Community Activist Had Passion For Helping

Man Who Helped Homeless Dies At 69

Posted: February 5, 2013

Dick Randel, who died Friday, was known for helping the homeless and foster children. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R File)
HARRISONBURG — For decades, Harrisonburg resident Dick Randel’s life revolved around helping the less fortunate. 

Any chance he had to help someone in need, he’d step up to the plate immediately, his friends say.

Randel, a community activist known for his passion for helping the homeless and foster children, died Friday at his home, according to his obituary. It’s unclear how he died. He was 69.

“I knew him to be a sweethearted person who deeply cared for people who were on the streets and had [drug or alcohol] addictions,” said Ron Copeland, director of Our Community Place, a Harrisonburg-based nonprofit organization that offers community outreach services. “It was his life passion to help figure something out.”

Randel was a supporter of  Mercy House, a shelter for homeless women and children, since its inception in 1988.

Retired General District Court Judge John Paul helped create the shelter.

“He had a very strong inclination to help homeless people,” Paul said Monday. “There were times when we didn’t agree on the proper approach but I always knew he meant well.”

In addition to helping the homeless, Randel helped operate Children in Peril, a support group for foster children and their families.

As part of his mission, he helped a Shenandoah Valley mother after her daughter died while she was in foster care.

Candice Raynor, 15, was found dead by police Sept. 30, 2006, at a power substation near the foster home after she went missing from the Magnolia House in Richmond, a branch of the Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents. She had been electrocuted.

Randel went to Washington, D.C., in 2007 to tell the story of the former Thomas Harrison Middle School student’s death and to protest flaws in the nation’s system of child-protective services.

Randel is survived by his wife, Laurie, and three children. Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Lindsey Funeral Home in Harrisonburg.

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or

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