Robert G. Randels
On September 14, 2021, Robert George Randels' spirit soared to the heavens.
Left behind to mourn and to recall wonderful memories of times together are his wife and life partner of 44 years, Ginger Hentz, son David Randels (Sara), grandchildren Auden and Oliver of Williamston, sisters Barbara Cooper (Jack) of Interlochen and Joan Miller of Tecumseh, brother Richard Randels of Flint, sister-in-law Juliet Rowe (Sebastopol), a host of special cousins, nieces and nephews, and countless friends across the state and country with whom he deeply connected.
Bob was preceded in death by his mom, dad, three cousins (Susan, Sally, and Mike), sister-in-law Judie, old friends, and 6 Golden Retrievers.
Born in Addison, MI on February 1, 1949 to James Wallace and Georgia (Black) Randels, Bob grew up in a family of educators. He attended Ainsworth High School in Flint, becoming a star athlete before graduating in 1967. Bob graduated as an English major from Adrian College in 1971.
Bob moved to New York City to attend and graduate from Union Theological Seminary in 1974. He pastored at Bushwick United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, NY, as well as part-time in one urban and three rural Michigan churches.
In 1975, the United Methodist Church called Bob to co-create and join a community of people to live at first at Peaceways in Pennfield and soon after to create Greenwood Nonviolent Community and Sojourner Truth House of Shelter for Women in downtown Battle Creek. Connected to a network of other communities focused on non-violence and social justice throughout Michigan, Bob participated in civil disobedience and acts of mercy. He was passionate about speaking truth to power and used his privilege as a white male to challenge injustice.
His grassroots leanings which included "trash picking" usable food from grocery dumpsters for people in need, set the stage for his next calling. In 1982, Bob became the founding director of the eight-county Food Bank of South Central Michigan (FBSCM). He set up operations in a small store front on Washington Street in Battle Creek. After out growing that space, Bob moved the FBSCM to Marshall and then again to its current warehouse location in Fort Custer Industrial Park in Battle Creek. FBSCM was a conduit for food to over 200 nonprofit agencies such as shelters, soup kitchens, and pantries serving people in need.
Bob grew the Food Bank to be one of the most respected operations of its kind in the country. He secured early affiliations with a national network of food banks that would eventually become Feeding America. In turn, this network made possible ongoing national donations of food to the south central Michigan region. Bob also helped found the Food Bank Council of Michigan in the early 1980s.
Bob was successful in creatively engaging different types of folks to join in what he called "the good idea of food banking." Among those events were: Homer Out Hunger, Celebrity Server, Empty Bowl, Supermarket Sweep, Skid-a-Thon, Canned Sculpture Exhibit and the Dignitary Bowl event. He oversaw five hunger studies that documented the extent of hunger in southwest Michigan. He introduced to the community singer songwriters such as Beth Nielsen Chapman, Kathy Mattea and Dougie MacLean in concert settings to raise funds and awareness to a wider group of people.
Leaving a legacy of service, Bob will be remembered for his tender heart, creative, visionary and inspiring leadership, compassion, commitment to mission, quick wit, sense of humor, loyalty to his staff, and ability to attract talented board members.
Among other recognitions, Bob received the Adrian College Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2006 and he was named Scene Magazine's Person of the Year in 2013.
Bob had a knack for finding "good" dogs. Over the years, Bob and Ginger owned six Golden Retrievers. They fostered a dozen Goldens through Great Lakes Golden Retriever Rescue, finding perfect homes for each one.
After retirement in 2014, Bob modeled living in the presentâenjoying each day as it came, often without a plan or care in mind. He lived intentionally simply, wishing for a decluttered and downsized material life. Bob enjoyed traveling with Ginger (and their sweet Emmy Lou Golden Doodle) and spending a block of time each year in Taos, NM. An avid reader, Bob also enjoyed time at their lake cabin in northern Michigan, fishing, lively conversation, following sports, expounding on politics and culture, and spending time with friends, grandkids, and other family. He never stopped singing, dancing, or doing impressions of Johnny Mathis and Ed Sullivan.
So many hearts are broken that Bob is no longer here. But the world is a better place for having Bob Randels grace it for 72 years. Toward the end of his days, when asked for a simple message to others he repeated what he had said years earlier, "Be kinder to one another." If he could sign off on this note, Bob would no doubt say, "All to a better heart."
A gathering to honor Robert G. Randels will be held 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 2022 at Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center, 6225 N 39th St, Augusta, MI 49012. The Celebraton of Life for Bob may be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/705427566 . That information and link will be incldued here later. If you have any questions please call 269-962-5527.
Memorials honoring Bob's life of service may be made to the American Cancer Society and the South Michigan Food Bank. Personal messages for the family may be placed here at www.farleyestesdowdle.com.