Carol Steele Letter To Ilion High School
April 26, 1996
Randall W. Steele (Randy)
November 30, 1956 - July 27, 1995
Randy was born on November 30, 1956, in Herkimer, New York. He was the first child of Bill and Carol (Marriot) Steele. Randy grew up in Ilion, New York with his sister Tami and brother, Alan. He graduated from Ilion High School in 1974 and Hobart-William Smith College, in Geneva, New York, class of 1978.
Randy had a fun, carefree childhood in a typical small town in central New York. Ilion is the home of the Remington Arms Company, the maker of the Remington Rifle. Randy loved history and geography. Each city where he lived, he always knew its history and the current events and politics concerning it. Randy was a hard working honor student with a great love of music. He played the clarinet and saxophone in the school band and orchestra. He continued with his music through college and into his adult life, participating in church and civic bands. Randy was a great dancer. He learned to jitterbug with his Mom and was always in demand as a partner.
Randy played volleyball and was on the golf team in high school. He was not a true competitor, but strove to do his best. He always made his Mom and Dad proud of him. We used to tell him that he would be our millionaire and take care of us in our old age. He would have too. He had a great job and had learned to invest his money. He left his estate to his father and I in hopes that we could retire soon.
Randy had a Bachelor of Science Degree and pursued a career in environmental and safety engineering. At the time of his death he was employed in Los Angeles, California by the Reliance Insurance Company as a large accounts Divisional Regional Manager in Loss Control. Randy had started his career with Reliance in Dallas, Texas in 1980. He moved to different companies throughout the years, settling for 6 six years with CNA Insurance in Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. Upon receiving a nice promotion he once again joined Reliance in 1991. Randy had many friends among his business associates and had received a large number of accolades from his employers. We were surprised and pleased with the number of people from both CNA Insurance Company and Reliance Insurance Company who attended his memorial service in Los Angeles. I have enclosed a program from the memorial. It was a beautiful ceremony and we really appreciated those who planned it.
Randy was a courageous, compassionate, friendly and sensitive person. He never shied away from a job and always attended to finishing details.
Our family was only made aware of Randy's illness on June 2, 1995, giving us less than 2 months with him. How he ever kept it from us, the way he did, was unbelievable. From what we have learned, he was diagnosed with the virus, in March of 1994. In April that year, his father and I enjoyed a wonderful week with him in Las Vegas. We had no idea of his illness. The last time he was home was October 1994, for his high school reunion. He also visited his college with a friend and enjoyed the reminiscing. We never dreamed it would be his last time here and the last time we would see him looking normal. I talked with him at least once a week on the phone and he never let on to me. In hindsight, I think of things I might have picked up on, but didn't. Randy had many friends, in Los Angeles, who helped and cared for him during this time. He made sure we had Christmas and birthday gifts, as he was always so generous. His Mothers Day gift to me was a $150.00 check, so I could buy a walk fit machine. He was in the hospital at the time and his friend, Cindy, wrote the check and he signed it. Cindy Graves was a college friend who loved and supported Randy. She made two trips from Syracuse, New York to Los Angeles to be sure he was receiving good care.
In March of 1995, Randy's father had a heart attack and triple by-pass surgery. This contributed to Randy's not letting us know he was sick. Randy entered Hollywood Community Hospital on May 5, 1995, suffering with K.S. The lower half of his body was ravished with cancer and swollen beyond imagination. His left leg was crippled at the knee and he could not walk. Randy had wonderful care at the hospital, by Dr. Emanual Lim and all associated with it. When we arrived in Los Angeles, on June 9th, we were shocked at the sight of Randy and the weight he had lost. I can't even begin to explain what an awful feeling it was, to see our beautiful, handsome, wonderful son so ill. We were with him for a week and set him up in his own apartment, with nursing care and felt he was going to get better. His prognosis was a year, to a year and a half. It certainly wasn't that way. We wanted to bring Randy home with us, but he felt his care was better in Los Angeles and his adult friends and life were there. By the middle of July, we returned to Los Angeles, along with Randy's brother, Alan and wife Susie, his sister, Tami, and his life long friend Christopher McGrath.
Randy was so happy to see everyone - he knew his time was short - he was so brave in death, it twists my heart to think of it. I hope God lets me be nearly as brave and strong. We were with Randy when he passed away, on July 27th. I feel Randy had an ugly, horrible death and I pray God has taken him right to heaven, as he certainly deserves it.
