Collenberg had recently finished work on his book when a car wreck cut
short his life's story, along with the stories of his wife Dannette and
their family helper Janice.
I didn't know Randy well. Still, I want to remember him here, and thank the Great Spirit for his smile, his humor, and his plain-spoken human wisdom.
Randy's "Cab 10" column never failed to amuse me, and only occasionally made me mad. He painted vibrant scenes from real life in and around his "luxurious yellow cruiser." What others might view as "a job," Randy transformed into an exciting adventure in human affairs. The hard-working West Coast Cabbie was witty, patient, forthright, friendly, and deeply interested in people. Reading his tales, I was often astonished by his courage and raw nerve. He never shrank from life, but sought it out and embraced it passionately with big open arms.
If I saw Randy out on Humboldt's streets and highways, he would recognize me instantly--even through moving shells of steel and glass--and smile with clear open eyes. While many of us sometimes trudge through life as in a daze, Randy was keenly tuned in to the moments during which human contact can occur. In the end, moments are all we ever have; to miss them is to miss life. Randy didn't miss many.
Randy was of service to people in many ways: helping them into his cab, listening to their fears and dreams, offering sensible advice, and brightening their day with a smile or joke while bringing them to their destinations. Folks loved him at the McKinleyville Senior Center, a favorite destination of many. He will be deeply missed by staff members and participants where I work at Adult Day Health Care of Mad River. Randy brought many people to and from the center each day, and was always cheerful, full of life, and very helpful and kind to the elderly and disabled, bringing smiles and laughter into their lives. Even when pressed for time, Randy somehow managed to listen carefully to the participants. Age or disability didn't matter to him--he looked deeper, connected with each individual, and treated all as equals. People knew he was truly interested, because if you told him something, he'd remember it when you next talked with him--even a month or a year later.
Randy cared for his clients, and he loved his family. One can scarcely imagine the impact of this event on the families involved. Donations can be made at Coast Central Credit Union into a trust fund set up for the three Collenberg boys.
If there is meaning in this seemingly pointless tragedy, then probably each person will have to construct that meaning for him or herself. Reminders to wear seat belts and drive carefully--while incredibly important and always valuable--somehow don't do justice to the magnitude of what has happened.
The deeper lesson is not in how people died, but in how they lived. If we can take into ourselves just a bit of Randy's zest for life, his courage, his kindness, and his interest in others, then his life's meaning will never be lost.
Here is Randy's website, with articles from his column, jokes, and links to other taxi-related websites: www.westcoastcabbie.com
Here's a picture of Randy and the "luxurious yellow cruiser."
Here's a picture
of the cover of Randy's book: Cab 10:
The West Coast Cabbie.