Tae Andrews, Rest in Peace

Tae Wan Andrews

Tae Wan Andrews died on March 30. He was 45. I just heard about it today.

Tae was my boss at Kraft Foods when I worked on the Lender’s Bagel business. I liked him, and I’m moved by his death.

Working on Lender’s in 1996 was neither easy nor enviable. Bagel shops were sprouting all over the country: Manhattan Bagel, Einstein’s, Noah’s, and Bruegger’s, among them. I’d tell people what I did for a living and earn a snarlish, “Who eats frozen bagels anymore when you can just walk down the street and get a fresh one?”

Talk about a marketing challenge! We worked with J. Walter Thompson on the account and focus groups basically said that Lender’s was “nuclear fallout food.” That is, they were good to have in the freezer just in case. Just in case there was, say, nothing else to eat in the house. Just in case the lights went out. In case we were in a state of emergency. Mmm, Mmmm! Don’t you just want one right now?!

I lived in Manhattan at the time. A homeless person I routinely passed between my garage and Upper West Side apartment accosted me for change one day. Feeling magnanimous, I offered her a coupon for a free bag of Lender’s Bagels (retail value: $2.79 ~ far more than would ever come out of my pocket in the form of change!).

She took the coupon — looked at it — looked at me — and handed the coupon back to me. “I don’t have a toaster!” she said.

We didn’t have a lot of good market research when I first arrived, but Tae persevered. He asked for my feedback for his leadership training. This is what I wrote.

Leadership characteristic: Motivating. 4 (out of 5). Tae has a spirited “we can make this happen” attitude. Making the team greater than the sum of its parts. 4 (out of 5). Tae has an ability to add insight to others’ work and bring it to a higher level. Developing subordinates. 4 (out of 5). Tae repeatedly invites me to work on projects that further my development. Basically, Tae was there when I needed him, and gave me the latitude to work and grow at my own pace. I appreciated that about him.

Bob Gamgort MasterfoodsLender’s hemorrhaged volume that year, but we pulled it out. Bob Gamgort, now North American President of Masterfoods, was our General Manager. He’s one of a handful of marketers I truly admire. He sold Lender’s for $440 million onto an unwitting Kellogg’s. Kraft was downright giddy having unloaded this albatross onto our biggest competitor! (Kellogg’s sold Lender’s at a $220-million loss two years later.)

Top left: Me, Mike Havard, Peter Wilson, Lonnie Robinson, Steve. Bottom left: Sue Adams-Grant, Ken Ehrlickman, Bob Gamgort, Nancy Campbell. Not pictured: Tae, Jan Bottcher, Ron Lloyd, Matt Shapiro.

Lender’s sponsored the NYC Marathon in 1995. Wasn’t a good spend for us, but I enjoyed a fantastic view of the event — at the starting line and at the finish. Here’s a picture of Murray and me and one of Murray with Mayor Guiliani.

Mayor Guiliani NYC MarathonJoe Hage and Murray Lender

And the highlight of my Lender’s experience was flying to Mattoon, Illinois on the Philip Morris Corporate Jet with Murray Lender for the annual Bagelfest. Just me ‘n Mur. Mattoon is home to the bagel plant and employed half the town, I think. Murray was royalty there. It was quite a kick following him around: watching him get interviewed, watching people sidle up for a photograph, watching him sign autographs. You can see the joy in the photos below.

Lender’s World’s Largest BagelMurray LenderBagelfest

You look back and think: Those were good times, Tae. May you rest in peace.

Did you know Tae? Leave a comment for his family below.


  1. Joe,
    What a fitting tribute to Tae who indeed was a marketing genius. Tae loved all you guys on the Lenders team. He proudly passed out those free bagel coupons. Those were happy times. Thanks for sharing.
    Rose Kent, mom to Tae’s three children Tae, Kellyrose and Connor

  2. Linda Boyd says:

    I met Tae when he was a midshipman at the Naval Academy. I was his sponsor and he spent many weekends in our home. I was truly saddened when I learned of his death. He was truly an outstanding person.

  3. Tae was our client at TheraSense from 1999 until the company was sold to Abbott in 2004. I was the Taller Partner in the advertising agency initially hired by the previous marketing director. When Tae was appointed I was terrified, because normally the first act of the new marketing director is to fire the existing agency. Tae actually took the time to review our work, listen to our point of view and not fire us – which absolutely floored me. Later on, when we would present work that was on strategy but wasn’t quite up to snuff, we would ask Tae if we could re-present and he would agree. Even after he had already presented the less than stellar work to his CEO.

    Tae was brave. He was honest. He was true to his gut. And in my 30 + years in the advertising and marketing business, he was one of the best clients I have ever worked with.

    His passing leaves a hole in my heart, as well as my career.

    Rest in peace, my friend.

    Richard Blakley
    Taller Partner

  4. Tom Callahan says:

    I, too, met Tae as a Midshipman. We were in the same “Company” for four years. I loved his humor! His passion! Snapping his fingers by whipping them. He was the only Midshipman who I knew that spent free time at the Academy buying clothes – his costumes. His infectious laugh. His sincerity and interest in you!
    I last saw him at the 20th year reunion -probably after 20 years – it was as if we parted moments earlier. I don’t think I had read the Shipmate for the past few months. This morning I decided to read the class news and was floored!
    Rose and Andrews family, I look forward to seeing you in Annapolis in October.
    What a light! His art work, his joy… I miss knowing that he is no longer brightening the world for others.

  5. Barry Strickland says:

    He was my boss at TheraSense. Can someone email me what happened?

