A Tribute to My Friend Randy Bister

I miss this guy.  Terribly.  Our friendship came about in the most unlikely of circumstances.  In fact, in the years after college, we both admitted that we didn’t really like each other at first.

My first dose of Randy was in a shuttle from the ST Louis Airport back to Greenville College where we both were arriving as freshman for college football camp.  I hopped in the van to be greeted by this rather interesting looking character with shoulder length hair, a bandana and tie dyed shirt who was clutching a ceramic statue of a monkey on a surf board.

THAT image, was very much Randy.  I think the biggest reason I wasn’t wild about the “nut” from the northwest at first is that I mistook him as a person always looking for attention.  He certainly always had a crowd around him and he did some pretty…unique things.  But I eventually came to understand that was just him.  People loved being around him and what I mistook as a cry for attention was just Randy being Randy.  Like the pink bicycle. (Only GC people circa 2004 will remember that.)

Coming into our junior year, I was going to be living in a campus house and needed to find a couple of roommates.  There was a new guy on campus that had transferred in and although I didn’t know him well, he was from my home state of Oregon and seemed like a fairly mellow, likable guy so I asked him if he’d be interested in living in the house.  He agreed and I told him he could find a roommate and they could live in the house too.

About a week later he caught up with me in the dinning commons and asked me if I knew Randy.  It turns out Randy was going to be the other roommate and if I’m completely honest, I was less than thrilled.  At this point I still didn’t “get” Randy, but I went with it and that August the whole bunch of us moved into the house.  I teased Randy because he always had “stuff” strewn from one end of the house to the other.  Plastic footballs, a tomahawk, clothes, books and who knows what else.

I can’t really tell you how we morphed into being friends but it's probably best explained that I lightened up and he mellowed at.  I was pretty uptight and regimented my first few years of college.  Shocker I know.  But somehow, through late night conversations around our kitchen table, riding motorcycles through the country side and simply living in community together, Randy and I became incredibly close friends.

The following summer, Randy and I spent a good bit of time together back in Oregon.  After he got back from a couple months at a summer camp in Durango Colorado, I helped him get connected with the rafting company I had been working for back home.  We needed an extra guide for an overbooked day and while I don’t think Randy had actually “guided” a raft down this particular river at that point, I knew he’d been down that stretch several times and was a competent guide with plenty of experience on other rivers.

The day of, Randy showed up in all of his glory, wearing his weathered cowboy hat and his cut off, white jean shorts he referred to as “Jorts.”   Once again, Randy won over the entire crew with his wit, personality and his overall zest for life.  In fact, long after I moved away, Randy was still a regular on that river, making the rounds for a few different companies.

Because I moved away about a year after college, our visits became fewer and far between but we still managed to pick up the phone and talk about once a month.  I still remember where I was when he first told me he had to go in and have fluid removed from his lungs.    Although it seems like so long ago, I remember getting to help out with a bone marrow drive (or whatever you call them) that a group of our friends put on in Greenville.  I just happened to be traveling through the area for work and am so thankful I got to be a part of it.  The outpouring of support for Randy was amazing.  Just a small example of how many lives he had touched.

Randy handled every element of his battle with leukemia like a champ.  The few opportunities I had to visit him in the hospital, everyone acknowledge that he was a joy to have as a patient.  Randy cared way more about other people than himself and it showed.

I don’t really remember the timeline, but somehow through it all, I got the report that he was cancer free.  On one of my brief visits to Oregon a couple years ago, he and I spent the day playing miniature golf, riding go carts and essentially celebrating the fact that he was in remission.

The whole second round was pretty much a blur.  I don’t remember if it was Randy that called me or his fiance Megan.  It was pretty hard to believe, especially after all that he went through and overcame the first round.  I was able to visit him in June in the midst of his second treatment.  It's hard to describe the relationship I witnessed between he and Megan.  It's the ultimate picture of genuine love and sacrifice.  I wish that every person who ever hopes to get married could have walked through that room.

Probably the hardest part of attending his funeral was simply walking through the door.  On tables scattered around the church, was Randy’s “stuff.”  Ice axes, cowboy hats, motorcycle helmets, guiding jackets and the tomahawk.  Everything Randy.  Elements of a life lived to the absolute fullest.  One of my favorite pictures of Randy is this one of him summiting some mountain in the northwest.

Randy was a mans man.  Rugged in every sense of the word but kind hearted and meek enough that he would do anything for anyone.  Despite getting a degree in English, he found his niche as a deckhand on a tugboat.  While it doesn’t sound glamorous, he thrived in it and it was very much a Randy job.  It allowed him to use his technical aptitude in a way the teaching English or writing simply never would.

It would take a book to chronicle all the fun memories and outlandish ideas the guy came up with and for those of us who knew him, those memories will stick with us forever.  They serve as a testimony of a guy who loved Jesus above all else, lived life at full throttle, and cared about others more than himself.

The other memory I have from his funeral was a picture that I had while the band was leading us in worship.  All I could see was Randy standing at the back of the room, eyes closed, bobbing from side to side as he passionately worshiped his Savior, not a clue in the world that the whole group was there for him.  He wouldn’t have cared.  He would have just kept his eyes closed and his hands lifted and kept pointing people to Jesus.

If you care to leave a comment or share a memory of Randy, please feel free. 

5 thoughts on “A Tribute to My Friend Randy Bister

  1. Linda

    I was just thinking of him when I woke up this morning! Its been almost a year and a half. The last conversation we had he was telling us how awesome his fiance was. Instead of complaining about his situation he was thankful for her unconditional love!

    1. Alanna Nevenner

      Hi Seth! Thanks for writing this most touching article. I am Megan's mom. I was to be Randy's mother-in-law. This was truly one of the most difficult situations our family has ever gone through. The ups and down's were a daily thing. But, to see two young people put all their faith in God and submit to His Holy Will, is truly an inspiration and a blessing. If it is possible for death to be beautiful, then I witnessed it. As sad as it is, in the midst of pain, sorrow and grief a supernatural beauty was present. I felt love, angels, and Christ's presence in Randy's room constantly. In everything he did, he did with gusto, including loving my daughter and our family. And we loved him too! I hope that one day the tears we still shed will be replaced with a smile of a good memory and of a love and of a life well lived. God bless Randy.

      1. Post author

        Hi Alanna
        Yes, what they had was truly amazing and I'm thankful I got to witness a small part of it. 🙂 I can't imagine what this has been like for you guys to see your daughter go through this but she is a strong woman. Their relationship was something incredible. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Brian Elmore

    Hi Seth,

    I'm Randy's cousin. Thank you so much for sharing these great memories and story of your friendship. I really enjoyed reading this.

    1. Post author

      HI Brian,
      Absolutely. It did me good to put some of my thoughts out there. Randy blessed me with several years of an amazing friendship. He was an amazing guy with a contagious attitude and a zest for life.


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