Remembering Randy Rust
This past weekend, I received the sad news that Randy Rust passed away. Many of you will recognize his name, but those of you who donít will recognize his work. Randy was a talented artist and an integral part of the Berryville mural restoration project. Thatís actually how I met him five years ago.
Randy was one of the first people I contacted while working on a story about the project. We talked over the phone about his artistry and what drew him to the project. He described the logistics behind putting up a mural, a much more complex process than I expected. Even while describing the nuts and bolts of the project, Randyís passion and good humor shined through.
So you can imagine my surprise when I started working with Melody Rust a year later and learned that Randy was her dad. Melody and I became fast friends, spending time together outside of work at the river, on the porch and everywhere in between. Iíll never forget our time at White Street Walk in 2016 when she spotted Randy in the crowd. She ran up to give him a hug and gestured toward me.
ďThis is my friend Samantha,Ē Melody said. ďSheís cool.Ē
Randy said we were already acquainted and, to my surprise, gave me a hug as big as the one he and Melody shared. Thatís one thing Iíll never forget about Randy: He was a hugger, and he was dang good at it. As I write this, I am sad knowing Iíll never experience one of those hugs again. Randy knew exactly how to make you feel welcome.
Like all of her loved ones, I was lost when Melody died in 2017. I didnít know what to do with myself. The disbelief and grief were overwhelming. Not only did I lose one of my very best friends, I felt like I was losing an entire group of people that meant so much to me. Randy and Barb, Melodyís mom, invited me to speak at Melodyís celebration of life. Thatís when I realized that those connections were still there. I was still welcome.
Over the past three years, Gideon and I have been welcome at many Rust family celebrations. Weíve spent so much time with them at the river that it all starts to blend in together. The one constant through it all is Randyís generous spirit. He would always welcome us with a hug and take the time to check in on us.
Sometimes, people ask how youíre doing but they donít really care about what you have to say. Itís just social etiquette, sort of like nodding at an acquaintance at the grocery store. But when Randy asked how you were doing, he really wanted to know how you were doing. He listened and asked follow-up questions. He was present throughout the entire conversation.
We havenít seen Randy or Barb much this past year because of the pandemic, but we have kept up with their son Jeremy and daughter Crystal. In fact, Gideon and I regularly have dinner at Jeremyís house, which he shares with his girlfriend and my best friend Stephanie. When they told us that Randy was sick, it felt like a kick to the stomach. It just didnít seem fair that these wonderful people who are so kind and welcoming to everyone have experienced such grief in such a short period of time.
Reflecting on Randyís passing, I can confidently say it isnít fair. If sheer will and determination could sustain life, Randy would still be with us today. Barb would still have her husband, and Crystal, Brook and Jeremy would still have their dad. But thatís not how life works. We live and we die, and we hope to make the very best of everything that happens in between.
I think itís safe to say Randy did that. He lived a full, vibrant life on his own terms. He shared his creativity with everyone who knew him, and even some folks whom he never met. Along with Barb, he raised four amazing children who have made their own mark on the world.
Thatís how Randy lives on: through his art, through his family and through the love he propelled into the world.