Uncle Randy, by Dick Richardson
Dear Heather, Roderick, and Cassie,
I want to offer my condolences to you on the passing of your father. He was an extraordinary man.
Bob Preyer called me last weekend to say how sad he was to learn about Randy. He told me his earliest memory of Randy was seeing him lifting barbells in the garage at the Beachside Avenue home. Bob recalled, “Randy had great strength.” He added, “He was brave.”
Randy was 18 yrs old and with the US Army in WW II during the invasion of Europe. The only thing I ever heard him say about the war was, “My boots were always wet.” If he had war stories I don’t know anyone who heard them. Born before the depression and in the Army at 18 during WW II is the definition of the “greatest generation.” He certainly qualified for that.
After the war, Randy continued where he left off, famous feats of strength. Christmas Day at grandpa’s house on Beachside Avenue always involved a test of strength. Randy would hang the children by their feet from the 2nd floor bannister. We were to retrieve a handkerchief and attempt a sit-up. Uncle Paul Lambert was stationed below to catch us if we fell (presumably qualified to do so by his experience as a bomber pilot in N. Africa). Randy practiced ‘pretend dropping’ us. Screaming never deterred him.
My father and Randy were close. We have a movie of the family helping Randy launch a dory he built. Fast Fwd: The trailer rolls down Sasco beach, everyone pulling and straining, for the boat is well made and heavy. It glides into Long Island Sound to great excitement, Randy is bailing, the boat sinks anyway. Not to the bottom though, for the planks only needed more time to swell and be tight.
Randy and dad owned sailboats together after the war, one in particular shaped like a torpedo, and designed to be dropped from a helicopter into the English Channel. Who would not want that?
They designed and built our dock on Southport Harbor. Winter and summer they adjusted the heavy chains and thick wires anchored into large rocks ashore, greased the lead pipes so the dock rose and fell with the tides, doing the complicated tuning that was our dock. They designed their own bubbler system to keep the ice from closing around the boat and tied logs to the hull. Up and down the harbor there was no one like Randy and my father. They did their own yard work and drove domestic cars; dressed in dirty khakis visitors thought they were custodians.
Over the ensuing years Randy’s uniqueness reached its full flowering. He was one of the few people of non-Filipino ancestry to adopt the Barong Tagalog for formal occasions and favor a Greek fisherman’s cap for everyday use (thus inventing casual Fridays for the entire work week 30 years before anyone knew of it). Once at Reagan National Airport Randy shoved in between two woman spilled over into three plastic seats and lit his pipe. At a restaurant or in church he would suddenly pull out a 6” tactical knife and pare his nails.
Taking up golf he bought one club with 10 settings, no one else had one. On airplanes when offered a beverage choice he would order “Coffee and a Sanka”. The plane usually landed before this was sorted out. He discovered the best Chinese restaurant in New York up a small alley and it was 6 months before he discovered he came in through the kitchen so they seated him there.
At his Smith Richardson Foundation office on E86th Street he was in his element. He wrote with a pencil and typed his own memos on an antique mechanical typewriter. His one paragraph (often one sentence) cover memos attached to grant recommendations are collectors items. For the SRF board meetings he rented office furniture (metal folding chairs and a table). Lunch was downstairs in the German restaurant. Randy and Heather ordered the pig’s knuckles. When I joined the board Randy gave me one piece of advice, “No big isms.” With Randy it was like having a Bill Buckley in the family. He loved the foundation and those were good times.
Your father was a wonderful man. He was comfortable in his own skin, more so than anyone I knew. That is a lovely quality.
Randy told me my signature “looked like an explosion in a wire factory.” He called me a “rascal.” I smile when I think of him. I’ll miss him.
Best personal regards,