Remembering Andrew Blane, an Amnesty icon

October 13, 2019

Andrew with his dear friend, the Nobel prize winning Joseph Brodsky, clowning around at Morton Street where he became a longtime tenant. (Photo: Sharon Woolums)

The Villager (Sharon Woolums) writes about the memorial for Andrew Quarles Blane, who died on 6 September 2019 at the age of 90. The memorial was held on 6 October at Grace Church. A Greenwich Villager since 1965, Andrew quintessentially represented all the best of the Village then and now. Best known for his contribution to Amnesty International (AI), which he joined in 1969, Andrew was one of nine delegates to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for Amnesty in 1977.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, spoke of Andrews’ deep sense of justice, humanity and empathy leading to his contributions for the Human Rights Movement — for the release of Prisoners of Conscience, the abolition of torture and the death penalty. Andrew was elected vice chair of the International Executive Committee (IEC) by the International General Assembly from 1979-1985. Known for his patience, warmth, kindness, generosity and humor, Andrew mentored many young activists. Egeland characterized Andrew as politically liberal and a progressive, but a traditionalist in lifestyle.

Nate Schenkkan, director of Special Research at Freedom House, spoke of Andrew’s involvement at the U.N. Convention against Torture and his reaction to Abu Ghraib: “Torture to him was…an assault on their soul,” Schenkkan said. Saga Blane spoke of her father’s steadfast moral compass, his pure and incorruptible heart, and his idealism which left all who came in contact with feeling seen and valued.

Andrew spent his childhood in Guatemala. His family moved back to their home state of Kentucky, where he graduated from Centre College. In 1950, he enrolled in Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. Billed as a “dynamic lay evangelist” Andrew traveled the South speaking to gatherings of students. He earned a masters degree’s in divinity at Cambridge University in 1957 and a doctorate in Russian history from Duke University.

Andrew’s comprehensive biography came out in 1993. He taught Russian history at the City University of New York until his retirement. David Hawk, former executive director of AI USA in 1974, commented, “Andrew was an enormously gentle but profound intellect and committed advocate.” Out of Morton Street came the birthplace of Amnesty’s U.N. office and the Artist for Amnesty Project. With Southern charm, Andrew opened his pull-out couch welcoming traveling asylum seekers, dissidents and friends. Andrew is survived by his wife of 36 years, Dr. Jaana Rehnstrom, their children, Eliot Blane of Manhattan, Saga Blane/Jake Jeppson of Brooklyn and grandson, Finn Blane Jeppson.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the newly-formed Andrew Blane Memorial Fund for Human Rights Defenders at andrewblane.com.

Remembering Andrew Blane, a Greenwich Villager who earned Nobel Peace Prize

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