Randy Larrimore honors his wife's memory with a fund for schoolchildren in Guatemala
In the beginning, it was a storybook romance. Randy Larrimore and Eileen Madden were high school sweethearts who broke up at graduation because, as Eileen once wrote, "neither of us wanted to get married to someone from our very small hometown and get stuck there; we did want to broaden our horizons and see the world."
See the world they did, especially after they reconnected in 2004 and fell in love all over again. They married in April 2007.
Though their careers had taken very different courses—Randy is the retired president, ceo, and director of United Stationers, Inc., and Eileen served for 20 years in the U.S. Army—they found that getting together again was, in Randy's words, "like going home. Our interests had become aligned, and we enjoyed each other's company."
One of those interests was certainly travel. In the seven years they had together, it would appear that they spent little time in their Alexandria, Virginia, home: they visited 49 countries. Tragically, this past January, as they were traveling to Antarctica, to visit their seventh continent, they suffered a terrible accident while hiking, and Eileen did not survive. She was 63 years old.
Fittingly, Randy's parting gestures in her memory were related to their shared passion for travel. On the back of the order of service for Eileen's funeral, he exhorted guests: "To honor Eileen's memory, pick a place on a map, pack a bag, and go before it's too late." He also asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a fund in her name established through Grand Circle Foundation.
"We had given before to Grand Circle Foundation," Randy explains, "and I liked that 100% of the funds go to the cause—all administrative costs are covered by Grand Circle." As he wrote in Eileen's obituary, "Your gifts will be used to help build schools and to provide educational materials in developing countries around the world. Eileen and Randy visited several of these schools during their travels and were compassionately inspired by children struggling to obtain a basic education."
One of the schools the Larrimores had visited with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) was the Oficial Parvulos School in the Guatemalan village of Santa Catarina Barahona. Traveling on OAT's Route of the Maya adventure, the Larrimores experienced a Day in the Life of the village, which included negotiating for school supplies at the local market, traveling alongside villagers in a local bus that had been converted from an American schoolbus, visiting the school, and sharing lunch with the students and their extended families. "The Day in the Life was a highlight for all of us," Randy recalls. "You could really see how people live."
So when the time came to earmark the memorial fund, the Oficial Parvulos School made sense to him. Grand Circle Foundation is waiting for a proposal from the school about how it would allocate the money before making the decision final.
To date, Randy estimates that 80 people have donated to the fund, for a total of $12,380. Randy believes that the fact that all of the money would go to the school encouraged people to give.
Randy himself also encourages people to be inspired by Eileen's spirit. "Life to her was an adventure, and we lived it," he says, adding words she herself had written as part of a shared presentation they once made at Harvard Business School: "I continue to learn that, under our different skin colors, cultures, and religions, we're all alike, desirous of very similar needs and wants, and that if governments would just get out of the way, the peoples of the world would get along." The very sentiments that prompted Grand Circle Foundation to create the Day in the Life and World Classroom programs that are being supported in her memory.
Featured in our March 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.