longtime colleague of Andre's at the Voice of America.
He was also my dear friend.
Today is a hard day.
But it's also a day to remember a wonderful husband and father who just happened to be a great journalist and a revered leader at the VOA.
I, for one, will miss the laughter. You all know it. Sometimes it would start with a chuckle. But if the story or the joke was really good, you'd hear that contagious rolling laugh that would draw you in every time.
Andre and I got especially close in the last ten or so years before his retirement in 2015. We'd have morning coffee or lunch at an old round table in a back corner of the newsroom, which apparently hadn't been cleaned since the Ford Administration.
That's when the stories would flow--from his time as a correspondent in Geneva, Moscow, and London. Confirming the death of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Witnessing the last Russian troops to leave Afghanistan. Scoring key interviews amid the efforts to peacefully settle the conflict in Northern Ireland. Interviews with other notables including President Barack Obama.
And of course there were the tales of his endless, draining battles with upper management and forces outside the agency when he led the newsroom for a grueling four and a half years.
But often the conversations found their way back to the humorous.
He loved to tell the story of how he communed with the pigeons that would land on his windowsill at Walter Reed hospital as he recuperated from Guillain-Barre syndrome. He loved it when I teased him: "Doctor Doolittle, I presume."
Having traveled widely with an appreciation for fine food and wine, he loved to tell the story of a visit he and Ellen made to a country restaurant, somewhere in Virginia, I think.
Inquiring about a wine list, he was told: "We got your white wine, we got your red wine, and we got your ROSE wine. What'll ya have?" Not sure if he tried the rosé but I can still hear him chuckling over that one.
As our friendship grew, I began to realize some important underlying themes in Andre's life.
Family.  Faith.  Fearlessness.
There were lots of stories about Ellen's book tours and her incredible success as a well-known author with a devoted following. And speaking of devotion, no one was more devoted to Andre than Ellen and his three sons.
He would beam with delight when he spoke of what the boys were up to, whether it was Peter's latest career achievement, which NBA franchise Matt was now working for, or his adventures with Timmy, from baking bread on Saturdays to their eternal debate over who to root for--the New York Mets or the Washington Nationals.
And yes, he loved to torment me over the 1986 World Series when his Mets came back and beat my Red Sox.
Andre took his faith seriously but never wore it on his sleeve. We shared a Catholic background, but let's just say that he was more dedicated in keeping up with it.
I do believe it was his faith that largely shaped the compassion and empathy that characterized not only his devotion to family and friends but also his leadership at VOA.
Finally, there was his fearlessness.
We all saw it with his lengthy and difficult recovery from Guillain-Barré. And of course in recent years there were other health battles, most seriously, Parkinson's disease.
Those of us who worked with him saw another form of courage on display during one of VOA's darkest periods when he fought so valiantly to safeguard our journalistic credibility. 
Andre refused to back down despite intense pressure from the White House and State Department to block the use of excerpts of an exclusive VOA interview with the head of the Taliban shortly after 9/11. 
For his courage, Andre was honored by the American Foreign Service Association and the University of Oregon. He was justifiably proud of that recognition not just for himself but for what it meant for VOA's journalistic reputation.
I think he also knew that the greatest appreciation came from his co-workers.
At a time of supreme testing, Andre stood tall. He was the man in the breach, the sentry atop the wall, the guardian at the gate.
 Andre put his career on the line to defend the VOA Charter. He WAS the firewall between VOA journalists and political interference.
Today, though, is not just about Andre's great achievements as a journalist.
It is about honoring an extraordinary family man, a great humanitarian who made the lives of all he touched richer, and a man whose moral compass was always set to "True North."
We are poorer for your loss, old buddy.
And I for one would give anything to hear that laugh one more time.
Farewell my friend.
Rest easy.