For Randy Sims of Edwardsville, the legacy he leaves behind is one of joy, peace...and most of all, love.
“He would be overwhelmed if he knew how many people were talking about him and remembering the good times with him,” Jessica Platt of St. Louis, Randy’s girlfriend of nearly three years said. “I don’t think he realized how many friends he had and how many people he affected.”
On June 20, Randy and his father, Robert, were killed in a traffic accident in Jackson, Miss. when a driver struck their vehicle from behind, forcing it airborne and off a highway ramp.
The father and son were on a mission trip at the time.
Immediately following the news of his passing, friends and family flooded social media and his Facebook page with condolences and fond memories of the man whose life touched so many others.
“He was the most caring guy ever,” Jessica said. “He wanted to make me happy all of the time.
“He was at a very good place in his life.”
Randy went to Edwardsville High School and then attended Greenville College. After graduating in 2011, he spent his student teaching year at Roxana High School. For the last two years, Randy taught English, geography and literature at Collinsville Christian Academy.
“He never had a bad day,” Administrator Deedra Mager said. His favorite quote when you asked how he was doing was, ‘More lovely than dreadful.’
“As a teacher, he always wanted the best for his students. He challenged them, and I think the students appreciated that, because they knew he cared. He also made time to spend with the parents, and they appreciated that personal contact.
“Sometimes working with kids can be trying, but he had a lot of patience and always made time for his students.”
Greeting the kids each day was a sign outside of his classroom that read, “The smell of learning beckons you.”
“We are actually considering making that our slogan for the next school year,” Deedra said.
For several years, Randy also worked at the Greenville Public Library.
“He was known as the red-headed man with the red beard who recommended books for people,” Deedra said. “Learning was definitely a love of his. He was very well-read and educated and wanted people to get lost in reading the way he had.
“His relationship with Jesus shaped his character. He was so kind and giving and offered his life for others.”
Sheina Franco of Edwardsville was a close friend, graduating with Randy from college in 2011.
“Everything Randy did, he tried to do with excellence,” Sheina said. “He was somebody I looked up to, and he brought joy to everyone. That is something I want to do as well, because of him.
“He made such an impact on people’s lives, whether he knew them his entire life or for just a few minutes.”
Randy was known for rarely dressing down (even on casual days at school, he would wear a tie with his T-shirt, and Sheina, who learned to tie a tie from Randy, recalled a trip to Carlyle Lake with friends involving Randy swimming in a dress shirt.)
“He always had a smile on his face,” she remembered. “I never saw him complain once; he was the happiest person. He was the glue that held our friends together.
“He introduced me to my husband. During finals, Randy was going to a party. He brought me along and introduced me to his friend, Andrew. We started talking and it went from there.”
Andrew and Sheina were married just last April.
Randy was in the wedding.
The young man found his own soul mate nearly three years ago, meeting Jessica at the Prairietown Homecoming. She was quiet; he was an extrovert. She stands up straight to reach 5’2”. He towered over most people at 6’3”. They attended different churches.
They were, at least, both redheads.
“We had so many things in common, but we were also so different,” she said.
Randy enjoyed debating, trivia nights, traveling and photography.
“He always wanted photos to be perfect,” Jessica said, laughing at the memory. “He would take them over and over again. My family finally had to set him at a limit, telling him, ‘OK, Randy, you can only take two.’”
And, of course, Randy loved family, and was the catalyst to introducing his father to church and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Randy was preceded in death by two infant sisters, Lorelei and Heather Sims. His biological mother, Paula Sims, currently is serving life without parole in prison related to the deaths of both girls.
Although Paula is well-known throughout the Greater Alton area for her crimes, everyone who knew Randy agree it was his father’s wife of 13 years, Vikki, that Randy said was his mom.
“Randy always supported Vikki and loved her very much,” Sheina said. “He would check up on her and every time they talked on the phone he would say ‘I love you, Mom’ before they hung up. She was his mom. He was very close to his dad, as well.”
Jessica said Vikki has a hard road ahead, but she has a strong support system and is surrounded by the love of so many for her family.
Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler attended church with Randy in his younger years at Center Grove Presbyterian in Edwardsville.
"A couple in Holiday Shores would pick up Randy and take him to church when he was about 5 or 6," Prenzler said. "I liked books and history, and so did Randy, so we had that in common. He was a character and had a delightful sense of humor.
"God reached down into a dysfunctional situation and saved Randy Sims."
Monday's funeral was attended by hundreds of supporters and loved ones. During the service, one childhood friend said, "Randy had the ability to befriend outsiders."
“Randy was such a loving, open guy,” his girlfriend said. “I think it was because of his horrible past that he loved people even that much more. When he told me who he was and who his parents were, I didn’t care. I think that surprised him, but to me it didn’t matter.
“What mattered was Randy.”
“He did his very best in every endeavor he ever took on,” Deedra said, speaking of his work as a teacher as well as his life. “That is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”
And that, in the end, is the only legacy that really matters.
Jessica Platt has set up a GoFundMe page to help Vikki Sims with funeral expenses for both Robert and Randy. To donate, go to http://www.gofundme.com/xp448k.