Dr. John Andresen calmly draws blood from Vegas, a horse at Highwind Farm in Mattituck in 2016. Dr. Andresen was one of the few veterinarians in North Fork who cared for large animals such as horses and goats. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Horses and other animals in the East End lost their best friend.
In addition, the two-legged friends appreciated Dr. John Andresen very much.
A real horse whisperer, Dr. Andresen, one of the longest-serving veterinarians in eastern Suffolk County, died of esophageal cancer on October 9. The Aquebogue man had spent the last 55 of his 80 years caring for animals in ways that were good for both them and humans.
“He had the magic touch,” said Wayne Boyd, a veterinary assistant.
The news of Dr. Andresen broke hearts and caused tears. Those who knew him couldn’t say enough good things about him.
“He was just a special, special man,” said Kate Nickles, owner of The Little Red Barn in Jamesport. “Everyone I knew loved him.
“There is never a perfect person, but everyone simply adored them, from their real character to their selflessness to their compassion for their craft. He was brilliant. He was nice. “
“Nothing was too scary or too potentially dangerous. Once at the Game Farm, one of the chimpanzees – and chimpanzees can be very vicious – grabbed his belt and threw him – against the bars. “
Dr. Andresen’s death was particularly felt at the Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital, where he and Dr. Charles Timpone moved in on October 4, 1994. Dr. Timpone met Dr. Andresen in 1969 when Dr. Andresen started out with Maribeth, his wife of 51 years.
“John and I have been partners for many, many years, but in all the years we’ve been together there hasn’t been a single bad word or argument between us, never a disagreement, no argument,” Dr. Timpone struggled to control his emotions in a phone interview, said his longtime friend and partner. “He’s been like an older brother and a damn good friend to me, and I’m going to miss him terribly.”
Dr. Andresen, a first generation American, was born on July 7, 1941 in Goshen, NY, to Norwegian parents. He attended a one-room schoolhouse in Mombasha Lake for a few years before moving to Wappingers Falls. While working on a dairy farm, he developed a love for animals. After receiving his bachelor’s degree and doctorate in veterinary medicine from Cornell University in 1966, he was drawn to the idyllic beauty of east Suffolk and began his practice at Riverhead Animal Hospital. There he met his wife.
“We got along somehow, you know, because he was very calm and I wasn’t, and he told me that the day before his death,” said Ms. Andresen. “He said I was the yin to his yang. He was calm and reserved and said, ‘You’re not.’ It worked well.”
In 1999, Dr. Andresen in the East End for a number of unusual neurological cases in horses. “The signs and symptoms varied widely from neurological to personality changes in horses that suddenly made them fearful,” said Ms. Andresen, a retired nurse with a degree in public health. “It was very bizarre.”
Dr. Andresen thought that possums might be responsible for the epidemic, but it wasn’t. Rabies was excluded.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were involved. Ms. Andresen said a Plum Island veterinarian and herself, dressed in white protective clothing, performed an autopsy on a horse. From the spinal cord they extracted what they believed was St. Louis encephalitis. Instead, it turned out to be the first diagnosis of West Nile equine virus in North America, she said.
Dr. Andresen is perhaps best known for his work with horses, but they weren’t the only species he cared for. Cows, pigs, goats and alpacas are among others. He even looked after exotic animals and supported the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville. “You don’t realize how big a tiger is until you stand by it,” he told the Riverhead News review in 2016.
Mr. Boyd, who owned a saddle shop and barn in Riverhead for many years, remembered an outing with Dr. Andresen to the Long Island Game Farm. “We had to work with snakes one day and I said, ‘No, no, no,'” recalled Mr. Boyd, who refused the assignment.
Dr. Andresen continued, however.
“John would do anything,” said Ms. Andresen. “Nothing was too scary or too potentially dangerous. Once at the Game Farm, one of the chimpanzees – and chimpanzees can be very vicious – grabbed his belt and threw him – against the bars. “
The Andresens ran a virtual menagerie at home with horses, goats, sheep, dogs and more. They even raised baby lions and bears.
“It was a lifetime,” said Ms. Andresen. “Lions in the kitchen, owls on the veranda.”
Another section by Dr. Andresen’s life had absolutely nothing to do with animals – pole vaulting.
He was in high school and pole vaulting at Cornell for a year before quitting focusing on his studies. He later became a volunteer pole vault coach for Riverhead High School’s track and field teams for at least 35 years, according to Sal Loverde, who had coached the program for about 30 years.
How did that start?
The story as told by Ms. Andresen goes like this: After Dr. Andresen had not been in pole vault for years, he was speaking to Riverhead athletes during an athletics training session when asked if he could do pole vault. With that, Dr. Andresen, wearing boots, jeans, a jacket and a pole, ran down the runway and lunged over the bar, the contents of his pockets falling to the floor as the stunned athletes watched. “They said, ‘Oh my god, he can really jump!’ And that’s it, ”said Ms. Andresen.
Dr. Andresen, himself an accomplished pole vaulter at master level for his age group, who only competed in the pole vault last summer, was a great asset to the Blue Waves. Mr. Loverde said that Dr. Andresen had pole vault covers and mats repaired at his own expense. “His generosity in terms of time, talent and funds has not been matched by anyone I have ever seen volunteer in high school sports,” said Mr. Loverde. “I mean, he would even go so far as to buy special sticks for certain children, and those sticks aren’t cheap. He picked up children and took them to the armory [in Manhattan] and back to make sure they are able to compete.
“His generosity is second only to his expertise in how he managed to make the Riverhead pole vault not only a county powerhouse, but a state powerhouse as well.”
Dr. Before his death, Andresen was building a field house on his farm so that pole vaulters could train there in bad weather.
On Saturday lunchtime there will be a celebration for Dr. Andresen’s life took place.
“He was a man of few words but a lot of wisdom,” said Ms. Nickles.
Helmi Nagar, a longtime groom, said Dr. Andresen respected everyone in the industry, never made anyone bad. He never knocked or hit anyone. This is the best man I have ever met in the horse business. “
Ms. Nickles said, “Of those who have met him at any point in our lives, we have been the lucky ones – he was one in a million.”
Mr. Boyd called Dr. Andresen “my mentor, my sensei”. He said, “If you want to get someone a certain size, they’ve been on top of the Empire State Building.”
Perhaps the effects of Dr. Read Andresen by the number of tears that have been shed over his loss.
“Yeah, it was tough, you know,” said Ms. Nickles. “I cried this morning. It’s been three crazy days. I can’t get it out of my head. “
She’s not the only one.