By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/14/14
Sue Purvis recalled her feelings when she learned in 2008 that her close friend, Deb Andress, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“When I heard the news about Debbie’s illness 6 and a half years ago, I was stunned,” said Purvis. “Deb? No way … that’s just wasn’t possible. But it Deb’s unique fashion, she held the beast at bay for well over half a decade. We talked almost daily and never once did I ever hear her boo hoo for herself. Not once. I marveled at it every day and her ridiculously positive outlook is surely responsible for her extra lease on life.
“So I began to reflect why did Deb’s illness affected so many people profoundly. Scores of people texted me almost daily wondering how Debbie was doing. I don’t think I know anyone who has touched so many people is such a unique way. One day last week I was chatting with Johnny (Deb’s husband) about this trying to understand life, the universe, and Debbie. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“But Johnny summed it up the best and he is right. He said, his whole life, whenever anyone would mention Deb’s name they would smile. Think about that. Is there any better compliment? To know you brought fun, happiness, and joy to others.”
Deb Andress, an Abington grad and Penn State lacrosse and field hockey great who coached lacrosse in Philly for several decades and helped pioneer the sport in the Bucks and Montgomery County, passed away at 56 on Nov. 4. Hundreds attended a viewing Monday and a mass and burial Tuesday, all in her hometown of Doylestown.
To capture some of the impact Deb left on the Philly lacrosse world and beyond, Phillylacrosse.com received these interviews from friends who have known her for years:
Sue Purvis (high school and college teammate): “I have been friends with Debbie since 7th grade at Huntingdon Jr. High. I can still remember my first impression of her with her dark smiling eyes and her long braided pony tail. That was also the year Debbie got in trouble with the school bus driver because her goat chose to follow her onto the bus and refused to get off. That’s when I first new how ‘special’ Deb and her family was. During the next 44 years, Deb and my life stayed intertwined in almost every aspect and I grew to relish her uniqueness.
How will Deb’s legacy live on? “Deb’s legacy will live on in the best way possible: In the bright, young childrens’ lives she touched. Debbie shared her love and passion for lacrosse at the purest level: Not for scholarships, not for personal gain, but for THE game. To be able to share, but more importantly, demonstrate her passion for lacrosse with her local youth is the greatest gift imaginable. She made learning fun and getting better a challenge. So many of her ex-players are already giving back to the sport of lacrosse by coaching youth programs themselves. What Deb did was the ripple effect…her legacy will continue for generations to come.”
How would you describe her as a person? “When I read that question I chuckled out loud. You just kind of shake your head and smile when you try to describe Deb. People were always drawn to Deb. Her zany, candid, off beat humor set her apart. She was always one to include people, never exclude. If there was a party, and Deb didn’t miss too many, she was the center of attention for all the right reasons. She referred to her friends as ‘sisters’ and she treated us all like one! She was the most positive, upbeat person I ever knew. She was devoted to her family, friends, and her beloved ‘Bulldogs.’ Any of us that knew her were richer because she was one of a kind, and we were all lucky to say she was a part of our lives.”
Betsy Williams Dougherty (played with Deb at Penn State): “I have know Deb since I entered Penn State in 1980. She was a recent graduate and I was a freshman. After my graduation, we played lacrosse together on the US squad and on our Philadelphia club team called the ‘Blues Sisters.’ It was comprised of mostly Delaware and PSU graduates. More recently, we coached the Bulldogs youth lacrosse program together and played as much golf as possible together!
How will Deb’s legacy live on?“Deb’s lacrosse legacy will live on in the many girls she coached over the years. It will live on in those girls’ children one day! It will live on in me and my children! She had such a profound impact on so many kids that they will remember her for the rest of their lives. More importantly, they will approach things with a little more enthusiasm after learning from her example. Deb taught all of us the power of what a positive attitude can do in any given situation.”
