Radio host, civic leader Andy Driscoll dies at age 74
By Amy Carlson Gustafson, Pioneer Press
For years, radio host and citizen activist Andy Driscoll passionately voiced ideas and discussed topics on his KFAI public affairs show, "TruthToTell."
His voice was silenced this weekend. For years, Driscoll had lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, but in the past 10 months, his health had declined significantly. In September, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and in March, he suffered a series of small strokes. He died Sunday at age74 at United Hospital in St. Paul.
"He did everything from the heart," said his wife of 27 years, Cynthia Crist, who said Driscoll was an amazing husband and loving father and grandfather. "It was the thing that could make him the most wonderful and the most frustrating person. He was so passionate about everything from the minute he woke up in the morning."
Driscoll graduated from St. Paul Central High School and earned degrees from Brown Institute, the University of Minnesota and Metropolitan State University. Over the years, he took on a variety of roles, including civic leader, community activist, journalist, producer and actor. For a decade, he lived in Detroit, where he was politically active and involved in public media, before moving back to St. Paul in the late 1970s. The producer of various TV projects, Driscoll won a Columbia DuPont Award for his KTCA documentary, "Power Play."
He also wrote for the Highland Villager for many years and served on a variety of public boards and committees, including the St. Paul Human Rights Commission, St. Paul City Charter Commission and West Seventh Center board. He ran for the St. Paul City Council, Ward 2, in 1993 and 1997.
"He was not afraid of labels -- liberal or progressive -- at all," said Crist, who first met Driscoll on Election Night 1980 at a victory party for the late U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento.
Brian Driscoll said his father was always an engaging presence and challenged people to take a hard look at society, especially the disenfranchised.
"He was always taking folks to task," Brian Driscoll said.
In 2006, Driscoll created the weekly radio show "TruthToTell" (a production of CivicMedia/Minnesota, a nonprofit public affairs content and civic literacy organization he founded), where he covered local public affairs issues from health care reform to the criminal justice system. Retired Metropolitan State University professor and "TruthToTell" co-host Tom O'Connell said his friend was committed to his beliefs and wasn't afraid to pick a fight once in a while.
"He was a bigger-than-life character; he was really passionate and a great storyteller," O'Connell said. "We did a lot of meeting in St. Paul coffee shops, and there's nowhere you'd go in St. Paul without people knowing Andy. He just knew a lot of people; he embraced a lot of people. His family was among the pioneer settlers of St. Paul -- the Driscolls and the O'Briens. They were pretty prominent people in the development of the city. He loved the city and loved that history. One thing that he was hoping to get around to was writing about St. Paul history through the history of his family."
O'Connell said that with Driscoll's death, St. Paul has lost a "passionate voice for justice."
"He just had a passion for civic involvement and for people understanding how government works and getting involved in local government," O'Connell said. "He did that in a number of ways through boards, commissions, neighborhood groups, running for office. St. Paul has lost one of its most dedicated citizens."
Driscoll is survived by his wife, Cynthia Crist; children Brian (Vanessa), Amy (Dale Williams) and Molly, and their mother, Nancy; grandchildren, Madeline and Christopher; siblings Michael (Leah), Susan, Sara and Kevin (Linda). A celebration of Driscoll's life is planned for Aug. 31 with details to be announced via a Facebook event page, A Celebration of Andy Driscoll
We are CivicMedia/Minnesota, a local nonprofit created to bring media literacy and civic literacy through information, education and empowerment of residents and student in local, state and regional public affairs. Our main purpose is to engage citizens and students in understanding issues of governance and public policy, critiquing media coverage of critical policy matters, encouraging public discourse and taking collective action to resolve problems and influencing public policy.
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