Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Rabenold, Going Forward

There's a metaphor here.  Somewhere. 

Randy Rabenold.  The original, ever complex, he was enigmatic until the end.  

One once said of him, "May your light forever shine."

Another said, "You can argue which was the greatest athlete and the greatest teacher, but you can never argue which athlete and which teacher was the greatest man."

I don't know.  

He was just my Dad.

~20 June 2020 Times News Biography

Kutztown State College - 1956

Dad's childhood comic book circa 1938.

Dad with his dad Zach, a
welder at the Packerton
Yard - 1934.

Always impeccable handwriting.  Always faithful to his mother.
He visited her every evening without fail to watch the evening 
news together, often taking a snooze on her chair. 
  Listen here to one of their conversations,
which often sounded like arguments

Korean War trench art - Spring 1951
For a complete look at his trench art, click here.

Above, getting into his glider at the original Lehighton airport at the southern end of the fairgrounds between Ninth St and Gypsy Hill, and here below in his Korea War enlistment photo, is Joel Heintzelman, cousin to David, their fathers were the founders of Lehighton's Heintzelman's Meat Market from over 100 years ago (story here). 

Though Joel was the same age as my Dad, he always seemed like he belonged to some previous generation.  He'd come to my grandmother's house once a week with her meat order, almost always on a Thursday night.  Mamie, the daughter of a butcher, would take a slice of their home cured and smoked bacon and eat it raw, sucking it into her mouth like an old-fashioned piece shoe-string licorice. 

You can listen to Joel and his home-spun way here after delivering some meats and Hershey's Ice Cream to my Mamie and Dad back in 1981, when Sandra Day O'Connor had just been appointed by President Reagan at the same time that Joel's niece Holly was passing the bar.  And at the same time Cristy Lane's "One Day at a Time" was popular, a tune Dad kept whistling and singing despite Mamie's dismay.

This conversation, at times sounding a little like a real Archie Bunker, speaks of the prevalent attitudes toward women, while my Mamie, born in 1889 and who was 31 until she finally got the right to vote, sounded surprisingly forward thinking as compared to the two men. 

It's not fair judge them with the lens of the current thinking of  this day as it is now 40 years old. 

I remember Joel always wearing work denim, as if he just stepped away from the set of a Western, but his smell was more authentic, a pungent earth from the slaughter house, the sweet of the maple wood from the smoke of the smokehouse, as if those smells were forever encased within the accumulated fat stuck to him and could be seen as a smooth dull finish stuck between those cotton fibers of  his work wear, from the years of rubbing against cattle fallow in the weekly grinding of beef trimmings into bologna and in the curing of the hogback slabs into bacon. 

He once told me of tales of his work as a freelance cattle drover, working cattle from the cars of the LVRR spur that ran along the Mahoning Creek, walking them from small butcher to small butcher from here to Nesquehoning.  How he'd have to get the switch after a steer who decided to check into the open doorway along Race Street in Mauch Chunk of a housewife's kitchen who was cooking the evening supper.

I was visiting Joel, the life-long bachelor, in his final years, struggling with his with diabetes, always the sage.  He too was a gloomy optimist like my Dad.  But he for me was a part of some bygone era that somehow arrived from a back edge of time. 

This picture caption has become the blog post I always intended to write for him.  Of course there's much more that he deserves to have written here.  For now, I'll leave you with this, my other favorite unresolved memory of Joel. 

Spanning back to my childhood, there was this continuous invite to me to go up with him in his glider.  Of course I'd say yes, when could we go?  But there was no way they were going to let me go.  He'd leave and Mamie and Dad would talk of the many crash landings he survived, at least three.  Even once he was beyond his gliding days, with that grin that wrinkled his entire forehead, he'd joke about how I never went with him and that the offer still stood.  And then I'd feel the weight of that regret. 
Looking at these pictures of him, the heft of it is no less. 
(Here again is the link to the 1981 conversation between Joel, Mamie, and Dad.)

Thursday the 25th: "Go Down for Ronald" - I was only 9. Victory Valley Church Camp ran from Sunday to Saturday. I was too young for basketball camp. So it must have been from my annual stay with either Aunt Bette in Macungie or Aunt Miriam in Center Valley.

