POINT PLEASANT — How much of our lives are left to chance and how much is fate remains a timeless question but for one man approaching his 90th birthday, the key seems to have been simply showing up for life.
Paul Randolph was born in 1923, graduated from Wahama High School and lived in Mason County his whole life except for his service in the U.S. Navy. Randolph joined during World War II in March 1943 and soon left for Little Creek, Va. to do boat training, then was shipped to Florida for even more training and then to New York to prepare to depart for the Normandy invasion.
As chance or fate would have it, Randolph became ill and his unit left for Normandy without him. Had he gone, would his life have been different? Would he have made it home at all? Those questions will have to remain unanswered. What is known is Randolph recovered, was placed with a new unit and shipped off to England and then to France. Part of his travels were spent on the enormous troop ship the Aquitania.
Randolph said traveling with thousands of servicemen on a huge boat wasn’t hard to get used to - the vomiting from seasickness was another matter, he joked. However, like all situations you either make the best of it by getting used to it or continue to be seasick. As Randolph put it, he “got used to it.”
Randolph did see his training to pilot the smaller Landing Craft Mechanized boats put to use in Cherbourg France when a German U Boat sunk an American ship in the Cherbourg Harbour. Randolph said his crew were only able to save three men from the sunken ship due to the icy, winter water. Also, Randolph helped pull one of the unexploded German bombs from the Cherbourg Harbour to shore and away from fellow servicemen. Had he gone to Normandy, would someone else have been there to do these chores? Again, another question about the powers of fate and circumstance and how one life affects another.
Randolph eventually achieved the rank of Second Class Boatswain Mate. Still, he doesn’t feel he did “anything particularly special” while in the service and didn’t want to come across as bragging about that “anything.”
“I don’t want to go back but I’m glad I went,” Randolph joked about his adventure far from home when his country needed him and so many others.
Homesick from the day he left West Virginia to the day he returned from the war, fate or coincidence stepped into his life once again. A photo of he and his brother, George, who served in the South Pacific, appeared in the Point Pleasant Register, as a type of announcement about their service in the U.S. Navy. Randolph’s future wife, Alice Wolfe, saw the photo in the newspaper and declared “I’m going to marry him” in reference to Paul.
At that time, Alice and Paul hadn’t met or knew each other but as fate or chance had it, Paul saw her at restaurant one day in New Haven and sat down beside her - they were married for nearly 60 years before she passed away. Did the photo in the newspaper set the stage for a marriage of nearly 60 years? Or, did fate already have it planned whether Alice saw her husband’s face before she actually met him or not? Again, questions which can never be answered about turning left instead of right; about sitting down next to a girl in a restaurant, or not.
Paul and Alice had two daughters, Stella Krebs and Pauletta King, both of Point Pleasant, and of course, grand kids followed and life began to unfold either by chance or according to that master plan, depending on a person’s perspective.
This Sunday, Paul will turn 90. When recently speaking to the Point Pleasant Register, he sat and talked about his life and how he understood how many in the younger generations didn’t understand the realities of his generation.
“I wouldn’t have (understood) either if I hadn’t been there,” he said with a smile.
After all, if you don’t show up, neither does chance or fate.