West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – Randy Spires, a true and faithful friend to thousands, has gone to be with God. He passed of the COVID-19 coronavirus, a germ we can’t even see, this week. That microscopic little germ robbed us of a great man. I called him my true friend because he was, yet he was so much more to so many. He was a husband, father, grandfather, son, nephew, Christian, southern gentleman, natural born salesman, advisor; this list could go on for pages. He was unique to so many people.
Randy often called himself, “Just an old West Columbia boy who’s the son of a bricklayer.” That is true in several different ways. His father did raise his family by laying brick. I’m sorry I never met the man. Randy told me stories of him doing jobs on tall buildings in downtown Columbia. He remembered his dad telling these stories too. I laughed when he talked of his dad jacking up the rear of a car built in the ‘50s. Mr. Spires would brace the car off good, raise the rear end, and use the back axle and a heavy rope or cable like a winch. When put into gear, the car would raise large quantities of heavy brick into the air to men working above. This was redneck engineering at its best. It was extremely smart, a work saver, ingenuity. Randy was that smart and more.
Randy, the son of a bricklayer, always said he tried working for his dad when he finished school. He’d tell friends he knew pretty quick he didn’t want to make a living working there. He didn’t want to be a brick layer, yet he was. Many years ago, he laid some literal bricks with his hands, but more importantly he helped lay the figurative bricks of many peoples’ lives. These were bricks of wisdom about being successful as a person. They were bricks of faith, family, recovery from life’s setbacks, finance, and more. He helped so many build themselves up one brick at a time.
Sometimes the lives he helped lay would fall. It was usually because the person he was helping strayed from his advice. They didn’t do the maintenance. They’d stray from God, prayer, they’d spend foolishly or get too full of themselves, and quickly, their day-to-day life’s success would go. After dreading to tell their friend the mess they were in, they called Randy. He’d let you know where you strayed, fuss a little might describe it better, but then he’d start helping pick up those bricks and begin building again. If they listened to him, eventually the tumbled wall that was their life would once again be standing tall and strong.
Randy had thousands of friends. Among them were some very important people. Judges, politicians, people who oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars at work, or just a person who was struggling to get by were a few. Within moments of meeting him, his smile, his way of talking, his style and charisma would draw you into his ever-widening circle too. If your number was saved in his phone, it meant you were acquainted with a wonderful person. He’d call just to check on you or talk. I’ll forever miss that voice on the line asking, “What you up to Bud?” It was a way he let you know he cared.
As southern gentlemen go, he was one of the best. He could dress in the finest suit, khaki pants or shorts and a golf shirt. Sometimes he’d wear old shorts frayed at the bottom from time. He always seemed to know what look he needed to remind you he was just one of the guys. I laugh as I write that because no matter where or who he was with, he always was just one of the guys. He respected those older, still held the door, and acted like one in many ways. He said sir, mam, and thanks a great deal. It was how he was raised.
Eventually, once you knew each other well, Randy would invite you to breakfast or lunch. Business deals, jokes, and current events passed across the table as you ate. I’ve never been in any restaurant with him where three of four people didn’t stop to say hello to Randy Spires. It never bothered me because I knew any friend of my brother was a friend of mine.
Randy was extremely successful in life. He sold block, brick, concrete pipe, mortar, the things people used to build the Midlands. I’m sure he had to work at it hard when he started but after decades, people just called Randy and placed their orders. He’d scratch it down and call the office.
He knew how to handle money and success. He preached about the principles of putting some back. He’d buy a little real estate, investing in one thing or another just as he invested in people. He rarely lost money, but if he did, he wouldn’t cry over spilled milk. The next morning, he’d be back at it again. Normally the loss was because someone else made a mistake anyway. He told me many times that people make mistakes and sometimes that hurts people around them. He said, “You just forgive and move ahead, never dwell on failure, just move yourself on down the road and still be a friend.”
Many of Randy’s most important deals were made casually. On a golf course, eating lunch, sitting inside a mobile construction office, or in his building behind the house. It was his man cave and one of the best I’ve ever seen. He could make deals happen. He sold products that went into many of the largest, most well-known buildings around. He sold items that made River Bluff High School take shape and most schools around here. He sold supplies for hospitals, banks, and towers stretching high into the air. He also sold little jobs; a few thousand dollars’ worth of material being used when a guy was just starting out. He made it look so easy yet he could have written a book on the art of selling.
I met Randy at church years ago. Church was important to him and he had great faith that things in life were all a part of God’s plan. Now that he’s gone, prayer and God will be the comforter for us all. I know his is a part of this plan and it's what Randy would have told me. He'd say mourn, but remember the good times. It’s already helped comfort me and I need it now more than ever. Still, I’ll never see that smiling face across my desk again. It’s very difficult, I can’t imagine what his family is going through.
Speaking of family, they were very important to him too. He married Karen and together they had two beautiful and successful daughters, Whitney and Meredith. Each married bright, successful men and gave Randy and Karen grandchildren they adored. That’s why he was living in Oklahoma City, to be with the girls, his sons-in-law that often called him dad, and those grandkids. He also had an elderly aunt here that he flew back here to check on regularly. His family was large. It had to be great to be related to such a caring man. He told me the last time we talked, he and Karen were moving back. He loved being around the family but missed his friends and family here too. He'd fly back and forth to OKC to visit after he was here again.
When I started The Lexington Ledger, I reached out to Randy for advice. We’d meet every Friday and he helped keep me on track financially. I am a helper at heart, often helping someone because it felt like the right thing to do. Randy respected that but he also regularly reminded me The Ledger was turning into a business and businesses had expenses.
As a fireman, and later the owner of another business, I made a living working hard, physical jobs for years. I got very ill for several years before The Ledger started and came close to death myself. Randy told me that I couldn’t make a living with my hands and back anymore, my body was no longer up to that. He’d say, “Bud you know so many people and so much, don’t give that knowledge away. You can help but you also need to help your own family. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Later, he’d see me standing in the rain asking for help when people’s houses were flooded or doing some other good deed. The phone would ring, and it would be Randy. “Help, it’s what you’re great at,” he’d say, “just don’t forget to keep an eye on your checkbook. With no money you have no gas and with no gas you’re stuck and not much use to anyone.” He was right as always. I’d look at my bank account and I’d be almost broke. I hadn’t collected from customers. It was great advice and I’m still trying to follow his teaching to this day.
I could go on but there’s no reason to. How can you write enough to cover all the great things he did? So many lives have been changed by that, “Good ole’ boy from West Columbia,” the son of a bricklayer. I for one will never forget him, his phone calls, his visits, his smile.
I still can’t believe we talked a long time on a Friday about politics and what was happening around here in late March. A few days later, he was in the hospital. A few days after that in ICU on a ventilator, and a month later gone. Prior to falling ill, he was the picture of health. God I know it’s your plan but as a man, I simply can’t imagine where this piece fits. I’ll just do as Randy said and put my faith in you.
Rest easy Bud, we’ll take it from here. Let all those who were so positively touched by Randy Spires, lay the bricks now.