By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – A mentor to young people, Andy Blum invited Cooperstown’s Jacob Russell to lunch at The Brook, the exclusive social club on East 54th Street.
Henry Kissinger walked in. “I thought, ‘Wow, Henry Kissinger’,” said Jacob.
The room was filled with Wall Street bigwigs, including Tom Hill, the Blackstone vice chairman.
“They didn’t go up to Kissinger to kiss his ring,” said Russell. “They went up to Andy to kiss HIS ring.”
Andrew M. Blum, 89, the Wall Street banker, Cooperstown presence and transformative chairman of the Hyde Hall trustees, who died Monday, May 18, at his New York City home, was a man who made friends, many friends in all walks of life.
At one chronological end was Jacob Russell, who, as a junior at CCS, chose to interview Andy for his English class’s “Our Town” essay assignment. The teenager expected a 20-minute pro forma exchange; Blum went on for an hour and 40 minutes, and the two formed a friendship that survives the older man’s passing.
“He was very honest with me, the ups and the downs,” said Russell, a Harvard grad now on the University of Georgia football team’s coaching staff. “He wasn’t afraid to be self-deprecating.”
At the other chronological end was Anne Hyde Clark Logan, the last member of the Clarke family to be born in Hyde Hall; age 86, she passed away in 2010. “He told me about a promise he made to Ann Logan: ‘Andy, I want to make sure Hyde Hall survives’,” said Jon Maney, Hyde Hall executive director.
“And he promised, and he kept that promise,” said Maney. “He was a terrific fundraiser.”
“He was crucial to the financial stabilization of the group,” said Gib Vincent, the former NYSHA president who succeeded Blum as Hyde Hall chairman. “He made friends everywhere; he had a lot friends around the world, and he brought them in to support Hyde Hall.”
Andy Blum’s introduction to Cooperstown some 70 years ago was happenstance.
Their parents away, young Henry S.F. Cooper and his brother Jimmy – and perhaps Folger Oudin Jr., Vincent said – had commandeered Angus, the family’s Model A that sister Susie had painted a Scotch plaid, and headed to Cambridge, Mass., for a spring getaway.
Andy Blum, visiting from Hobart College, spotted Angus on Harvard Square, and engaged the Cooper boys in conversation. He ended up riding back to Cooperstown, and had such a good time, he became a visitor for the rest of his life.
In the 1990s, he and wife Flis finally bought a second home on Main Street, a historic property once owned by John B. Prentiss, the congressman and Freeman’s Journal editor.
Maney and Blum were both Hobart alums, Phi Kappa Tau and Kappa Alpha respectively. Andy played football, “and he would often call me up and talk about how the football team was doing there,” said Maney. “It was not great when he was playing, but he took great pride in the connection.”
Blum’s legendary career on Wall Street spanned over 60 years, his obituary related, during which time he was a friend and mentor to many. (For 20 of those years, he also served in the Navy Reserve.) He was a long-time partner of C.E. Unterberg Towbin Co. and a managing director of NASDAQ. At the time of his death, he was a managing partner of C.L. King & Associates.
Three times, firms Blum was with “went broke; he built himself back up,” said David Russell, Jacob’s father and an investment banker whom Andy recruited to the Hyde Hall board.
When Gregory & Sons dissolved in 1969, Blum was a partner, telling Russell later that he learned a personal lesson in the difference between a corporation and a partnership, where partners share in the liabilities.
“He didn’t declare bankruptcy, he took responsibility for the firm, he paid everybody back,” said Russell. It was a defining accomplishment for many of Andy’s friends, who speak of it with quiet respect.
Friends were also in awe at the loving, 47-year marriage between Blum and his wife Felicia.
Allison Hill-Edgar, the portraitist and neighbor whom Andy also recruited to be a Hyde Hall trustee, called it “a 50-year love affair. They were best of friends. Soulmates. It was really one of the most loving, supportive, fun marriages. As a couple, they were role models.”
Her husband, Keyes, the ViacomCBS COO, added, “They were the best at relationships in general, but especially their own.”
Andy is survived by three children: Marcia Compton, Olivia Brown and Drew Blum, all of Hillsborough, N.C.; eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He also had two stepchildren: Edwin Stebbins and Richard Stebbins.
A private burial is planned in Cooperstown this summer, with a celebration of his life in New York City in the fall.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in his name to Hyde Hall Inc., P.O. Box 721, Cooperstown, NY 13326 or Bassett Hospital, 1 Atwell Road, Cooperstown, NY 13326.
Known for wearing red trousers – the same pair, it’s said, he was wearing when he met Flis – he bore the nickname, “Bear.”
Learning of their friend’s passing: David Russell and wife Nancy dressed a teddy bear in horned rim glasses and other Andy Blum garb and left it on his Main Street porch, where it now adorns the mailbox.
Cooperstown’s Tony Casale, former assemblyman, college vice president and state Liquor Authority chairman, knew Blum through Republican politics.
A couple of years ago, Casale was invited to a symposium on the economy that included national leaders in business, politics and journalism. Larry Kudlow, then host of CNBC’s prime time “Kudlow Report,” now chair of the Trump Administration’s National Economic Council, moderated, and asked attendees around the table to introduce themselves.
When his turn came, Casale mentioned among other things, “I’m from Cooperstown, N.Y.”
“Kudlow stopped everything, and said to me: ‘Do you know Andy Blum?’”
“Andy was bigger than life,” Casale said. “Everybody knew Andy, and Andy knew everybody.”