  6. RIP Tae Andrews. Although I did not know this man, I have stumbled upon your blog from Google and I am deeply touched by the online memorial you have decided to give him. Only a truly special and deserving human would receive the kind of comments you all have bestowed upon him after his passing. Although I do not know the man or his family, my best wishes are with them, as his passing has truly affected many.

  7. Joe Hage says:

    On this first anniversary of Tae’s passing, I’m moved to say thank you, everyone, for sharing your personal stories in this tribute.

  8. David Harman says:

    I knew Tae during our freshman and sophomore years at Atwater High School. He used to come over to our house all the time. I was on the track team with him. He taught me to dance. Though he returned to Atwater to visit during college, I later lost contact with him. He is a very special person. I thought of him often during the years. I was sitting at my computer and googling his name about a month ago, and, unfortunately, I learned of his death. I am sad. The world is a better place because of him. I miss you Tae.

  9. Ceola Norton says:

    I am in shock here. I know I am not really taking this in. Tae or TJ as we called him at Bellevue West High School was one of my two deepest dearest friends. Leslie will be heartbroken. This beautiful, beautiful boy-into-man. How can this be? I can hear his laugh, see his quick, open grin. Tae.

    Rose, if you read this or if someone knows how to reach Rose, please let her know I have Tae’s artist portfolio from 1980. I have kept it thinking some day I would get it to Tae, Kellyrose and Connor.

    I do not want to take this in. Does anyone know Tae’s brother, Ed? Know how to reach him?

  10. Leslie Allwein Williams says:

    This can’t be… just found out tonight. Tae was one of a kind. Tae, Ceola and I were an inseparable trio in our junior and senior years in at Bellevue West Senior High School. Yes! he always had the “Tae” giggle – it was one of his best features – of which there were many. Smart? Wow! Yes! Athletic? Think Secretariat of the triple jump our senior year – I believe he left the competition 25 lengths behind. Fun? Sympathetic? Easy to be around? Yes. Yes. Yes. Did I forget to mention talented artist? Even more astonishing is that he did not seem to think he was something special… His letters home during his first year at the Naval Academy were mostly about his doubts that he wasn’t sure he would do well on this or that test… that he wasn’t one of the smart ones… that he wasn’t sure he would last in the Academy… Rose, Tae, Kellyrose, Connor I am so sorry. I have so many good memories of this man. We will all miss him. Rose, I am on Facebook and would love to drop you a line. It was a privilege to attend your wedding and see photos of your children as they came along. Thank you Tae for the mark you left on my heart and life – it’s just all so very wrong that you are gone.

  11. Joe Hage says:

    @Ceola and @Leslie, I sent an email to Rose to let her know you left notes today.

  12. Oh my goodness…..I just found out, we were googling some friends. This is truly a shock. If possible can someone please let me know what happen. He was truly a GREAT person. I will continue to keep his children and family in PRAYER.

  13. @Lisa, I don’t have details to share, merely tribute. To be sure, his life was cut unnaturally short.

  14. So Sad to learn of Tae’s passing! I just happened to be Googling some old colleagues and learned of this very sad news. I worked with Tae at TheraSense. His children lived in my area in NY so he often rode along in my territory when he was in town to visit them. He was one of those upper management people who when he called or emailed to ask to spend a day with you, you actually looked forward to it. He was so easy to have riding along for the day. Always great conversation, always a real interest in your business, how he could support it and always asking your honest opinions of the business. A couple things that come to mind when I think of Tae – Sushi/never a meeting in CA without it, laughing, leadership, intuitive businessman, handsome or should I say gorgeous(that lenders Bagel photo makes me laugh and I think Tae would too) as I knew the Tae always all dressed in high end black… Oh how the female endocrinologist and diabetes educators loved it when he was with me for the day! I also think back…when he walked into a room of sales people… everyone, men and woman alike would turn their head, there was just a special presence about Tae, he exuded leadership. To his children I only met you all once on a weekend your Dad was in town to see all of you. It must of been in 2002, he rode with me on a Friday and I ran into all of you on Saturday at the Mall on your way to see a movie. I’d never seen your Dad happier than introducing each one of you. Kellyrose if you haven’t read the book Reviving Ophelia, pick it up sometime and read it as I recall your Dad mentioning he read this book as we discussed raising daughters – I have a daughter also. I haven’t read it but I will in his memory. I am most sad for you and your brothers to have lost your Dad. Hold on to your happy memories of him and with him and know you are of him and he is always with you in your hearts. Tae I am sure you are doing wonderful works in your eternal life, I am saddened that our paths will not cross again in this life but am thankful for having known you during my time at TheraSense.

  15. I have a tinge of sadness every time someone leaves a tribute because I realize they are just finding out about Tae’s untimely passing.

    I’m grateful, on the other hand, there’s a place for people to come and memorialize him here for others to reflect upon.

  16. Denise Labadie Mayor says:

    It is 2011 and I just heard of Tae’s passing. I was attending our 30 yr high school reunion in Oscoda Michigan and after coming home mentioned that he was someone I wanted to see again.
    Tae ran track for our high school team the short time he was there and he was such a wonderful and nice person. He moved away to Bellevue Nebraska shortly thereafter and my family moved there after I graduated in 1980. I didn’t see Tae again but did find out he went to school at Bellevue West and saw his picture at the school. I had posted on Facebook on our reunion page that he was one person that I had wanted to see and another good friend had to tell me that he passed and shared this link with me. I will miss him!

  17. Denise, I hope the post gave you some comfort.

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