Sperryville column for Sept. 17

Randolph Clater, you will be missed

Randolph Clater at his post at the Sperryville Corner Store.E. Raymond Boc
Randolph Clater at his post at the Sperryville Corner Store.

Randolph Clater was a man of Rappahannock, born and raised in Sperryville. He met his beautiful wife Dorothy at the (then) local Tastee Freez on 211 while she was still in high school. He fell in love and was married to her for 52 years; a picture of them from the early ’50s still sits, tucked in the leather layers of his wallet. Randolph left us not long ago, after a brave battle that included triple bypass surgery. He was 75 years old.

He left behind an adoring family, including Dorothy, daughter Pam and granddaughter Brooklynn, whom he affectionately called “Baby.” Dorothy said, with silent tears streaming, that when he could no longer speak, when his eyes were mostly closed, and when Brooklynn entered his hospital room, his eyes opened; his pain-stricken, solemn face lit up, and he smiled.

Randolph loved all things car-related. He drove a 1955 Ford Fairlane convertible back in the day. He enjoyed playing cards, collecting stamps and coins, and was a huge NASCAR fan. Above all he loved his Redskins, but mostly during Camelot, back when footballmeister Jack Kent Cooke was at the helm and winning the Super Bowl was a reality or a definite possibility. There was no love lost between Randolph and Dan Snyder.

Clater called his granddaughter Brooklynn "Baby," and lit up when she entered the room.Pam Clater
Clater called his granddaughter Brooklynn “Baby,” and lit up when she entered the room.

Randolph worked in the Sperryville Corner Store from the time he was in high school. His wife and family members, Pam Clater, Roger Jenkins, Kenny Jenkins and Ian Thompson (his favorite great nephew, who lived with the family on and off for 24 years) all worked intermittently for him over the years. He bought the store in the early 1960s with his brother-in-law Wilson Burke. Together they ran it for 18 years and then Randolph and his wife Dorothy bought it for themselves and ran it until the early 2000s, when the Thompsons purchased the store. Randolph, however, still worked at the store up until shortly before his final battle was lost.

“He was a great husband,” says Dorothy. “I didn’t want for anything and if it was in his power he got it. He was a provider and a great businessman. He didn’t always like what you did, and you always knew where you stood with him. He didn’t like clutter in the store, nothing tacky near the windows. The store and family were his life.” With a twinkle in her eye, and a knowing smile, Dorothy recalls that “all was well as you long as you learned his way.”

Well respected by store employees and vendors alike, Randolph knew and understood that his commitment to customer satisfaction was paramount. Even if he came across as harsh, his manner was forgiven. He was charming, a ladies’ man for sure, a man who knew his customers by name and was always kind and generous with family and friends alike.

At the service, his pallbearers were Ian Thompson, the nephew he considered a son; Greg Meredith; Ken and Andy Thompson; Mike Leake, whose father James was an especially good friend of Randolph’s; Roger Jenkins; Doug Schiffman; and Bill Fletcher, along with honorary pallbearers.

Brooklynn, his beloved granddaughter, requested that the words to the song “See You Again” be read aloud, and Ian Thompson did so: “It’s been a long day without you . . . I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”

“He loved his dogs, past and present: Benji, Rambo, Cokie and Gizmo, Chase, Chloe and Barney,” said daughter Pam. “A man of God, a great man, a good fellow, a great friend to all. He was one of a kind and God gained a true angel through his passing.”

At a service with nary a dry eye, Pam said: “I love you with all my heart forever and always. You will always be my guardian angel.” She then read a poignant ode, “You held my hand when I was small, you caught me when I fell, the hero of my childhood and of latter years as well.” Said Bill Fletcher, an old and good friend of Randolph’s: “He was one of the last of the old timers.”

Randolph was greatly loved and will indeed be greatly missed.

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