The young man behind the name of Andy’s Way

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 5:00pm

My brother Andy and I grew up sharing a cottage called the “Bungalow,” built by our grandfather, populated with three sets of additional cousins and located where cousin Champ Starr’s house now stands.

For kids, it was heaven. Close to the State Beach, Payne’s Dock, the very spooky old Hygeia House and various other fascinating spots. In addition, there were many trips to what is now called “Andy’s Beach.” At the time the area was referred to as the Cannon Lot. Tradition held that it was called that because a pirate captain gave the town a cannon that was mounted on the knoll above the beach. It was, and is still, a great spot for clamming and small boat activities. Andy even had a lobster boat, pots, very smelly bait and a lobster “car” (for lobster storage), in the area.

In the 1960s, our parents bought another nearby knoll and built their own cottage on Skippers Island Road. The road name originated, prior to the opening of the gap, when part of the area was a small island.

By 1971, Andy and I were both working for the Motts. I was a waitress at the Narragansett Inn and Andy did lawn maintenance which mostly involved trimming the long hedges at both The Spring House and Narragansett Inn.

In August 1971, Andy and one of our cousins were involved in a one vehicle crash at the corner of Corn Neck Road and Beach Avenue. Andy was ejected from the car and died before reaching Westerly Hospital.

Needless to say, my family was devastated. It soon ocurred to my parents that they wanted to find a way to remember and honor Andy’s short life. My dad, Al Starr, had long handled property transactions on the island and was serving as Town Attorney, a post he held until 1980. Mom and Dad were both involved in many town committees, including the Committee for the Great Salt Pond and the Block Island Conservancy. It was a major concern for them, and many other people, that beautiful island properties were beginning to be sold to “off Islanders” and access to the water, all around the Island, was becoming more and more limited.

They approached the owners of the “Cannon Lot” and offered to buy a 75-foot wide strip of the land from Corn Neck Road to the beach. The settled-on purchase price, $75,000, was quite high, for the time, but well worth the effort to preserve beach access for posterity.

Over the years, it has continued to be one of the few roads that allow free access to the pond, and a favorite spot for small boats, clamming and generations of families that want a quiet, safe spot to spend beach time.

It would be wonderful if there could be some way, perhaps a plaque or sign, to remind visitors of the above events. Sadly, we are discovering that few people now know the origin of the name “Andy’s Way.”

Editors Note: The Block Island Times reached out to Sven Risom, President of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, to ask about the idea of placing signage honoring Andy Starr at Andy’s Way.

“I think that it is important for the island to maintain and retain our history, especially in times of change, in that in only 50 years a lot of people probably don’t know about the name Andy Starr. The more we can remember these historical moments, in terms of giving the land to the town in honor of Andy, the better. The Committee for the Great Salt Pond is really focused on supporting beach access and the health of the Great Salt Pond, and in that way Andy’s Way is very important. The CGSP is going to give a significant amount of money to go toward the recently-announced Department of Environmental Management grant for upkeep at Andy’s Way and the CGSP also wants to retain the memories of Andy Starr and his family. We will work with the town to ensure there is a story about Andy there.”