On the morning of Aug. 15, 2022, Randy Watkins of Whitefish died at home, at the age of 74. His weak heart finally gave out. It was a painless and peaceful passing for him. His family was at his side to help send him off on his heavenly journey.
Born in 1948, Randy grew up on a wheat farm near the little town of Benge in eastern Washington with his older sister, Beckey, and their loving parents, Ronald and Maxine. Randy developed his strong work ethic working with his dad on their family farm. He learned how to operate trucks, tractors and combines. He was part of the harvest crew at about age 10 and, at 12, he began full-time ‘spotting’ wheat trucks.
Randy participated in 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) through school. The livestock projects suited his competitive nature, and he won many champion ribbons for raising and showing beef steers. At his small high school in Washtucna, Randy lettered in every sport: baseball, football, basketball, and track. His best sport was basketball, and after high school, he played for Columbia Basin Community College and played some ball for Washington State University too. He graduated from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in Food Science.
After graduation, he and two friends rode Schwinn bicycles from Washington to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In Steamboat he met Jan, where they began spending their wonderful life together. Jan and Randy skied together during the day and worked together at restaurants during the night. They got married in Steamboat Springs in 1974.
Growing up, Randy’s family vacationed at their beloved Priest Lake, Idaho each year after the wheat harvest. Randy introduced Jan to Priest Lake, where they settled into a 1900-era log cabin on 10 acres and began their married life. Together they made a warm home, worked together at Hill’s Resort and played on the lake and on the slopes at Schweitzer Mountain. Some adventures during those years were an epic road trip through Mexico, a winter season skiing in Taos, a Costa Rica adventure and a winter trip to Hawaii. And South Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is where Randy’s family ended up living for 14 years.
In Honaunau, Jan and Randy built a new house in 1979 for their growing family. They were blessed with a daughter, Shay, and with a son, Ry. As a general building contractor, Randy built many beautiful custom homes. Together, Jan and Randy raised their kids and grew their construction business. In 1993, the family moved from Hawaii to Montana.
In Whitefish, Randy built a house for the family, then continued building custom homes (Randy E Watkins Construction) until his retirement in 2012. In their retirement, Randy and Jan have split their time between Whitefish and South Kona. Though they never stayed away too long from their much-loved kids and grandkids in Whitefish.
Randy had a great sense of humor, a real talent for storytelling, and an enduring positive outlook on life, even as he became less healthy. He often said, “If I die tomorrow, it will be with a smile on my face because it’s been such a great life!” He was handsome, hardworking, loving, generous, kind and a gem to all who knew him.
During his life Randy loved his family foremost, he loved his work, and all the outdoor activities to be enjoyed in Hawaii and Montana: boating, camping, golfing, fishing, snow skiing, water skiing, rafting, hiking and gardening. He loved woodworking, watching sports, fixing anything that was broken and he was a great cook. Traveling was another passion, whether “car hiking” in the RV, sailing in New Zealand, driving through western Australia, boating in the Everglades, discovering Ireland and Scotland, or salmon fishing in Alaska.
Randy is survived by his loving wife, Jan, and his two children Shay (Dave) and Ry (Carling) and his five grandkids (Noe, Rowdy, Bo, Gigi, and Olly).
A Celebration of Life is planned for Sunday, Sept. 11 in Whitefish – to celebrate a life well lived.