Monday, May 8, 2017

David Randall Montague Risser

I haven't posted anything here for quite sometime.  I bought a new computer and am still having problems linking my new camera to my computer.  I hate new.

I flew to California to visit our granddaughter.  I had no time for blogs.  Lots of baby time.  I loved that.

Then my brother died and I haven't had the heart to write anything.


His full name was David Randall Montague Risser.  He was the oldest of five children, but as the first he got loaded down with a lot of names.  He was always called Randy and I never got a good explanation as to why he wasn't called David or named Randall first if that was what they were going to call him.  He was David to most everyone else and Randy to us.

Randy was plagued off and on with major health issues.  He hated that and did as many outdoor and physical things he could possibly do to compensate.  We went to Yosemite and my grandfather's cabin a lot.  My father was fond of hiking.  Randy loved that so much he took it a step farther and started going on very long hikes.  My parents would drop him and a companion off at one campground on a Friday and pick him up at another one 100 miles away on Sunday afternoon.

As a teenager he became interested in archeology and started volunteering at the Calico Early Man Site.  My parents towed an old trailer there and he lived in it every weekend and summers while scratching holes in the ground with old dental tools.  Barstow, CA in summers can get to be 120 degrees.  There was no electricity and no plumbing in the trailer. Now that is dedication.

Randy had my dad's sense of humor.  He liked to tease and they both found things funny that other people didn't.  Every time Randy drove the long trip to Calico, he would stop at a diner.  For some reason he started requesting a Green Death.  They, of course didn't have a Green Death, because Randy had made it up. Naturally they asked what that was and Randy said it was a lime soda and chocolate ice cream float.

I know.  You are thinking, Yuck!  But he persisted.  Finally, when he asked AGAIN if they had a Green Death, they DID!  They had managed to find lime soda and then Randy had a Green Death on every visit from then on.

The dig was overseen or funded by National Geographic at that time, if I remember correctly.  At one point Dr. Louis Leakey, FAMOUS archeologist, came there for a visit.  He had been shot in Africa at a different dig, also under the aegis of National Geographic, and had come to the US to recover and stopped by.  He offered for Randy to come with him to Africa and work on a much more prestigious archeological site, but that never happened.  It was very flattering to be asked!

Randy went on to earn his PhD in Anthropology at UC Davis, even after becoming horribly sick a few months after collecting fruit flies in South America for genetics studies. During summers he parlayed his love of the outdoors into a Ranger position at Mount Rainier in Washington.  He had to learn to use ice axes and crampons and used to regale us with stories about walking on glaciers, having to safely navigate a crevasse and rescuing hikers.  Back in the Sixties Rangers were called Tree Pigs.


Randy and his wife Jeanne took many jobs in Universities all over the United States until he discovered an interest in epidemiology.  He went back to school and got a Master's degree (if you are counting, that is one BS, two Master's and one PhD) and ended up in Texas at the Texas Cancer Registry in Austin.  His son Darwin was raised there.

Randy had several very serious illnesses and came back from every one. This took a toll on him, however.  His most recent issue was a serious liver disease that would eventually require a new liver. They hoped to keep him going so long, that it wouldn't be an issue, but he took a turn for the worse. I asked him about a partial transplant, because I was willing to be tested for a match, but that wasn't the part he needed.  Someone would have to die to give him the liver he needed.

Translants are a scary thing.  Rarely does a healthy person get a transplant.  You have to be sick enough to get on the list, but not so sick that they don't think you can survive the surgery.  Randy went from being too well and too sick a few times.  Last month, he was well enough and a liver became available and they didn't have long to decide.  Randy and Jeanne decided the risk of the surgery was a better chance than the certainty of a rapidly failing liver and went for the surgery.

The surgery was a success and the liver started working right away.  Randy turned back to being pink and said he loved his liver.  He spoke to his wife about what they would do when he was finally healthy again.  They were going to take their son to Mt Rainier.  He hadn't been born when they were there.  Then the doctors had to go back in to fix an issue, then another came up, and another.  The liver was working fine, but complications arose and this time Randy couldn't fight his way through.  He died fighting with all he had. Jeanne had been by his side, working with him all their married life and his son had just gotten married.  There were things he wanted to do.

Sadly, this was one obstacle he wasn't able to overcome.

This summer Jeanne will take his son and daughter-in-law back to Mt. Rainier, the place he loved above all others.  He still has friends from his hiking, college and Ranger days.  Those that can, will meet this summer and Jeanne can show Dar all the places Randy had spoke of showing him.  He can meet the friends that helped to make Randy the man he became and hear the stories of his father before he was born.  None of us knew our parents in their youth, but illnesses had taken their toll on Randy before Dar was born.  He never knew the man that could hike 100 miles in three days or rescue hikers in a snowstorm on top of a glacier.  The one that would volunteer to live in a sweat box of an antique trailer hunched over a rocky hole in the sandy desert.  Because he was interested and he found it fun.

They will hike to Randy's favorite places and tell stories around the campfire.  Dar and Michal will learn about the man they never knew and the man they loved all the way to the end.  I'm sure it will be fun and fascinating and heartbreaking.  I'm going to be there.


I was at my son's house when my brother Roland called me with the sad news.  I was away from home and it was hard to bear.  We all had been so hopeful.  The next night for dinner, my son Travis fixed a special dessert.  We all had our first taste of Green Death.  It was pretty good.  And sort of gross.  It made me cry.


  1. Sending our condolences on the loss of your brother. He certainly was a wonderful man from your description of him here. Lots of love to you, Rebecca, as you mourn this great loss. xox

    1. Thank you so much. I wanted others to see what an interesting and strong man he was.

  2. This is a very elegant and touching post.

  3. What a beautifully written tribute to your beloved brother. He led a remarkable life, and had been loved very much. Please accept my condolences. Got Bless.

    1. I appreciate your kind words. He will be missed.

  4. I'm so sorry that you lost your brother. He sounds like a great guy!

  5. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. It sounds like your brother was a fighter all his life. Perhaps hearing stories about how he met and overcame his challenges will inspire your nephew as he lives his life, too. It's never easy to lose a loved one.

    1. He really overcame a lot of challenges. I expect that Dar will be inspired to do the same. Thank you for your kind words.

  6. Rebecca, I loved reading your comments about Randy. I was a friend of his since our college days at UC Davis and have many fond recollections of him both there and at Mt. Rainier where I stayed with him for a week one summer before classes started up again at UCD.

    I will be at the Mountain next week and look forward to meeting you, or meeting again as we probably saw each other when he and Jeanne got married.

    - Larry Tom

    1. I don't remember you, but I have seen pictures of you when Randy has commented on your Facebook posts. I am looking forward to seeing you and any other friends that are able to go. My brother Roland and my sister Robin will also be there. Did you ever meet my cousin John? He went to Davis and will be coming for just the 5th and 6th. He and Roland have to leave on the 7th.