West Baldwin, Maine – Andrew Elborn Clements passed away early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2019, at his home with his family.
He was born in Camden, New Jersey, on May 29, 1949, the third of six children born to William Denney (Bill) Clements and Doris Kruse Clements. The family moved west to Springfield, Illinois, when Andrew was in the sixth grade, and enrolled the children in the local schools.
He graduated from Springfield High School in 1967, where he was Class President. He often spoke of the excellent instruction and encouragement he received there during his senior year from his English teacher, Mrs. Bernice Rappel. She recognized his gift for writing, and sent him off to college “feeling like I was a pretty good writer.”
Bill and Doris loved family, and they loved Maine. The Bell family, on Doris’s side, had built a Victorian summer cottage on Barker Pond in Hiram, Maine, which they named “Cumango”. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered there every summer to enjoy being together in the beauty of Maine’s majestic pine groves, pristine lakes, and calling loons. Over the years, Andrew’s parents built their own cabin, “Clemenpine”,—and it became Andrew’s “favorite place on earth.” Andrew wrote, “There was no TV there, no phone, no doorbell— and email wasn’t even invented. All day there was time to swim and fish and mess around outside, and every night, there was time to read. I know those quiet summers helped me begin to think like a writer.”
And a writer is what Andrew became. He majored in English Literature at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and spent part of his summers teaching creative writing at a series of summer high school workshops at the National College of Education (now National Louis University), also in Evanston. He enjoyed teaching so much that, after graduating from Northwestern in 1971, he earned a Master of Arts in Teaching at National College of Education, and had his own fourth-grade class in Northfield, Illinois, immediately upon graduation in 1972.
During Christmas vacation that same year, Andrew asked for an extra week off from school, to marry his best friend, Rebecca (Becky) Pierpont, and take her on a cross-country, midwinter drive to honeymoon in Maine. It was a place Becky had never been. They arrived on a dark, snowy night and left their car with Great Aunts Edith and Gwen at the head of Butterfield Lane. They borrowed snowshoes, and a toboggan to slide their luggage across the frozen Barker Pond to his parent’s unheated cabin. The marriage was a bedrock to both Andrew and Becky, and they worked side by side through their many years together. Andrew went on to teach school for seven years, moving to a position as a junior high English teacher in Wilmette, and then a high school English teacher at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois.
Andrew was also very skilled at working with his hands, so the young couple bought and restored two homes in Illinois before they had their first son, John Edward Clements, in 1977. As school enrollments in Andrew’s school district fell, he found his job security threatened, so he and Becky sold their house and moved with John to New York City with the goal of becoming singer-songwriters.
Andrew had a beautiful tenor voice and learned guitar from a friend. He loved writing songs that he and Becky sang together. They bought a small apartment on the Upper West Side and enrolled John in nursery school. It was a great adventure, which ultimately led Andrew into book publishing. He found a job with a publisher of “How-To” books. The book in which his name first appeared in print was called A Country Christmas Treasury. He built a number of the projects featured in the book, and was listed as a “craftsperson” on the acknowledgements page in tiny, tiny print. He also worked on a book about building ultra-light planes and updated a home handyman’s guide.
A short time later, a young man whom Andrew had tutored years before as a high school student, decided to launch a new children’s picture book company in the Boston area. He asked Andrew to join the start-up as sales manager and editorial director. They began by importing high quality children’s books from Europe. The family of three moved to Needham, Massachusetts, where a second son, Nathaniel James (Nate) Clements, was born in 1983. Andrew enjoyed learning the publishing business, and the company, Picture Book Studio, flourished. 1985 brought the arrival of a pair of twin boys, Charles Philip Clements and George William Clements. In 1987, the growing family moved to Westborough, MA, where they found wonderful neighbors and excellent schools.
Andrew worked for Picture Book Studio during the day, and at night began to write original texts for picture books, first in his small basement office, then in a garden shed in the backyard which he insulated and made into a cozy writing cottage, complete with wood stove.
In 1990, he wrote his first novel for middle grades children. It was a book about where words come from, how children can do important things, how teachers and parents can help children learn and grow, and how communities can value children and recognize their great contribution to society. The book is called Frindle and is a favorite of many children and adults. Andrew went on to write 90 books for children, most published by Simon & Schuster and Random House. He was assisted in his work by many talented editors, illustrators, and publicists.
Andrew especially valued the friendship and guidance of his literary agent Amy Berkower of Writers House, who advised him throughout his long career. His books are translated into many languages and read by children in many countries. He enjoyed visiting schools to meet his readers and talk to them about writing. Some of those visits in Maine were arranged and supported by his dear friends Justin and Pam Ward, owners of Bridgton Books.
Andrew loved being a father to his four sons. He used to say, “Each one came along at just the right time, and each one taught me new things I couldn’t have learned in any other way.” He loved supporting them as they developed their talents and began careers of their own. He loved having them around, and going to visit them in far-flung places like California and Colorado. But, most of all, he loved having them with him in Maine.
After their four sons left home, Andrew and Becky moved, in 2014, from Massachusetts to a farm in West Baldwin, Maine. Andrew was back in his “favorite place on earth”, a place which his family loves to visit. They spend part of their summers at their cabin on Hancock Pond in Denmark, ME, and continue to visit with their friends and relatives on nearby Barker Pond.
Andrew had a strong faith in God, to whom he turned in times of success and times of trouble. He was a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Fryeburg, Maine. This was a favorite scripture from The Bible: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3: 5,6)
Andrew was predeceased by his parents, Bill and Doris Clements. He is survived by his wife, Becky Clements of West Baldwin; and sons, John Clements and wife Kristen Hoops of Johnson Valley, CA; Nate Clements of West Baldwin; Charles Clements and wife Abigale Reisman of Gloucester, MA; and George Clements of West Baldwin. He is also survived by his brother Denney Clements and wife Robin of Wichita, KS; his brother Jeff Clements and wife Janet, of Evanston, IL; his sister Martha Wilday and husband Jeff of Springfield, IL; his brother Matthew Clements and wife Trish of Drexel, MO; his sister Frances Fawcett and husband Jeff of Port Townsend, WA; his sister-in-law Julie Pierpont and husband Eric of Brutus, MI; and many wonderful nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 4, at 10:30 a.m. in the chapel at the Poitras, Neal, and York Funeral Home, 71 Maple Street, Cornish.
Arrangements are with Poitras, Neal & York Funeral Home, Cornish, www.mainefuneral.com.