Contact Form

    News Details

    Veteran, businessman Mike Andersen remembered for commitment to service
    • October 19, 2023

    By Jessica Benda

    Contributing Writer

    Friends remember Mike Andersen as quick to help — and quicker to dodge the credit.

    The U.S. Army veteran and owner of north Orange County-based HVAC company Veteran Air died on Oct. 3 at age 40. He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and their six children.

    Now, his community is detailing a legacy marked by service. From delivering free holiday hams to truckloads of shovels during a snowstorm, Andersen’s commitment to helping others was steadfast.

    Andersen’s knack for the HVAC business stemmed from his father, Rick, who ran Denny’s Air. Under his father’s guidance, Andersen learned the ropes from a young age, but he took a hiatus when he found a calling in his country. He joined the U.S. Army in 2001, spurring four years of service and deployment to Iraq. When he returned, he wanted to start something of his own: Veteran Air.

    To him, it was more than a company, it was an opportunity to help his neighbors. Carolina Velez, Veteran Air’s brand ambassador since 2021, said she recognized his commitment to community from the moment she started.

    “When I first met Mike, he told me that he had this passion, this duty, this responsibility to take care of our community,” Velez recalled. “Whether or not he knew the people, whether or not they were doing business with his company, he felt a responsibility to care for those members, especially those members in need.”

    In 2021, U.S. Army veteran Mike Andersen, right, speaks during a 9/11 ceremony held at A Field of Honor in Anaheim. Anderson, an Army veteran and owner of Veteran Air in Anaheim died on Oct. 3 at age 40. He is being remembered in his community for is philanthropy. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Many know Andersen from his holiday donations, in which he annually bought hundreds of hams and turkeys from local businesses. A couple days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, he and his team would set up a tent and invite anyone in need to come pick one up. Last year, Velez said it almost fell through, but Andersen managed a last-minute save.

    “Till this day, I have no idea how he managed to pull that off,” Velez said of his quick thinking. “But it was just one of those events that he believed needed to happen, because so many families were counting on it.”

    His compassion extended toward fellow businesses, as well, especially during the economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

    John Kalil, owner of advertising magazine OC Local, wasn’t sure if they would mail the magazine due to so many client closures, so he said he asked if Andersen would want to run a cover of Veteran Air with an encouraging community message. Andersen didn’t stop there — he went to every restaurant featured in the magazine and bought at least $250 worth of gift cards from each. He passed them out to his customers and community at no charge.

    That same year, Elizabeth Frazier posted on Facebook that she was hosting a Thanksgiving drive-thru at her Villa Park home for people needing a dinner, and a stranger reached out to ask how he could help. (No surprise, it was Andersen.) The tradition has continued ever since.

    “Every single year, he would reach out and ask me for a shopping list and buy hundreds of dollars of food, if not thousands of dollars of food. Last year, we fed 400 people,” Frazier said. “He didn’t ask for anything in return. He almost didn’t want thanks. Because he’s just like, ‘This is what we do for each other. We show up.’”

    Nonprofit founder Cindy Furton De Mint recalled Andersen being proactive when it came to getting involved. She started Brothers on a Quest to raise awareness for ataxia, a condition three out of her sons have. She recalled how Andersen not only showed up to her foundation’s events, but was always a platinum sponsor of the National Ataxia Foundation’s annual walk.

    “Mike always made sure that besides money, that the team came. We had a table, he’d bring one of his cool trucks that the kids would climb in and out of. He was completely hands on,” De Mint said. “Everything he did was a labor of love.”

    Community members recall Andersen as a proud veteran who never passed up an opportunity to support his own. Often sporting combat boots and military pants, Andersen’s military origins were heard through every “No, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.”

    Mike Andersen, fifth from right in the large hat, at the dedication ceremony for the Prado Dam Bicentennial Mural near Corona on Friday, June 2, 2023. Andersen and his Veteran Air gave a key donation. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    It seemed almost inevitable that he’d get involved with the Prado Dam mural restoration – painted in 1976 by high school students commemorating 200 years of freedom, the mural had significantly degraded. Andersen donated $40,000 toward the painting effort completed earlier this year after consulting with his Veteran Air team.

    A tight-knit team at Veteran Air was a priority, coworkers said. It had to be with its numerous “operations,” which required plenty of coordination and teamwork.

    One of his biggest endeavors was Operation Water Drop, which Andersen launched during Texas’ historic freeze in 2021. When Andersen read about the power crisis, he organized a group to pack up heaps of supplies and made the road trip to deliver it all. Touched by the connections he made, he made a joke on the drive home about starting Veteran Air Texas.

    Sure enough, they opened a branch a few months later.

    “He really saw his team as family,” Velez said. “Everyone looks out for each other, and Mike is what allowed our team members to become that way, because he led by example.”

    Veteran Air announced Andersen’s passing on Facebook, which was quickly flooded with stories of his good deeds and positive impact.

    “I never spoke to anybody that had a bad thing to say about him,” Frazier said. “Just being around Mike made you want to be a better human, and I saw that with all his workers and all the people that he was surrounded with.”

    Related Articles

    Local News |

    Burt Young dies at 83; Oscar-nominated actor played Paulie in ‘Rocky’ films

    Local News |

    Piper Laurie, cruel mom in ‘Carrie,’ dies at age 91

    Local News |

    Food Network chef Michael Chiarello dies after allergic reaction

    Local News |

    Terry Kirkman, 83, whose band the Association was a 1960s hit machine, dies at home in Montclair

    ​ Orange County Register