Dr. John Andresen, beloved Aquebogue veterinarian who cared for animals on Long Island for more than 55 years, died Saturday at age 80 after a six-month battle with esophageal cancer.
He was cofounder, with Dr. Chuck Timpone, of Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital in 1994.
Andresen specialized in treating large animals, visiting farms across the region to care for his patients. He was one of the few large-animal veterinarians in the area.
He was passionate in his love for animals of all kinds, a value instilled in him by his mother.
“Dr. John embodied the best of us, he was the epitome of what a veterinarian, a colleague, a friend should be. He was known not only for his extensive veterinary expertise but for his compassion, kindness and work ethic,” Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
People whose animals were Andressen’s patients remembered his compassionate and caring treatment in more than 100 comments on the animal hospital’s announcement on Facebook.
Andresen was “the embodiment of Saint Francis. A kind and compassionate soul to all creatures, both the 4 legged and 2 legged kind, Dr. Andresen cared for each with the dedication and skill found in only the best of veterinarians,” wrote Jeanne Schnell.
“There is no other like him,” wrote Cathey Ferrell.
“He was a true hero, but you could never tell him that. He would just shrug it off as what was normal. So humble, and so generous,” wrote Jennifer Stolz.
He was a loving and dedicated husband and father, an outdoorsman and athlete who was an avid skier and world record-holding pole-vaulter, family members said in an interview today.
Andresen is remembered by his family as intensely proud of his Norwegian heritage. A first-generation American, his father Erling emigrated from Oslo, Norway and his mother Ella came to the U.S. as a small child with her parents, who hailed from Trondheim, Norway. As the son of an immigrant laborer in an upstate quarry, Andresen rose from humble beginnings to earn undergraduate and veterinary medicine degrees from Cornell University, establish and build a veterinary practice as well as a farm where he and his wife raised Percheron horses and Saanen goats, which they traveled to show in the New York State Fair every year.
At Cornell, Andresen became friends with fellow veterinary student Garry Brown, who grew up in East Marion. He came to the North Fork to visit Brown and fell in love with the area. He had worked during college at a dairy farm and was attracted to the bucolic environment of the North Fork. After his graduation from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1963, Andresen was offered a job by Riverhad veterinarian George “Doc” Goode and he moved to Long Island.
Fittingly, a trip to the vet with a sick dog brought Maribeth Larkin and Andresen together in 1969. They married in 1970.
The couple later purchased the land on Church Lane that would become Foxglove Farm, where they raised a family of four children — along with a menagerie of horses, goats and dogs.
“He was a self-made man,” his son Kyle said today, sitting with his mother on a covered deck behind the family home. “Look around,” he said, gesturing to the field and barns and other farm buildings. “You see all this and this is what you can do in 46 years,” Kyle said.
Andresen was Riverhead High School’s volunteer pole-vaulting coach for about 30 years. Andresen was a pole-vaulter in high school — when he vaulted using a bamboo pole, said his wife Maribeth. He was at the high school track one day and offered students some tips. They asked him if he could still vault, and much to their surprise, he grabbed a pole and did — for the first time in many years. He began competing again and held several U.S. Track and Field titles in his age group. Still fit, trim and athletic, hr continued to pole-vault and planned to compete for the world championship this year, Maribeth said.
Andresen never retired from the job he loved, even despite his diagnosis with esophageal cancer in March. He endured chemotherapy and radiation and a difficult surgery, said his wife, who had a long career as an intensive care nurse in area hospitals. He worked till 6:30 the night before his surgery, she said. He was confident he’d be recover and be back at the animal hospital in a couple of weeks, she said. Complications of surgery dictated otherwise.
Andresen told his family he was at peace with his fate. “He said he had a great life and was very fortunate,” said his daughter, Kate. He said he was looking forward to being with his son Erik, who died in an accident as a child. “He truly seemed at peace. He lived his life with dignity and died with dignity,” Kate said.
The family is planning a memorial service at the farm on Oct. 23. See obituary.
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