|Middletown, RI||June 23, 2016|
Berkeley Memorial Cemetery in Middletown, Rhode Island, is the final resting place of actress and philanthropist Andra Akers. While her father, Anthony B. Akers, served as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand during President John F. Kennedy’s administration, Andra studied at Victoria University of Wellingston. She later transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and double-majored in theater and political science. Akers made her first feature film appearance in 1968’s Murder a la Mod, the directorial debut of Brian De Palma. Her onstage performance as Countess Charlotte Malcolm during the 1974 run of Stephen Sondheim’s play A Little Night Music brought her an award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the tall blonde took on supporting roles in movies and one-off parts on various television shows. Her Hollywood credits include Charlie’s Angels, Taxi, Dallas, Hart to Hart, The Dukes of Hazzard, Desert Hearts, Nothing in Common, and Moonlighting. Akers’s most consistent TV role was as Christine Addams on the daily syndicated program Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Between November 1976 and January 1977 she appeared — often uncredited — in 21 episodes of the parodic soap opera.
In the 1980s, Akers focused her efforts more on philanthropic activities. Per her obituary, published in the Los Angeles Times, it was during her years in California that “she began an intense period of study of various scientific disciplines, mathematics, epistemology, systems theory, metaphysics, environmental issues and global politics.” In January 1985 she founded International Synergy Institute (IS), described as “a non-profit educational foundation that was an interdisciplinary think tank for 21st Century ideas.” The organization’s statement of purpose professed that IS was a means to facilitate “a merging of the abstract conceptual realms of scientists with the dynamic, expressive forms of artists.” Akers further elucidated, “I wanted to create a place where visionaries in different professions could meet and inherit each others’ knowledge in the light of planetary concerns.” She contributed to the founding of additional organizations, such as the Mae-Tao Clinic on the border of Thailand and Burma (renamed as Myanmar shortly thereafter). The clinic was created to treat refugees injured during the 8888 Uprising of 1988. She also served on the advisory board of the Institute for Penal Reform and Social Change in Budapest, Hungary. Akers was working on multiple books when she died unexpectedly in 2002 at age 58. Her white marble headstone has a star carved above its inscription, encircled by intertwined boughs.
Andra Akers (front row, left) is buried with a handful of family members. When facing the front of her tombstone, the marker to its immediate right belongs to her father, Ambassador Anthony B. Akers. To the right of that is the gravestone of Andra’s mother, Jane Pope Akers Ridgway. Directly behind the ambassador is the grave of his father-in-law — and Andra’s grandfather — architect John Russell Pope. Akers’s obituary proclaims she was also a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer William Ellery. My own research brought me to the conclusion that she was not a direct descendant of the continental congressman, although I cannot verify or disprove that they were distant relatives. Ellery is also the first name of Akers’s younger sister, an award-winning writer and artist.
Born: September 16, 1943 in New York, New York
Died: March 20, 2002 in Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death: Surgical Complications
Interment: Berkeley Memorial Cemetery, Middletown, Rhode Island
“The Disney studios called about a lecture series we’re setting up. An architect came in asking about building playgrounds that reflect new cultural values. A systems theorist called to invite us to an international conference on evolution in Italy. And a woman who writes about post-feminist issues called to say her new book on ‘partnership societies’ will be out next spring.”
- Andra Akers
1986, relaying details of her first hour of work during a morning at the non-profit International Synergy Institute in Los Angeles, California
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Elleryakers.com. “About Ellery Akers.” Accessed October 6, 2022. https://elleryakers.com/.
IMDb. “Andra Akers (1943-2002).” Accessed October 6, 2022. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0015199/.
Legacy. “Andra Akers Obituary.” Los Angeles Times. April 7, 2002. https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/latimes/name/andra-akers-obituary?id=28136737.
Variety Staff. “Andra Akers, Actress-Philanthropist.” Variety. April 15, 2002. https://variety.com/2002/scene/people-news/andra-akers-1117865471/.
Zweig, Connie. “Artists, Scientists Collaborate on Vision of Future.” Los Angeles Times. November 26, 1986. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-11-26-vw-15492-story.html.