Randy Whitehouse wrote a lot of great stories and told a lot of great jokes, but the moment I will remember most had nothing to do with either.

Randy’s wife, Joyce, was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and the prognosis wasn’t great from the start. She was likely fighting to live as many months as possible, not years.

About a year later, in late spring or early summer 2019, I asked Randy for an update, as I often did when we were alone in the office. He told me that Joyce wanted to put together a big party for his 50th birthday, which was a little less than a year away.

He said something like, “I don’t want a big birthday party, but if it keeps her going that long, I’ll love it.”

Randy didn’t want all that attention, but he’d do anything for Joyce — who died in October 2019 — and their son, Andrew.

Randy Whitehouse, center, and fellow Sun Journal sports reporters Kal Oakes, left, and Kevin Mills watch the action during the 2009 Class A Eastern Maine boys basketball championship in which Edward Little defeated Lawrence. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Randy would most likely hate this column. But maybe I could convince him that it will be good for me. If that didn’t work, I might try convincing him that it will help the Sun Journal’s readers.

Randy Whitehouse, our beloved and talented and hilarious coworker — our beloved and talented and close friend — died Sunday.

I considered Randy my best friend at the Sun Journal. I found out that I wasn’t the only one. Randy wasn’t the prototypical collector of besties. He wasn’t Mr. Sunshine with a smile that radiated across the room. He had a deceptive kindness, and once you were around him, you were hooked.

That extended beyond the Sun Journal, and the Kennebec Journal, where he worked from 2014-16, and even newspaper, radio and TV reporters. The people he covered, particularly athletes and coaches, also were drawn to Randy.

His company was enjoyed, his work was appreciated.

“Randy was such a quiet, funny and approachable guy who will be missed by anyone who took the time to get to know him or hang with him on the sidelines,” longtime Sun Journal photographer Russ Dillingham said. “He was the kind of guy many of us gravitated to because he made you laugh, never complained — unless you brought it up — and his dry delivery of witty commentary was legendary.”

From the time he returned to the Sun Journal after a few years at the Kennebec Journal, Randy’s desk faced mine. That allowed me to pick his brain as I tried to get up to speed on Maine sports. When the sports staff was moved to a different part of the newsroom and I was in charge of picking who sat where, I made sure Randy’s desk was still facing mine.

That close proximity left me open to being on the receiving end of Randy’s dry sense of humor, but also gave me the chance to team up with him. For instance, whenever he overheard me talking on the phone to Sun Journal sports writer Tony Blasi, Randy would say something like, “Ask him how many times he has watched ‘The Irishman,’” or something else to poke fun at Tony’s love of mob and war movies.

Randy’s work won multiple state and national awards, but he had a disdain for such things. In fact, one of our final text message conversations involved him cursing at me as I asked him which of his stories from 2020 should be submitted for awards.

But he was always quick to compliment others for their work. During our final phone call, which happened in early February, in between his two hospital stays, he complimented me and gave some passionate compliments of the recent work of some of our coworkers.

Randy Whitehouse, far right in red hat, covers the Class D South regional final football game between Lisbon and Winthrop/Monmouth with Sun Journal colleagues Lee Horton, far left, and Wil Kramlich, center, in November 2016. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

That final phone call still gives me goose bumps. An infection hospitalized him for a week or so in January. Soon after he returned home, his mom, whom he was caring for, suffered a stroke. Instead of resting and healing, he was worrying about his mom.

Randy called me that day to tell me that his mom had died a few days before — you can’t imagine how brutal the past few years were to him — but also to give an update on his condition. I don’t think I have ever talked to someone who sounded as completely exhausted as Randy did that day.

He kept talking, as if there were things he needed to make sure that I knew. About how he was worried about everything his son had experienced over the previous few years; about how sorry he was if his absence was difficult on me; about how well we were doing without him; about the importance of me making sure I put my family before my work; about how his most recent experiences made him more convinced that God is real — instead of being bitter toward God that his wife and mom had died in span of 18 months and that he had experienced a health scare of his own, he was grateful.

When I look back at it, of course that was the final phone call we would ever have. A few days later, he was back in the hospital.

Now we are all left with a void. We won’t get to read any more of his stories, or hear any more of his jokes.

But I’m grateful for the time we had, and honored to be one of his friends.

Sun Journal sports editor Lee Horton can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @_Lee_H.

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