What I’m Thankful For: Woman’s family fills need after husband’s death

Dawn Randall-Keitt’s gratitude rose from perhaps her darkest time.

Her husband, Tony Keitt, was just 41 when he died from a massive heart attack Dec. 26, 1998. At the time, their two children were just 1 and 6.

Immediately, Randall-Keitt -- daughter of Bibb County Magistrate Court Judge William Randall and his wife, Lauretta -- said her family stepped in, preparing the family’s house to receive mourners for the funeral.

For the next three years, her sisters Nikki Randall -- a state representative -- and Allison Randall-Berewa, along with close friend Selinda Handsford stayed with the family to help as “built-in babysitters.”

“Every night, somebody spent the night with us,” she said.

Randall-Berewa said the trio knew that Keitt was good with the children, getting them ready and out the door to school along with other countless responsibilities. But with Randall-Keitt going through the emotions of her husband’s sudden death, they felt the need to get involved.

“They were so small,” Randall-Berewa said of the children. “None of that was expected, so she needed our help.”

Raising her daughter Chasma, now 22, on her own didn’t seem quite as daunting for Randall-Keitt, but she wasn’t sure what she’d do with her son Saxton, 16. She described the difficulty she expected in raising a son without his father to help him learn to play sports or other activities he was interested in.

Her own father stepped in, though. Saxton now plays football and basketball for Central High School, and Billy Randall is there every time.

“His grandfather has never missed a game ... because he wants him to have that male presence,” Randall-Keitt said.

A pharmacist, Randall-Keitt has recently completed her master’s degree, and Chasma will graduate from Florida A&M University in May. Time may have passed since her husband’s death, but the children’s ages and accomplishments have kept his absence fresh on Randall-Keitt’s mind.

“Now the children are doing things that you want to share with their father, but I can’t,” she said.

Still, the presence of her other family members has eased that burden. When she was ill the day Chasma started college, her father and sisters drove to Tallahassee, Florida, to help with the move-in process.

“I couldn’t do it without them, the little things that other people take for granted,” Randall-Keitt said.

As far as Randall-Berewa is concerned, her sister has done just fine. She has no doubts how her brother-in-law would feel about his family’s accomplishments.

“I know her husband would’ve been proud of her and the children,” she said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.