DANVILLE – Many residents of Danville lost an extra grandmother when Phyllis "Mrs. R" Randall died Saturday.
"She probably raised half of Danville," said Pat Stitt, a friend and co-chairman of many a Schlarman Style Show.
Stitt might have thought she was exaggerating, but a lot of children spent time in her home in the 30 years she cared for the children of working parents.
"My boys will be shattered," said retired Judge Thomas Fahey, of Tom and Brendan, who spent a number of years with Mrs. Randall, 75. "We weren't from Danville. She took those boys under her wing. The whole family took them in."
Fahey said about three years ago, he was watching his son Tom's three children.
"I realized I'd never watched kids by myself," he said with laugh. "They were driving me crazy. I called Mrs. R, and she said, 'Oh, yeah. Bring 'em on over!' They went right in, just like my boys used to."
Fahey said he visited Mrs. Randall during her battle with cancer.
"She was a tremendous optimist," he said. "You'd never hear anything was wrong from her."
Mrs. Randall's husband, Raymond, agreed.
"First thing she said to the doctor when she was diagnosed: 'I'm telling you, I'm not going to quit my babysitting,'" Raymond Randall said. "One of the things that made her most proud was that those kids would go away to school and, at the holidays, they'd come back to see Mrs. R."
Jonathan Myers, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in Danville, spent many a year at the Randalls' home.
"I was there maybe seven or eight years," Myers said. "The top three things I can tell you about Mrs. R. are:
"She had a secret recipe for macaroni and cheese. No matter how I make it, it's not the same. No one can crack the code for that.
"The worst punishment she ever gave was to sit on a chair. That was always the longest five minutes. She was way ahead of time out."
And, lastly, "she had this room. I don't know if it was a garage or what, but there was an indoor basketball court on the side of her house. It was pretty amazing.
"Mrs. R was one of the sweetest ladies I've ever known, and she touched so many lives," Myers said. "When she picked you up at school or took you with her on an errand, whatever it was, you could always tell she genuinely cared about you. I'd still go to her house 'til this day, if I could."
Jonathan's mother, Judy Myers, is grateful for the things Mrs. Randall taught her son.
"You remember how hard it is to find a sitter, how worried you are," Judy Myers said. "She was dependable. She taught the kids to play together. She ran a tight ship, but you knew those kids were loved."
Wade Adams said his son, Doug, 21, and daughter, Melissa, 18, spent several years with Mrs. Randall.
"She was just a fantastic caregiver. My kids still remember and appreciate those days," Adams said. "She's special people. She was strict, but she loved those kids and tried to treat them all the same. Even after they could stay at home, they would still ride their bikes over to Mrs. R's after school to play with their friends and just to see her."
Adams said his son honed his basketball skills at the Randalls' court and his daughter got her artistic skills working at a table in Mrs. R's living room.
"She always took time to talk to and joke around with us," said Melissa Adams. "In the summer, she'd pile us in the van and take us to a park and to the gas station to get snacks and she'd get out the hose or the sprinkler and spray us.
"She just wanted us to be kids and have fun. She gave out the best candy at Halloween and she was always there with a smile and a big hug."
Jonathan Myers, who is also an organist, will play the music for Mrs. Randall's Mass of Christian Burial to be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Paul's Catholic Church, 1303 N. Walnut St. Visitation is from 3 to 8 p.m. today at Sunset Funeral Home and Cremation Center.
"As a volunteer, Phyllis never said no. All she'd say is: 'What time' and 'I'll be there,' " Stitt said. "She was awesome at everything she did, but never wanted any attention herself. She wanted to stay in the background. She's going to be missed greatly for a lot of reasons."