Self portrait - 1955
Lino cut print - 1970s
Watercolor and pen - 1970s

Watercolor - 1960s

"Dog fight" Watercolor -  Early 1970s

Acrylic on canvas, 16" x 20" -Early 1970s

Acrylic on canvas, 16" x 12" - Late 1960s

Oil on canvas, 20" x 16" - Early 1970s

"Golgotha," oil on canvas, 16" x 20" - 1970s

Christmas card lino print - 1970s

Water color, 12" x 14" - 1950s

"The Astronaut" - 1969

Trinity Lutheran Church before the rebuild.
Note the mother with son in tow.
Randy was raised a devout Lutheran.

Poster, marker, color pencil - He often said this was his favorite piece.  When he'd visit, he'd always 
ask to see it.  He often wished he'd been a cartoonist.  Sometimes he'd also admit he'd wished he'd 
been a novelist.
Mamie was tall, about 5' 10".   All the Strauchs were too.
Zach was often embarrassed by the height difference. 
He was seldom seen walking next to her.

The "Star Ball" was used in every warm-up for Jim Thorpe 
Boys Basketball from the 1960s into the 1980s.
My Mamie - 1889-1983
Her parents were both born in Germany.  She was widowed from 1950.

Watercolor - 2018 (Perhaps his last)

Lino cut

"Yellow Bird" - Pencil sketch, 1983

Friends since elementary school, Randy Art Show 2013.

1976 & 1986 Centennial League Champs with their coach, Mr. Jim Smith at Randy's 2014 art show, 
Mauch Chunk Opera House.

Among the many notes left by fans of Randy
at the show.  Doug paid homage with his own
stencil lettered initials. 
Doug a well-respected commercial artist
and former student

County Officials of the time - Bob Crampsie, Bill O'Gurek, Randy, and Emmit McCall - Art Show 2014

Randy's grandson, sculptor Daniel Finsel

Randy's daughter-in-law Lisa with his self-portrait

Dad and Ken Kline started the JT Summer League back in the 1960s.  Dad ran it for over 50 years.
Here in 1990s with Aaron Sebelin and Mike Berger (Steelers hat)

"Let the mind create what it will..."

Dad's desk top with all his enigmatic doodles.  For the last several years of his life, I'd look at his index cards with him, trying to get him to explain his coding system.  Note the same symbols go down the right edge of the front of the card match the desk doodles.   
My favorite quote of his, one he certainly didn't need to write because he lived it, goes up and down in the middle of the back, "Whatever you do, do it well."
He was always so good at dodging my questions.  And in the last four days of his life, even in his most lucid moments, he wouldn't budge. 
The look on his face was of a child who knows the answer but won't tell, his eyes got big with just the smallest of knowing grins.  That was a mystery he took with him.  These same markings were doodled onto his desk top and on cardboard signs hung up in the cellar.  I believe they had a motivational meaning to him, something that kept him going, going forward.  

Kevin Binder, one of Dad's best friends.

Dad with the Ockenhouses.  Dad and Mr. Ockenhouse were lifelong friends.  Dad talks of how he was "evangelized" while in the service, and how he adopted so many chldren, giving them all names from the books of the Bible.  Leading Mamie to showcase her knowledge of some of the books. 

It's hard to say what Dad was feeling when he made this cartoon at the end of his son's senior year final game.  As noted by Dad, the Indians went 21 & 1.  Their only loss?  The season opener against Jim Thorpe.  Coaching at Thorpe?  Yup, Dad was Assistant Varsity.  Lehighton led at halftime.  And as legend has it, with Thorpe trailing, Dad got out the paddle and said there'd be hell to pay if they lost to "those boobas."  The coaches were said to walk out to let the players sort it out.  Thorpe won 57-51.  So was this poster some sort of apology to Coach Smith and his son?  Or was it just one more poke in the eye to illustrate a visual reminder to all that Thorpe had edged them?

A Big Presence - We all have our own special fondness for our former coaches.  Coach Jim Smith was always a bigger than life presence and his showing up to Dad's Art Show was certainly a highlight for me.  Thanks Coach!  Here he regales brother Randy's son Ryan with former tales.


