Giving thanks for the people who matter

It's that time of year again. Time to reflect on all those blessings for which we are grateful.

Ten years ago I was starting a new life as a reporter and columnist at another local paper. The editor graciously let me write a "Gratitude Attitude" story for my first Thanksgiving column as a way to introduce myself to the Rogue River community.

That was a lot of notepads ago. It's hard to believe I've now spent a decade reporting on the happenings — and the people — in the various, diverse communities that make up the Rogue Valley.

Friday's interview with Medford's 82-year-old Arlenne Randles and her family afforded me the chance to meet an unsung, and relatively anonymous, local favorite.

For the past 15 years or so, Arlenne and Bob Randles' Medford home at the intersection of Stewart and Columbus has been a seasonal source of holiday joy. New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter and onward throughout the years. The big picture window also has provided a fleeting image of holiday cheer for folks driving through the busy intersection on their way to and from work.

Special little stories like these generally find their way to us via a family member or a friend. The Randles' gift to the community came to my attention when a family member, Phil Cox, called the newsroom.

"I'm not sure if this would be of any interest to you ... ." These hesitant words can sometimes usher in a real gem of a tale. So whenever possible, it's best to listen.

I was intrigued, if ignorant. I asked around. The most common reaction when I mentioned the corner-lot house was, "Oh, yeah! I know that place! I love that place!"

Surprisingly, I didn't find anything in our archives about the Randles themselves — except for Bob's October obituary. Oh, dear.

Phil and his wife, Linda, are helping Arlenne sell her home and move to Brookings so she'll have family nearby. Arlenne has spent her life helping people she loves — and now it is time to return the favor. With love.

Like my parents, Arlenne is a product of the Greatest Generation. Practical, persevering and highly personable, too — if you can get them to talk about themselves. Good luck with that. These folks are not by nature pontificators.

Arlenne's relatives told me she began caring for her ailing mother when she was just 16 years old. Later, she cared for her brother, who'd suffered a stroke. Arlenne kept on caring for folks in need throughout her life. She cared for Bob's first wife for a long time. And then for Bob. She met the couple while caring for a co-worker she'd met back in the day, when she worked at the old Newberry's department store.

Arlenne will tell you she enjoys caring for folks. It makes her feel good, she says. But Arlenne kept so busy caring for others she never married. When Bob popped the question, Arlenne was in her 60s — and in a panic, said Bob's niece, Linda Cox.

"She actually asked permission of the family before she'd marry him," said Phil Cox.

The family gave their blessings, with gratitude. Bob put in the enormous picture window that fronts on Stewart Avenue. The window became Arlenne's plate-glass palette for her colorful displays — to the delight of young and old.

Neighbors drop off cookies, cakes and cards. Sometimes they've even been known to give Arlenne a gentle nudge.

"Sometimes, when I was tardy, they'd ask me 'When are you going to decorate?' " Arlenne said.

The Coxes say most of the decorations will be sold with the home, in hopes a new owner might want to carry on Arlenne's tradition. But I suspect this Thanksgiving is an end of an era. I'm pretty sure Arlenne knows this, too.

For many of us, 2010 has been a year of love and loss. The grieving process is unique to each individual and circumstance. But I have to say, moving on ain't always easy. And the ups and downs of moving can create whiplash emotions. Still, I feel so blessed to have known the love of my mom, dad, husband and other precious friends and family members who have since passed.

I am also grateful that each day offers me the chance to meet new people who remind me to enjoy each day as it comes. People like Arlenne. And her family.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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