He looks out over the open water, takes the pack of cigarettes out of the front pocket of his Hawaiian-printed shirt, and pulls one out. He lights it and raises it to his lips, puffing smoke out towards the sea. He looks satisfied. If you’re ever looking for him, you can almost always find him here, doing this.
His name is Andrew Clayton Pringle, Jr. He goes by Andy. He was born in July of 1927, and today, in 2016, he is sailing around the world on Semester at Sea’s MV World Odyssey, on a voyage to places that, in his 88 years, he has never been. He’s the oldest man on the ship.
Circumnavigating the globe is not something that he ever thought he’d do. He was born and raised in Michigan and to this day has never lived anywhere else. Most of his life has been focused around raising his family and his law practice. He doesn’t consider himself an extraordinary person, just a self-described “pretty regular guy.”
Yet Andy’s life has certainly been far from ordinary. In 1945, at 17 years old, he enlisted in the Navy; he would’ve been drafted into the Army at 18 anyway, and the “Navy seemed so much cleaner”, he said. Towards the end of WWII, he was deployed to the Aleutian Islands, where he worked as a Navy electrician. He served for 18 months, and was discharged in 1946.
Upon returning home—to Michigan, of course—Andy received his BA in History and English from the University of Michigan. By 1955, he would graduate with a law degree from Wayne University in Detroit.
In 1953, he married Jacqueline Mann. They had three children together; two daughters, Catherine and Beverly, and a son, Andrew Clayton Pringle III (who, like his father, chose to go by another name—Clayton). But after 17 years of marriage, the first of several tragedies in Andy’s life struck. Jacqueline died of adrenal cancer at the age of 37.
He didn’t get remarried for five years. He wanted to wait to start dating again until his kids were in college. When he married his second wife, he “adopted” her two children, and raised his second family with the same dedication as the first.
Aside from his family, Andy also gave himself to his law practice. He worked as a government attorney in an adjunct prosecutor’s office for 17 years, before leaving to go into private practice at the age of 41. He has not once regretted it.
“Leaving the government to go into private practice was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I could engage in a wide spectrum of law.”
His practice has allowed him to specialize in many different areas; labor relations, bankruptcy, and commercial collections, to name a few. In later years, he focused primarily on estate planning.
Andy, an obviously hard worker, also considers himself an “optimist to a fault.” He is always accused of looking at the rosy side of things, he said. But this has proved to serve him well.
He lost his son, Clayton, to an accident when he was 22 years old. His second wife died of colon cancer in 2013. But despite three tragic loses over the course of his lifetime, Andy has survived.
“I just kept working because I knew if I did not, I could fall apart,” he said. “I just never stopped.”
And he means it when he says he never stopped. He continued working at his law practice until six months ago, when his daughter, Cathy, a professor, invited him to come on Semester at Sea as a nanny to his 15-year-old granddaughter, Pamela. The voyage is the closest he’s come to retirement.
“It is my intention to retire [when I get home],” he said. “Although I’m not sure that I want to. But it kind of seems silly for me to keep on practicing. So I’m not positive what I’m going to do in the future.”
He loves his practice too much and doesn’t want to let go of it, he said. He probably wouldn’t have stopped practicing anytime soon if he hadn’t accepted his daughter’s offer.
“I would have continued practicing law until physically or mentally unable to do so,” he said. “I’m a creature of habit.”
It is for this very reason that most of his travels have been in his later life, and his children have encouraged all of it. His kids sent him and his wife on a Mediterranean cruise for his seventieth birthday, and he has traveled to Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Scotland with his grown daughters.
He simply never really thought about traveling, just about his family and his work, he said. Usually, he just makes trips to Georgia and Washington D.C. to see his daughters—despite the distance, they are all still very close and he sees them anywhere from four to seven times a year—and places like Asia and Africa are far from the norm.
But in a departure from habit, it only took him five minutes to decide to do SAS with Cathy, his eldest, he said.
“I’ve said to myself, if you’re talking to twenty people, and ask them what they want to do in their life, half of them would say ‘take a trip around the world’,” he said. “This has really been a dream.”
Yet, even as he sails around the world, living the dream at almost ninety years old, Andy, in character, still claims that he’s not exceptional.
“I don’t have a very glamorous life,” he chuckled. “But it’s a hell of a happy one.”