Andrew David Darke, a most compassionate and large-hearted man, passed away suddenly on September 26. Ironically, this big-hearted man was taken from us because of an undetected enlarged heart.
Andrew’s passion for the outdoors initiated in Portland, Oregon, where he was born August 18, 1965. He attended college in upstate New York at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where he studied industrial engineering and received an ROTC scholarship. Upon graduation, Andrew moved around the country while serving in the U.S. Navy, after which he retired as a commander. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for heroism during the Persian Gulf War.
Andrew worked in the semiconductor industry in Northern California. While living there, he met his future wife, Debbie, on a night out with friends. He convinced Debbie to take his business card but only after asking her several times. She finally took that business card, recalling, “He wore his heart on his sleeve and was not too smooth.” If asked, Andrew would say he “was actually so smooth that he was able to appear not smooth.” On that first date, Andrew’s humor, intelligence, positive energy, and kindness captured Debbie’s heart. And by the end of the date, Andrew told her, “I don’t want to freak you out, but one day I’m going to marry you.” Seven months later, true to his promise, he did marry her.
About a month before they celebrated their first wedding anniversary, they had their first baby, Isabella. They put their roots down in Goleta, and over the course of the following six years, their sons, Drew and Gino, were born. Their lives and their family were beautifully complete. They felt so rich, and it had nothing to do with money. This November would have marked their 20th wedding anniversary.
Andrew worked as a dental consultant for Mercer Advisors and Patterson Dental for almost 14 years. He enjoyed talking with his many clients across the country and utilized both his people skills and financial skills to create a great career. Andrew continued with the Navy Reserves until he retired as the local Blue and Gold Officer, interviewing prospective Naval Academy students in the area.
Andrew was all about his family, and together he and Debbie built their life as a strong team. The family loved having people over for BBQs and swimming. Hikes, beach walks, and special family vacations brought them together even more closely. Andrew gave everything to Debbie and their kids, appreciating each for who they were. He rarely missed his children’s events, and he balanced his work life so he could coach or manage both of his sons’ baseball teams.
Andrew’s skill as a coach was unparalleled, and it wasn’t a matter of wins and losses. He was profoundly aware at all times that he was being watched by the kids, recalled his fellow coach and friend Tim Hoover, knowing that youth baseball taught subtle life lessons. He approached each practice with a genuine commitment to serving each player on his team — no matter their skill level. Andrew encouraged every player with respect, and he treated every player with compassion and sincere joy for their success. And that included opposing players. His contagious smile and energetic personality even sent his positive influence out to the parents in the stands.
Andrew, with his brilliant, double-dimpled smile, was the epitome of love. He was unconditional and unbridled with his love. Although his 51 years were cut way too short, he made an indelible mark that will never be forgotten. We find comfort in knowing Andrew lived his life to the fullest and was wholly engaged with those around him. The hole in our hearts that cannot be replaced will forever remind us of a life made better by knowing him.
Andrew is survived by his wife, Debbie; daughter, Isabella; sons, Drew and Gino; and his dog, Jeter. He is also survived by his father, Jim Darke; sisters, Linda Lawler (Jim) and Paula Hoiland (Ken); brother, John Darke; and many nieces and nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his mother, Barbara; grandmother, Fern; and nephew, Brian Lawler.
A celebration of life will be held at Goleta Valley South Little League (GVSLL), 4540 Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara, on October 15 at 3 p.m. Guests are asked to bring blankets or chairs.
In honor of Andrew, donations may be made to the Dream Foundation, GVSLL, or to a scholarship fund for the kids (“Darke Family Memorial Fund,” set up by friends). Checks payable to Charles Schwab & Co. may be mailed to Mercer Advisors Inc., 1801 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA 93108.