By Becky Holland, email@example.com
MARSHALL – Legendary Basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
That was something that Marshall native and one of the owners of Neely’s on Grand believed more than anything. He believed in showing kindness to all, and was truly a man of character.
Today, May 16, it was confirmed that Mr. Randy had passed away at home. He had not showed up to work, and staff members, along with law enforcement officers, found him at home. Neely’s on Grand will be closed from May 16- May 21, as of right now as employees and family go through this time of bereavement.
Corley, a Marshall native, was always in the restaurant – only there when family needs came first. He greeted everyone the same – as if they were long long friends, and listened to tales that people shared. Mr. Corley also previously owned with his late wife “The Hamburger Store” in Jefferson.
As I let the news of Mr. Randy’s death sink in, I realized something. Other than the people I worked with at the Marshall News Messenger and my apartment manager, he was the first person I met and had an actual conversation with in Marshall when I moved here in August 2014.
I had heard about Neely’s most of my life from family members. Everyone loved eating the “Brown Pig.” My uncle’s mother had made pies for the Neely’s back in the 1950s-60s. My uncle’s brother had been one of the restaurant’s car hops. There is even a metal tray signed by my uncle hanging on the wall in the restaurant.
My first lunch break on my second day of work after moving to Marshall, I went to Neely’s to eat. Mr. Randy checked me out, and asked me a few questions. I, being like a nervous girl on her first day of school, told him of my family connections and what I was doing. He was genuinely interested, and in his soft but assertive voice asked questions. He even made sure that I met Mrs. Francene (Neely Barton).
Mr. Randy always reminded me of the characters that Jack and Walter played in the Grumpy Old Men movies – gruff on the outside but all mush on the inside. Anytime I visited the restaurant, he took a few minutes to come sit with me and chat, or listen to me chat. He also told me while I was at the newspaper that he liked my story or something like that.
My last visit where I saw him was during lunch. He walked over and sat down, and we chatted a few minutes. He knew I was in the middle of some life changes, and asked how I was doing. He said, “If you need anything, and I can help, come see me.” A lot of people might just say that to be saying that, but not Mr. Randy. He never minced words and spoke the truth.
I nodded. He paid for my lunch that day. In fact, a few times he would do that, and when I would try to argue, he would just give me this look . You know the kind- when you are with your dad and he is telling you to hush up. Even then though, there was always this twinkle of kindness in his eyes. He told me to come see him sometime soon. I said I would, but I hadn’t yet as of when I heard the news of his passing.
Men like Randy Corley are rare these days. They are the gentlemen. They believe in hard work, getting the job done and respecting everyone with a ‘Yes mam” or a “No sir.” I think of legends like the late John Wayne and Coach Tom Landry. Those two men carried themselves with dignity, honesty and ethics, and that is how Randy Corley was. Even though I was not that close with him, I enjoyed the two years of associating with him that I had.
He will be missed by many. Our prayers are with his family and friends.
No arrangements had been made as of writing of this post.
Others share memories of Randy Corley from the Neely’s on Grand Facebook Page:
“I remember him taking me on a tour of the kitchen at ‘The Hamburger Store’ in Jefferson when I was a little girl.” -Kelly Parrish Onofre.
“Randy was a very caring person, and made everyone feel welcome.’ – Kathy Ainsworth Wagnon
“Before I took my car to Stephen F. Austin University, I often rode home with Randy. He was a big man on campus and I was a lowly freshman. He was a sweetheart to my dad, and my grandson when we went to Neely’s. It will be sad to go there for a while.” – Joyce Allen Hammers
“He and his sweet wife stealing my babies and loving on them when they were little when we would go eat at the Hamburger Store in Jefferson. He was a good friend of my father-in-law’s. He will be missed.” – Lisa Benton
“He was such a special friend to so many, and he will be missed.” – Mary Haynes Martin