Meet the Van Fleets

In part two of the Vanfleature, Andy shares his passion for flames, fishing, and family. Taken from the January 2019 edition of Hi-Spots.


Photo by Shauna Kay provided courtesy of the Van Fleet family.

Meet the Van Fleets: Kaylin, Madri, Alexis, Andy and Brooklyn.

By Olivia Niemi and Katelyn Wilhoit

     Andrew Stanley Van Fleet loves a good fire. “When he is unsupervised, Andy lights small fires around the yard,” his wife Madri Van Fleet said. 

     It’s all in the name of killing weeds. On one occasion, Andy accidentally caught the hose on fire and lit a bamboo plant up into flames. “[After catching things on fire] he just casually goes and gets the hose out very calmly,” Madri said. Except for that time he set it on fire too. “I tell him he’s not allowed to burn weeds unsupervised because [when] he turns around and walks the other direction; he doesn’t realize he started a fire in the yard [behind him].” 

     Along with personally burning the weeds, he also lets his kids use the blow torch. “He’s not very conscious of safety,” Madri laughed. “There is a little bit of a theme, right?” 

     Madri first met Andy at a fraternity party at Oregon State University when she was a freshman and he was a senior. “I happened to go over there with a friend and I think when we met, I somehow gave my number and he called me a few days later,” Madri said. 

     What caught Madri’s eye the most was how he really liked to have fun. “He was the life of the party,” Madri said. 

     Soon Andy graduated and Madri still had three more years at OSU. Even with the distance, they dated throughout the rest of Madri’s time at college. One weekend, Andy took Madri to Clear Lake, and as they were out on a rowboat fishing on a very cold day, he secretly tied an engagement ring onto the end of his fishing line and cast it into the water. “I had swim goggles just in case it fell off and had all sorts of fluorescent stuff tied onto it,” Andy said.

     He made up an excuse to have her take the line with the ring on it, and he was hoping after all his hints she would reel in the line quickly. After the ring had been out in the water about 30 minutes, she finally reeled in it revealing at first the fluorescent ball of yarn. Needless to say, she was confused about what she had just pulled from the lake. Luckily for Andy, not only did the ring stay on the line, but nature had also decided to add a little romantic drama to the scene. “I swear at that moment in time it was super cold and dark, then the skies were parting, rays of light were shining down,” Andy said. “It hit this ring and the diamond and she realized what it was and just started bawling.” He got down on one knee in the unsteady boat and proposed. 

     After the wedding, the newlywed Van fleets’ honeymooned in Maui, Hawaii. “One of the most vivid pieces that stands out is the horseback ride we went on,” Andy said. “I think my horse had some gas problems, and my wife had to follow [behind] with her horse,” Andy said. 

     The spring after Andy graduated from college, he went on a backpacking trip through Europe with three of his closest friends from college. “We went to London, France, Spain, Italy, Greece…” Andy said.

     Once back from Europe, one of Andy’s friends had set him up with a summer job at Intel in the fabrictions unit. “I dressed up basically as a stormtrooper,” Andy said. “You had to go through a series of decontaminating booths where you put on like two different layers to keep the dust and debris particles out of the air.”

     When he got all dressed up to go into the clean room, Andy handled Intel’s pentium processing chips, moving them throughout the fabrication unit. “It just boggles my mind [that] I was holding million-dollar equipment,” Andy said. 

     Andy got his first teaching job at Southridge High School in 2002, where he had done his student teaching. Then, once Madri graduated from college, she moved up to join him. “I moved up to Beaverton after [graduating] and he was teaching at Southridge and I was teaching at Northwest Nannies Institute,” Madri said. 

     While living together in Beaverton, Andy and Madri were able to buy their first house and start a family. After eight years of living in Beaverton, the Van Fleets moved to Eugene where both Andy and Madri worked at Willamette High School. Andy as Vice Principal and Madri as the child development teacher 

     The Van Fleet family ended up moving back to the Metro area from Eugene in 2014 when Andy became the associate principal for Tigard High for a year. During his first year at Tigard as the associate principal, Andy mainly handled all the discipline. “Detentions, corrective conversations, that was all I did,” Andy said. “It was a roller coaster because you learn a heck of a lot about the students in a disciplinary role.” 

    “[When] the administrator was retiring, it was either I apply for [his] job or they have two brand new administrators come in and may go a different direction with the school,” Andy said. 

     As the principal, his favorite thing of all is getting to see kids graduate high school and pursue their new paths. “For me getting to be on that stage and seeing the hard work pay off, I would say each year that is the most memorable and impactful night from the 180 school days a year,” Andy said. “It’s just incredibly rewarding to watch them cross that stage and really become adults.”

     Although being a principal comes with many interesting jobs, one task Andy never thought he would have to do is wade through sewage. “There were sewage backups [in the locker rooms making] the sewage come out of the drains piling up a half inch thick,” Andy said. “I knew we needed to get the bags out for tennis and softball, so I waded through it to grab the bags for the kids to get on the buses and get to their game.”

     According to Andy, this incident was even more terrible than the pickle slushie during the back to school assembly. “Worse than the slushie, I promise,” Andy said. 

     If part of being a good dad is embarrassing your kids then Andy is a great father. “He likes to embarrass the kids in front of their friends,” Madri said. “Especially our oldest daughter [Kaylin] who’s 12, so she gets a little more embarrassed. He likes that the most.” 

     Madri explained how a couple’s priorities change after they have children.  “You put your child first, start doing things as a family, hanging out with other people who have kids,” Madri said.

     Many of the Van Fleets’ Saturdays are spent out at sporting events for the girls; the days are filled with volleyball, basketball, and soccer.

     Alexis’s favorite activity to do with her dad is to go on a bike ride to get a donut on Saturday mornings. “She’s yanking me out of bed and I’ve got one of those little latch-on bikes, so I bike her down to the donut store,” Andy said. 

     Brooklyn’s favorite memory with her father was when they went on a camping trip; they were out fishing for four nights and four mornings in a row. Brooklyn was determined to catch a fish but no one on the lake was having any luck at all. On the last night, after getting no fish, they cast out for the last time just as the sun was going down. She was a bit upset because no one had caught anything, but once she started reeling in she saw a massive rainbow trout on the end of her line. “She out-fished her dad, she out-fished her friends,” Andy said. “This was a proud moment as a parent; I was almost in tears because of the joy she had in catching it.” 

     Kaylin’s favorite thing to do with her dad is a little different. “[I like to] win arguments with him,” Kaylin said. Her dad doesn’t agree. “That can’t be her favorite because that never happens,” Andy said. “She’s just a turkey.”