By Trevor Fry
Here’s a fact! Randell Fletcher has attended more funerals than anyone in Grant Parish history! If ever there was a man who earned frequent flyer points at funeral homes, it was him. He knows virtually every family in the parish. While the rest of us feel awkward attending funerals, Randell knows just what to say to comfort grieving family members of the departed. It’s one of his many gifts, and his presence helps families heal.
So when and where did the legend of Randell Fletcher start? Back when doctors made house calls. Dr. Brian came to Verda in 1935 and delivered Randell Fletcher into the world. He was the only child of Aaron and Edna Fletcher. He was born in the heart of The Great Depression, and in his early years experienced that watershed event in American History.
The Fletchers are one of Grant Parish’s oldest pioneer families. They originally settled in the piney hills around Verda and Hargis in the late 1700s. Later they moved further west to the banks of the Red River in Aloha, where Randell and his bride, Geraldine Hale Fletcher, make their home.
Randell met Geraldine in the first grade at Verda School. They married at the age of 19. On November 26th, they will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. Randell graduated from Verda High in 1953. He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from NSU in education. His brief stint in Natchitoches was the only time he lived outside his beloved Grant Parish.
In 1958, Randell starting teaching at Colfax High. He continued teaching at Colfax for 20 years. While he was teaching, he decided to enter politics to help make an impact in his parish, and was voted on to the Police Jury at the age of 35.
In 1978, he decided to make a career change. He retired from the educator ranks and ran for Grant Parish Tax Assessor. He handily won that position at age 40, and served the parish another 20 years in that capacity. Remarkably, between Colfax School and the Assessor’s office at the courthouse, he worked 40 years in one city block! As he always says, “the people of Grant Parish have been good to me.”
Randell voluntarily stepped down as Assessor after 20 years of service, to focus on missionary work. He went on 16 mission trips to Latin America to help spread the gospel. That is who Randell Fletcher is. He is the Lord’s servant who cares about others and wants to improves the lives of everyone.
Undoubtedly, Randell’s most important character trait is his faith. He joined Verda Baptist Church in 1948. He has faithfully served as Deacon since 1957. He also acted as the church’s Treasurer for decades, and organized mission trips. In his tenure at Verda Baptist Church, he has seen 24 pastors come and go (and sometimes was probably glad to see their tailights!)
Randell has a compassionate quality about him that permeates his life. When he comes into my law office, he asks my staff about their families before we can even think about conducting business. And he genuinely cares. He’s not asking just to be polite; he wants to really know about their well-being. He’s like a kind and loving grandfather, which is why he is the Patriarch of Grant Parish.
On the home-front, Randell and Geraldine raised three children, Steve, Becky and Celeste, who are all brilliant. Steve is a successful pharmacist. Becky is an elementary education supervisor at the Grant Parish School Board. Becky’s leadership in overseeing our elementary curriculum is one of the major reasons why Grant Parish schools now outrank Rapides Parish in school performance scores. And Celeste is an accomplished writer. In fact, to my knowledge, Celeste is the only person living in Grant Parish who has been published by a big 5 publishing house in New York City.
On the political scene, everytime there is an election, eager candidates make an obligatory beeline to Aloha and hope to secure his blessing. Simply put, there is no greater seal of approval in Grant Parish than Randall Fletcher’s endorsement. Few politicians succeed in getting a commitment however, as he doesn’t like to pick one friend over the other. Because you see, Randall Fletcher has no enemies. He loves all people in our parish, which is why you will never see a campaign sign at the end of his driveway.
Another chapter in Randell’s story is the Bank of Montgomery (BOM). His wife Geraldine started off as a teller at BOM. Also, his dad Aaron was on the BOM Board. After his father passed away, Randell succeeded to his Dad’s spot on the BOM Board in 1990. At that time BOM had only one branch. BOM has experienced meteoritic growth since then, and has a large footprint across central Louisiana, and now even into Texas.
Additionally, Randell’s farm is a seminal part of his life. He owns over 1000 acres and is one of the largest landowners in Grant Parish. The Fletchers raise cattle, and also farm row crops in the rich Red River alluvial soil. His farm in Aloha is breathtakingly beautiful, and is one of the most idyllic scenes in the entire parish.
As for public service, Randell currently sits on the prestigious Red River Waterway Commission as Grant Parish’s sole representative. And he was also appointed by the Governor to sit on the Grant Parish Board of Election Supervisors to ensure the sanctity of our elections. He has served on on countless other boards and commissions representing our community. Service to his community has been, is, and will always be part of his life.
“The people of Grant Parish have been good to me.” That is Randell Fletcher’s humble response everytime you mention one of the countless honors bestowed upon him over the years. His cup runneth over and he has lived a remarkable life that is an inspiration to his fellow man. So I have made a feeble attempt at describing the blueprint of the most respected man in Grant Parish history. But don’t bother trying to replicate the recipe. You cannot clone greatness.