Adventurer, yoga instructor, activist, wife, mother. Born Dec. 12, 1967, in Toronto; died Sept. 18, 2013, in Washington of pancreatic cancer, aged 45.
Andra Tamburro spent her formative years in Toronto before her family moved to Houston for her father’s work when she was eight. One of two children of Rocco and Charlene Tamburro, Andra spent her summers from childhood on at her family’s island cottage in Temagami, Ont. She loved it there and chose it to be her final resting place.
Her first job after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Texas was teaching English in Japan, where she bonded with a group of about 20 other young North Americans who continue to meet every other year in locations around the world. Almost all of them attended her memorial service in Washington, which was conducted by a group member who had become a Catholic priest.
After going back to Toronto to earn a graduate degree in environmental studies from York University, Andra set off at 25 to seriously explore her passion – the world. She met New Brunswick native Peter Cashion in 1994 in Ottawa while they were training to be fellows with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, she based in India and Peter in Bangladesh. Over the next few years she worked in India and Sri Lanka.
Andra and Peter married in 1999. Although based in Washington, where Peter works for the World Bank, they spent several lengthy stints in the developing world. In every country where she lived, Andra made it a priority to learn the language and embrace the culture. Yet her heart was always in Canada.
She was involved in every community in which she found herself, whether volunteering at her children’s schools or promoting smart growth in Washington. Although a dedicated yogi and admirer of Eastern religions, she relished fighting for a just cause or going toe-to-toe with unscrupulous developers.
She was also determined. When she and Peter moved to Turkey in 2009 with their young sons, they inherited an ancient washer/dryer with no directions or recognizable symbols, Turkish or otherwise. One morning she announced to Peter that she was going to sit in front of the machine for the whole day if needed to figure out how it worked. It took the entire day but she succeeded.
Andra worked for the Clinton Foundation, USAid and consulting firms, but she was most proud of her work heading the WASH-in-Schools Initiative for Water Advocates, which led to more than 1,000 schools in developing countries receiving drinking water, adequate sanitation and basic hygiene training.
As much as she was committed to her professional work, Andra was even more committed to her sons, Garrett and Luke. Their nurturing and upbringing were her priorities.
She bore her illness of nine months with grace. In a recent letter to her husband, her oncologist wrote, “Your wife was a remarkable person, and her illness and death is a stark reminder of how much work we have yet to do. … Her memory will inspire us to redouble our efforts to solve the riddle of this terrible disease. She deserves no less.”
Marie Cashion is Andra’s mother-in-law.