Remarks by Patty Agnew

You’ll be hearing a lot about Randolph Richardson today and his impact on public policy and beyond. But what I want to speak about is Randy’s loyalty, his kindness and his commitment to family.

My mother, Grace, was Randy’s oldest sister. Long after she lost the ability to speak he and Susan for several years made the long trek, often through terrible weather, up to Vermont just to sit by her bed and hold her hand.

This was typical of Randy. In the quiet and in private, he thought about others and more than just words, it was his deeds that set him apart.

When his sister’s granddaughter was facing a really rough transition in her young life, he brought her to his and Susan’s home, and made sure she knew they was there for her – for however long she needed.

When he recognized a thread of alcoholism in the family, whether we imbibed or not, my cousins and I each received a stern letter urging caution.

Randy reflected his father’s belief that the cohesion of a family must be continually encouraged, nurtured and protected in order for it to endure. My mother always lamented “money and power corrupt” but where others might claim the power of leadership for their own benefit, Randy opened his arms and shared.

When he was involved in projects on our different properties in North and South Carolina, Randy went out of his way to include the family. I have fond memories of large groups of us being instructed about the frazier fir and other operations at Bald Mountain and the historic rice levies at Mary’s island. We were encouraged to consider working on projects on our various properties, a throw back to our grandfather’s favorite adage “a family that works together stays together.”

But it was in 1982, when my son, Eli, was diagnosed with the fatal genetic disease of Cystic Fibrosis that Randy really stepped into my life. He was right there for us. Just as his own father had vowed to fight and find a cure for the heart disease which took his father and his brother, Randy vowed to fight this new threat to the family. He gave us hope when we had none. For each year of his tenure as President of Smith Richardson Foundation he earmarked major grants, $500-650,000, for research. He did it with love for Eli and for the family.

We made remarkable inroads. We discovered the defective gene. We had high hopes we were on the road to a cure. The family that had made a fortune from the bronchial ills of millions was now going to pay back by finding a cure for the here-to-for incurable. It was an amazing time, full of promise. SRF was responsible for major research that changed the course of Cystic Fibrosis and incidentally several other diseases. When he left the foundation, he continued his commitment via the fledgling Randolph Foundation and other trusts.

But it was those years of consistent major gifts under Randy’s watch that really launched The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation into one of the most successful research organization for small population diseases of all time. We didn’t quite get to the end prize of a cure, but we got to a big part of the research that extended Eli’s life significantly and for this I will always be grateful to him.

So that’s about all I have to say other than now when I think of Randy I have to laugh.

  • I see him on one of our good Montana cow horses – taking off in a gallop with a huge grin on his face (and I’m thinking OMG I just killed Uncle Randy)
  • I see him and Susan floating down the Gallatin River in inner tubes and he’s wearing a beautiful pair of wingtip shoes – big smile.
  • I see them arriving at a family meeting event on a motor bike, Randy in a jaunty bow tie and Susan on the back in a lovely dress. They had a lot of fun!

What a good guy. What a character. I’ll miss him.