Friends, Relatives and Other Ol' Farts

My name is Wes. Because of one simple request to my brother-in-law, I am now a hardcore Grand Canyon Hiker. Even though the "ol fart hikers" claim old age, I consider them just youngsters. For I'm really the "old one", at 67 years old (as of 1998).

I was born and raised on an Iowa farm near Menlo, Iowa. After graduating from High School, I served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War. After my tour of duty, I returned to Iowa, married my high school sweetheart--Brian's Sister. We have two children, Gwen and David. My wife taught school and I farmed. After 25 years, we rented our farm and made our home in Arkansas. We spent our summers working in National Parks, and private campgrounds. Our winters, Gina taught school and I worked in a machine shop. We did this for 7 years before fully retiring. We RV every summer exploring various areas. Our social life revolves around square dancing and hiking.

On one of our trips, we visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I wanted to spend more time there, but how? Gina is not comfortable with changes of elevation while hiking and she did not want me to go hiking alone in the canyon. I mentioned my problem to my brother-in-law Brian and he immediately said he would go with me. Brian and his friend Doug are experienced mountain hikers. Therefore, at the age of 63, Brian and I did our first canyon hike. We started on the North Rim and went down the North Kaibab. We stayed two nights at the Bright Angel Campgrounds. We somehow managed to get meal reservations at the Phantom Ranch. What a joy to eat at the lodge with other hikers. We did a short day hike and relaxed by the Colorado River. We then hiked out the South Kaibab to the South Rim. What a wonderful, challenging experience. Since then Brian, Doug, and I have been to bottom of the canyon 4 times. The last, in 1998, was a 5-night 42-mile trip. I also had the honor of introducing the canyon to my son-in-law, Jon, and Grandson, Allen.

In addition to hiking the Grand Canyon, I spent five nights, 6 days on a raft trip down the Colorado River. I hiked my first 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado with Brian and Doug a few years ago. I also joined Outward Bound for a 7-day rock climbing, hiking school in Big Bend, Texas.

But my main love is The Grand Canyon. It is so large, beautiful, overwhelming and challenging. I will be back for more hiking and rafting.

Usually, our Friends section contains standard bios on friends and relatives who have shared hiking and/or backpacking experiences with us. However in the case of Harley Randolph, Brian's father-in-law who died of cancer in early September 1999, Brian and his family chose to use exerpts from Harley's Memorial Service, adapted from the words said by Jack Pape:

Harley began his life in Hough, Oklahoma on August 28th, 1926. Hough was in the dust bowl of the 30's, and one of the results of the blowing dust was his brother's illness and death. This, coupled with the Great Depression, drove the Randolph family to Michigan in 1932, then to Illinois, where Harley finished high school. Harley joined the Navy in 1944 and, in 1945, married Lois Turner.

In the Navy, Harley served as an electrician on a ship, which transported soldiers to and from Europe. He finished his tour of duty in 1947 and he and Lois moved to Paris, Illinois, where he owned and operated a small neighborhood grocery store. Their first daughter, Diane, was born in 1949. Their second daughter, Cindy, was born in 1955 and, shortly afterward, he sold the store and moved to Colorado Springs, to work for Memorial Gardens Cemetery. (Harley's final remains are now there.) After 3 years in Colorado and the birth of their third daughter, Terri, in 1956, he returned to Illinois in 1958, this time living in Decatur, where he owned and operated a record store and was a self-employed distributor of non-food items for the Independent Grocers' Association

In 1968 the family moved to nearby Normal, Illinois and, for the next 10 years, Harley owned and operated a retail pet supply store and was a wholesale distributor of pet supplies. When he sold those businesses, he and Lois took a year off to travel and, then, moved back to Colorado Springs in 1979. Harley began real-estate school immediately and, after getting his real-estate license, was a realtor for the remainder of his life. He also opened a small retail store in the lobby of the Satellite Hotel in 1997, which he operated until July of this year.

Through the years, Harley tried on a few occasions to work as an employee, but he was never satisfied with that arrangement. By nature he was too independent and too much of an entrepreneur. As a result, he was always busy doing things he enjoyed. In the words of his family, "He loved what he was doing and, so, he was always energetic."

Harley enjoyed life and, at times, he took up different interests and hobbies. He was an avid racket ball player. He also enjoyed golf, billiards, ping-pong, dominos and even scuba diving. He also used his GI bill to get his pilot's licence. He enjoyed flying and once flew the entire family to the Bahamas for a vacation. As a change of pace, a year and a half ago he hiked into the Grand Canyon with one of his sons-in-law and one of his grandsons. In his own words, "He only hiked in; he crawled out!"

Harley was a committed Christian. He grew up in a Christian family and in the church. His dad helped plant a Church of Christ in Paris, Illinois. Harley served as a deacon in the congregation in Decatur, Ill. And he served, first as a deacon, then an elder, in the Church of Christ in Bloomington, Ill. He also filled in as preacher for several congregations in Illinois. If a congregation needed a preacher for a particular weekend, Harley would rent a small plane and fly to there to fill in.

Harley had several attributes we should emulate:

He was very gregarious and hospitable.

When he served the church as an elder, he sometimes spontaneously invited the whole church to the family home. On Sunday evenings, the college cafeteria in Bloomington was not open, and all the college kids who attended the congregation had a standing invitation for dinner. Out of town church groups were also welcomed, and on one occasion, a bus broke down and an entire bus load of visitors ate their meals at the Randolph's home for several days while a mechanic repaired the bus. We need to imitate Harley in this, because this kind of hospitality is almost a lost art.

Secondly, Harley was known for his honesty.

As a businessman, he learned early that honesty was the best policy, and he practiced honesty in all of his business dealings, even if honesty meant losing a potential customer.

Another characteristic in Harley we should emulate was his sense of humor.

The family tells about a time when he was helping with a wedding rehearsal. He was running the sound system, and when it was time for the bride to come down the aisle, Harley played the Baby Elephant Walk. The groom was a lot more amused than the bride was. Those who knew Harley, know that he was always pleasant and that he maintained his sense of humor even when things got tough.

Finally, Harley was a committed father and a faithful husband.

During his severe illness, his main concern was for Lois. For her sake, he always tried to minimize his illness and to give her comfort when the news was bad. Lois summed it up this way, "He had many, many friends. There will never be another Harley."