How would you describe her as a person?“It’s impossible to describe her adequately, but will try… Deb was dynamic, engaging, fun, funny, energetic, competitive, loving, faith -filled, confident, friendly, spirited, daring, generous. A wonderful mother, a fantastic coach and teacher, a dear and loyal friend. We went to a Phillies game together in late August, just before her health really suffered. She wasn’t feeling well, probably shouldn’t have come, but she did. At the game, she cheered on the Phils with gusto even though I’m sure she didn’t feel great. She tried a schmitter (sandwich) which you only know what that is if you’re from Philly. She got to know the guy sitting in front of us and learned everything about his kids, made friends with the usher in charge of our row and made us all laugh. Deb was extraordinary! With an emphasis on EXTRA!”
Char Morett Curtiss (played with Deb at PSU and also coached her one year): “I consider Deb to be one of my very best friends as we have shared a fun, close, and endearing friendship for over 35 years. She is simply the type of person that you never forget, you will never forget her smile, the way she makes you laugh, the way she can talk a blue streak, the way she danced and the way she hugged! Being around her was always a good time…..she was the party. She was in my wedding, and every wedding we every attended together was an memorable fun moment!
How will Deb’s legacy live on? “Deb’s legacy in lacrosse will live on through all the wonderful young players she coached! She had a gift to inspire everyone to enjoy the sport and to give their best effort.
How would you describe her as a person?“To describe Deb as a person is easy … she was her own character … she was loving, happy, exuberant, caring, she was everything you would ever want in a friend whether you knew her or not. What to me is most amazing about Deb is the way she battled this horrific disease. She never dwelled on her challenges, just always stayed focused on her faith, her family and her friends. She is one person who you will always remember when you first met her, and you will always remember all the times she made you laugh. I miss her and I love her.”
Laurie Markle (Penn State grad): “Deb had just graduated when I came in as a freshman at PSU. I met her through the obvious PSU connection, alumni games, but really our bonding began with the creation of the Blues Sisters that was our post collegiate club lacrosse team made up of Delaware and PSU alums. We all decided on the name over a few laughs. From that point on our Blues sisters dominated the club scene for 12 years. We would tailgate after the games, bring our kids and just play for the love of the game and PSU pride, of course. Later Deb and I continued to bond over the Alumni games as well as youth lacrosse and the High school scene. Both of use were very involved in PAGLA, and PASLA.”
How will Deb’s legacy live on?“I think Deb’s legacy will live on through her youth program. She was so dynamic, giving and vibrant that you could not help to feel the enthusiasm for the game all around her. Her first love of course was PSU as she bled blue and white but her passion for the sport, its development and the teaching of the game (correctly) to the youth was what Deb was all about. I would love to see her legacy continue to thrive in the education of youth and officiating with the true spirit of the sport.”
Michele DeJuliis (played with Deb at Penn State): “Deb has impacted so many people in the lacrosse world, young and old alike. She was an incredible mentor to me as a young coach and player. I’m forever grateful for her leadership, passion and contagious energy: she was a giver in every sense of the word. Deb was a most energetic, loving, and gentle soul. She lives on as an amazing person with an enormous heart, who will be remembered and cherished forever.”
Lynn Anderson (played with Deb at PSU): “Deb was my Penn State teammate and treasured friend. She put the FUN in fundamentals as she taught the game and inspired young players to love the game of lacrosse as she did. Deb’s smile radiated as she embraced people and life! Her endless energy, generosity, love for her family and so many friends made Deb truly incredible and one-of-a-kind! Deb would tell stories that never ended, making up hysterical words and adding elaborate details. Her enthusiasm was contagious.”
Gina Buggy (Friend and fellow field hockey lacrosse player): “Deb’s legacy will live on through the many kids who attended her camp and club programs. She was energetic, enthusiastic fun loving person with a tremendous zest for life! She was so much fun to be around. She was also kind and caring. Literally a beautiful woman with a beautiful sense of humor!”