FORT WORTH — Friends and family remember R.T. “Dick” Andersen as a “fun-loving” county commissioner who played a key role in the 1980s restoration of the historic Tarrant County Courthouse.Mike Moncrief, a former Tarrant County judge who worked with Mr. Andersen, said he had a “deep and abiding love for the community which he served” from 1968 through 1988 as Precinct 1 commissioner.Mr. Andersen died Thursday at his Fort Worth home. He was 85. Restoring the 1895 courthouse became a political hot button when the cost snowballed, Moncrief said.“When we started the project, what began as a $6 million bond issue doubled in cost when we got inside those 7-foot granite walls. It became a bone of contention for some, but Dick and the Commissioners Court felt it was a worthy effort and we pursued it.“I really appreciated Dick’s support and encouragement during a very difficult undertaking that I think everyone agrees has certainly become a point of pride for our community,” said Moncrief, who was county judge from 1975 through 1986.Mr. Andersen’s wife of 62 years, Ava, said he enjoyed his work.“He loved people. He loved being a commissioner,” Ava Andersen said. “He knew everybody, from the courthouse down to the precinct garage.”Mr. Andersen was born Aug. 29, 1928, in Chicago. A Marine veteran, he moved to Fort Worth in 1940 and graduated from TCU in 1951, Ava Andersen said.He was a regional sales manager for Kimberly-Clark in Houston for several years before returning to Fort Worth, where he worked as a contractor and developer before becoming a commissioner, Ava Andersen said.Mr. Andersen was an active outdoorsman who was also proud of his Nordic heritage.“Dick prided himself on being a Norseman. He actually had a Viking helmet that included the horns,” Moncrief recalled with a laugh. “Every year around Christmastime, he would come to an informal meeting of the commissioners before we went into session, and on a few occasions he brought this god-awful concoction that he called the ‘Viking elixir of the gods.’ It was the worst thing I ever put into my mouth.” Other colleagues also recalled Mr. Andersen as a good-humored man with an infectious laugh.“Dick was always a very happy fellow. He enjoyed life. He was a good friend,” said Commissioner J.D. Johnson, who was mentored by Mr. Andersen when he was elected to the Commissioners Court in 1987.Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder said Mr. Andersen was “quite a character.”“He was definitely old-school,” Wilder said. “I enjoyed being down here with him. He really seemed to have the best interests of his commissioner’s district at heart. I know he worked hard at it.”Mr. Andersen, who unseated an incumbent when he was elected in 1968, left office when he was defeated by Dionne Bagsby in 1988.“Dick was an avid fisherman and hunter. When he left office, he did a lot of fishing and hunting in Mexico and Alaska. He and Ava also had a lake house at Lake Granbury. He lived and breathed that place. He loved it,” Johnson said.Other survivors include son Ky Andersen of Fort Worth.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981 Twitter: @stevecamp