We have Randy's, 13 year old cat "Tech" living with us. She is wonderful company and a part of Randy. Randy's father never liked cats, but Tech has won him over and even sleeps with him. I am sure Randy is having a good chuckle over it.
Chris McGrath, Randy's friend whom I mentioned before, is a funeral director. He took wonderful care of Randy and all the arrangements. We were able to have an open casket and Randy looked nearly as he had, when he was well. Randy's funeral took place August 4, 1995, at the Annunciation Church, in Ilion, New York, and he was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery, Herkimer, New York, next to his loving grandparents, Carl and Irma Marriott. There will be a stone placed there, this spring, for Randy and his parents, who will someday be with him again.
While Randy was ill, he asked me to make him an AIDS panel. He thought his friend Cindy could sew, as he knew I didn't, but I could direct (his words), while Cindy sewed. Cindy does not sew, but I can direct. There was an AIDS Quilt display, in October 1995, at SUNY Tech in Utica, New York. It was too soon for me to have a quilt for Randy, but we had two bus-loads of students from Ilion High School, Randy's high school, and where I work. Also a bus-load from Herkimer High, a neighboring town where Randy's brother, Alan, is a physical education teacher. It was an eye opener for all that attended. We are a small community and had very few known cases of AIDS here.
Our family and friends wore red AIDS ribbons, at Randy's funeral, and our acknowledging his illness, and our love for him, has helped open up the awareness of AIDS here.
I purchased the material for Randy's quilt right after Christmas, but I could not begin it, other than to have some ideas written down. In January 1996 the "Teen AIDS Task Force", a group at Ilion High School, advised by their health teacher, Ms. Karen Anderson, was given the okay to have a Quilt display at school, on March 14, 1996. The students asked me if they could make a guilt for Randy. I was so thrilled with the idea and offered them the material and my ideas. The students designed the panel and many offered to sew - one person in particular was a "master quilter". She sewed Randy's quilt and did more than a beautiful job. ... We can never thank her enough.
The design of the quilt was born of his love of Christmas and the trimming of the tree. The star at the top contains a picture of Randy hanging a crystal ornament that his friend Peter gave to him. The other ornaments have pictures of Randy holding his two nieces, Carly and Jocelyn, one of his cat, Tech, who may also be seen peeking around the tree trunk, the family together on a Christmas Day and a picture of his Mom and Dad. There is a sun for his love of said S-U-N and a heart because he was a loving S-O-N. The Jack-O-Lantern is there because he enjoyed Halloween and the fun of masquerading. The saxophone is for the love of his music and the clasping handshake portrays his feeling of brotherhood to men of all races and creeds. The gifts from his family beneath the tree, along with his favorite Teddy Bear represent the cities where he lived during his too short 38 years.
Randy loved his family and he is greatly loved and missed more than words can every say.
I am having a difficult time writing this. I want to tell about Randy, yet I can't write fast enough or well enough, to tell all I want to, about him. It is breaking my heart and it's hardly real. I love him so very much.
Enclosed is a check to the Names Project Foundation, in appreciation and acknowledgement of the Ilion High School Teen AIDS Task Force, Ms. Karen Anderson, Mrs. Nancy Anderson, and the following: Valerie Dye, Sandra Dye, Miranda Dove, Nan Duga, Amy Williams, Christina Korba, Carolyn DeJohn, Brooke Selby, Carly and Jocelyn Edick (8 and 5 year old nieces of Randy), Tami Edick (Randy's sister), C. J. Steele (Mom), Jean Sullivan, Barb Dye, Debra Barnum, Donna Steele (Aunt), Michelle Lamanna, Jessica Steele and Catherine Zaccaria, the quilt makers.
The Quilt display at Ilion High School was well received by the students, faculty and the community. It was a sobering experience for a student body of 965 (grades 7-12). The students presented a moving opening ceremony, with four large panels on display, and the high school special choir singing.
The quilt was on display throughout the day, with the name signing quilt overflowing. Many parents and community people attended after school and the closing ceremony.
Randy's panel was dedicated at this time. Choruses from the two Ilion grade schools sang and a profile about Randy was read.
We all pray this experience has opened some eyes about the horrors of HIV-AIDS virus and its devastating impact on even a small town, ordinary family. We must educate people about the disease and work to eradicate it.
Carol Jane Steele
April 26, 1996