A Turtle’s Tribute:
REQVIESCAT IN PACE
I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Randy Culbreth, a colleague of mine in the Turtle Creek Chorale, and a friend.
This passing does not come unexpectedly, for we have known that Randy was nearing the end of his time on earth for several days, and he had been bravely combatting cancer for the past few years. Nevertheless, the end comes as a great sorrow, for Randy will be greatly missed.
Randy’s commitment, dedication, and service to the Chorale are more extensive than I can properly detail, but as long as I have been in the chorus – nearly 25 years – Randy was involved whenever he was able with much more than the singing and performance aspects. His expertise and perspective were always a valued and welcome contribution.
Randy and I discovered that we had some common experiences in our pasts. Randy and his family had lived in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960s, while I and my family had lived in Montgomery, Alabama at the same time. Later both of our families had lived in the Washington, D.C. area. Of course we had many different experiences as well: Randy’s Father was clergy, while my Dad was military. But we enjoyed talking about experiences we had in common. And, for a time in the mid-1990s, Randy and I were neighbors in a condominium complex in Dallas. When I would travel for work, Randy would offer to pick up my mail and generally keep an eye on my unit. It was always such a relief to know that things were being looked after. Knowing he liked to wear rugby shirts, I once thanked him with a souvenir shirt from my travels. He was almost embarrassed to accept it.
Randy was a scholar of varied interests. I was always fascinated to learn of one distinctive passion of his. He desired to delve deeply into Roman Law, and he determined that the best program available to him was offered by “Wits,” the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Accordingly, this preacher’s kid from Birmingham made the trek to the Southern Hemisphere to pursue his dream.
For a few years, Randy was unable to take part in the TCC as he moved away to take care of his Dad in another state. But as soon as he returned to Dallas, Randy jumped back in. As I note, he was always fully involved. Randy contributed his financial management experience as needed, and he contributed his calm and well reasoned judgment too.
The Turtle Creek Chorale recognizes long-time members as “Terrapins.” This group is not an executive body, but it can serve in an advisory capacity, offering its collective experience and its long commitment, so occasionally the Terrapins meet to discuss matters that affect the TCC. Though he had not “officially” obtained Terrapin status due to his time away with his Father, Randy nevertheless attended Terrapin meetings and offered his views and observations of matters at hand.
Randy’s artistic interests extended beyond music into the visual arts. He was an avid photographer, and he developed a specialty of recording unusual and often unnoticed details of the world around him in novel and creative ways. Ordinarily overlooked “trivia” of an abandoned building, or a city sidewalk would become artistic inspiration for Randy’s camera, often further imbued with color or contrast by Randy’s post-processing. He shared many examples upon his Facebook page.
Randy had political opinions that were quite different from my own, and we often enjoyed lengthy conversation about our contrasting views. I cannot recall Randy ever being abrupt, dismissive, or in any way acting otherwise than as a cordial conversationalist, even when our disagreements were great. I think we can all learn a crucial lesson from his demeanor. It is possible to have strongly differing opinions AND remain polite and respectful.
Rest in Peace, my friend and colleague. You will be sorely missed.
-Jamie Rawson 03/21/18
The TCC is a very special group of men. Today, we lost a very unique and wonderful person, named Randy Culbreth.
I’ve known Randy since 2014. My first memory of him is listening to him talk about one of his dear loved ones that was taken far, far too soon. He could be a bit gruff, but I suspect that was an involuntary reaction to the loss he had to endure during the nightmare of the mid-80s and early 90s. I remember distinctly a break during rehearsal when I saw him sitting by himself. I was munching on something, probably peanut butter crackers or banana nut bread, and I walked over and sat down next to him. It was the first time we’d actually spoken. The conversation was nothing substantial, just small talk, really. He was down, not feeling all that great, and mentioned he’d probably leave after break. I can’t remember what I said, I imagine it was “don’t do that!” or “I understand, but you’ll miss out!”… something. Anyway, the lights flickered, which meant it was time to go back down for the second half of rehearsal.
We stood up, I looked into his eyes, and said, “Well, if I don’t see you again tonight, I’ll see you next week!” And I wrapped him in a hug. Just seemed like something that needed to happen. He held on to me a little longer than a normal hug is supposed to last, which triggered me to hug a little tighter. Then he looked at me and said, “Thank you.” “No problem,” I replied cheerily. Then we went down for the second half of rehearsal, and Randy stuck around. I hugged him every time I saw him after that. I wish I’d hugged him more.
Matthew Harrington 03/21/18
A little story I wanted to tell last night, but it didn’t work out:
The very first time we went to Bruceville, it was freezing cold and rainy. Any good times were “forced” good times. Randy was there with his husband David Bassett and their dogs. I was in a 12-man cabin presided over by Jim “Buffy Forte” Frederick who made cabin shirts for us all.
As usual, Saturday night saw too much drinking on some people’ parts, and Randy HATED drunks. He and I (and probably some others) were heading back to my cabin (along Randy’s route) when we encountered a member who’s no longer singing, but whom everyone who is of that era knows very well. He was drunk and obnoxious and kept tapping and hitting Randy on the shoulder and arm. I doubt very much that this person meant anything by it – just fooling around while drunk. I left the two of them outside and went inside to go to bed., which I did.
I was on the bottom of a tri-level bunk bed. The drunk happened to have the bunk right above me. A little while later there was some sort of ruckus outside and a lot of noise. People were yelling: “Did you see that. He just decked him.” Where is he now?” Still lying in the mud and icy water..” Well, it turns out they were talking about Randy, who had finally had enough, and my bunk partner.
Randy told me later that he warned the other member that if he hit him once more, he would let the punches fly. The other guy hit him once more and Randy decked him with one punch and walked away, leaving, as I said, the other guy pretty dazed and lying in an icy mud puddle. All these guys, I said, came running in to yell about what had just happened. A few minutes later, my bunkmate dragged himself in, said nothing to anyone, but climbed up into his bunk still in his muddy and wet clothes and shoes. I do not remember the next day’s dénouement, unfortunately.
Last week, during my last visit with Randy, his friend Gary arrived from Arizona. We were talking about a lot of things, and Gary asked about whatever happened to the guy that Randy punched out. Randy got to re-live and retell the story. Great times!
Pat McCann 03/28/18