This is my preaching to the choir sermon.

I do not need to tell you how great our father, grandfather Double R was.

He was the Greatest of Humble Men.


When we were children, we had our mother Ruth, and our father Double R to allay our worries.


He is gone.  And we are alone.


He lived a long and happy life.

The blessing of a long life is also a curse to have to bury all your friends and your wife.

He lived twelve years without Mom.


The many dichotomies of Dad.


He could be gruff.

He was known for his kind words.

He cared.

He was aloof.

He created order out of the tangles of his mind with index cards.


He let his mind create what it will.


Outside of care for his family, he had two main modes – Working and procrastinating about work.


He thrived on action, He thrived on doing for others – Summer League, Sports Hall of Fame, AmVets.


He cherished his alone time, sequestering himself from the voices of the outside world.


He gave us gentle pats on the head and talking mouse holes.


No one here needs to be reminded of his greatness because all of us carry his greatness within us, that we cherish and cultivate as a little seed of kindness in our own hearts.

He was a child of the Great Depression.  He was a difficult child at times for his mother.  Yet Dad knew the austere joys of a good onion sandwich.

As a child, Dad and his friends built a refuge from the outside world in a little club house in the woods at the edge of the Grove.

He landed in Pusan under artillery fire.  He survived, but later, clubhouse buddy Bobby Kipp was killed in action.

Then they made another landing, this time at Inchon, again under enemy fire.

Then the war became a test of wills, on which side could control the hilltops.  Many times, dad was stationed on lonely outcrops.  There was safety during the day.  But at night, they feared the blood curdling war screams and drums of the Chinese.  It terrorized the men.

Then one day his C.O. called him in to tell him his father died.  They shipped Dad home to be with his mother.

By the time they sent him back in December, the First Marine Division was completely trapped by the Chinese at the Chosin Reservoir.  It was a blood bath.  His buddies were in there, his cousin Nuny Rabenold too.

He was crossing the Sea of Japan for another landing.  It was mixed company of Cooks and Bakers as Dad like to say.  They were told to fight their way in, to save the Division.   

But a miracle happened.  

The Division fought its way out.  

Dad’s buddy Gene Holland was killed there.  Nuny came out with saucers for eyes and the thousand-yard stare, forever changed.

Dad always said his father’s death, saved his life.


More dichotomies –

He was the Greatest of Humble Men.

He was forever the gloomy optimist, forever finding the good in bad situations and people.

He never gave up on us.

He had many friends.  Men like Doug Rontz, Randy Smith, Aaron Sebelin, Jailhouse Artist Tracey Everett, Dennis Tredinnick, Kevin Binder, Chuck Hanna, Roger Aroyo, idolized our dad so much that they looked to him as a second father, sometimes the father they never had.


It was hard to grow up in the shadow of him.

It hurt to know that we shared had to share him with so many.

But that was among his gifts to the world.

Looking back, at all those that loved him like a father is a joy and blessing, a tremendous comfort now,

To know that he was so loved, by so many, so deeply.


Dad wrote these three quotes on the back on an index card EVERYDAY from 2014 and 2016 –

“One in a Billion”– I’d like to think it was for me, but I think it was about our mother.

“Whatever you do, do it well.”  He lived that.

And lastly, he wrote – “What more do you want?”


I ask all of you gathered here, what MORE do YOU want?


You will never get another Double R pat on the head.

He will never ever draw you another mouse hole.

He will never snarl at you like a gruff and cagy dog ever again.


But you do carry his seed of kindness,

the one you have been cultivating in your soul since the day he made you.

The seed has nourished us all

Like the seed that nourishes the cardinal in the dead of winter,


Dad sung a special kindness from his soul,

Honor him, 

Let the energy of that seed seep into your soul,

And like that song of the cardinal, 

Let it continue to flow into the world, out of you.



The moon comes up.

The moon goes down.

This is to inform you

That I didn’t die young.

Age swept past me

But I caught up. 

Spring has begun here and each day

Brings new thoughts to the tangles of my mind.

On Monday, I got a call from the outside world

But I said no in thunder.

I was a dog on a short chain

And now there is no chain.


(Slightly revised from Jim Harrison’s “Barking”)