By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
For Darlene Randall, Christmas was much more than a single day of celebration. The Kernville resident seemed to carry the Christmas spirit of giving throughout the year.
Darlene passed away on March 29 at the age of 82, leaving behind a legacy of love for Christmas, children and Kernville.
Darlene Carroll was born on June 6, 1936, in Rodgers, Arkansas. She was one of four children, including her twin brother, Dean. In the early 1940s, her family moved to California, and Darlene grew up in the Southern California town of Venice.
It was during that time that she met her future husband, George. Darlene’s sister-in-law Mary Carroll recalls that George had his eye on Darlene for some time before he got up enough nerve to ask her out on their first date.
George and Darlene were married in Venice on December 2, 1955. At the time of George’s passing in 2015, they had been married for 59 years.
Darlene and her twin brother, Dean, were close; so close, that George and Darlene and Dean and Mary held a double wedding ceremony.
The Randalls continued to live in Southern California before moving to Salt Lake City for a few years. In 1962, they moved to Las Vegas, where George established a successful steel business, a business that at one time employed more than 1,000 employees.
Darlene and George started visiting the Kern Valley in the mid-1950s. It was Dean and Mary who first discovered the area and soon were inviting family and friends to their newly found vacation spot along the Kern River.
In 1960, the Randalls’ son, Doug, was born, and 3 years later, their daughter, Brenda, was born.
Sometime during the 1970s, the Randalls purchased a home in Kernville as a weekender, and for many years, they commuted between their two homes in Las Vegas and Kernville.
Darlene and George both loved Kernville and purchased a number of businesses and buildings in town, including the Kernville Inn, Whispering Pines Lodge, That’s Italian Restaurant and the former El Sombrero restaurant. When they realized that there was no ball field in Kernville, they had one built next to the Kernville rodeo grounds, and in 2006, Randall Field was opened to the youth of the area.
Doug said his mother loved to cook, especially the big holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas when she would cook for large gatherings of family and friends.
Doug remembers that when his parents purchased the Whispering Pines, they turned it into a bed and breakfast, and his mother used her culinary skills to teach the staff how to cook some of the popular meals that their clientele enjoyed.
Along with her love of cooking, Darlene was passionate about family and Christmas.
Darlene’s childhood Christmases were simple – a nylon stocking filled with apples and nuts and other such gifts. Simple, but because Christmas was spent with family, it was always a special holiday that Darlene cherished.
Darlene combined her love of Christmas and children for an annual event: Christmas in Kernville, which has been a holiday tradition since 2000. The first year, Christmas in the Park was held at Kernville Inn; but it was already too big, so it was moved to Circle Park, where it has continued for 18 years. Every December, the park is adorned to the delight of children and adults with life-sized Christmas decorations, illuminated trees, colorful lights and Santa’s village.
Setting up Circle Park for Christmas in Kernville is a big undertaking, and it takes weeks and numerous volunteers to set it up. Darlene was on hand during that time, and under her orchestration, she oversaw the placement of every ornament and decoration.
“It was all about the kids and all for the kids,” her son, Doug, said.
In 2006, Darlene added a toy drive to the Christmas celebration to collect toys for the valley’s less fortunate children because she believed that every child deserved a toy on Christmas morning.
Darlene enjoyed helping children and her passion for the valley’s youth prompted her to spearhead the “Kids Against Drugs,” a drug-prevention program in the local elementary schools. As part of that program, Darlene organized a “Just Say No to Drugs” rally one year, where about 200 students marched through Kernville wearing t-shirts that the Randalls had purchased.
Doug said that his mother considered Kernville home, adding that she loved small towns and the people of the Kern River Valley. “Mom liked to go out for dinner and be around people,” he said.
Together, George and Darlene established a legacy of generosity and civic contributions to the Kern River Valley. In 2002, the KRV Chamber of Commerce named them as Man and Woman of the Year. They were also recognized by the Kern River Valley Exchange Club with the Book of Golden Deeds in recognition of their contributions.
Darlene was a member of Christ Fellowship Church. “Her faith kept her strong and she prayed all the time,” Doug said. Friends said that Darlene was the strength behind George that made him a successful businessman and again during his battle with cancer.
“It was her love of family, faith, Christmas and kids that made her happy,” Doug said.
Survivors include her son, Doug, and his wife, Lisa, of Kernville; daughter, Brenda, and husband, Pat Beaty, of Tehachapi; granddaughter, Jessica Randall, of Nebraska; grandson, Duran McDowall, of Bodfish; brother, Dean Carroll, and wife Mary, of Palmdale.
A Celebration of Life will be held for Darlene on Saturday, May 11, at 10:30 a.m. at Faith Community Church in Wofford Heights.
Attendees are asked to wear bright colors in celebration of Darlene’s life. “No black. And we hope to see a lot of hats because mom loved wearing hats,” Doug said.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the George and Darlene Randall Skate Park with checks made payable to: California Recreation Foundation, 2809 Irwin Ave., Lake Isabella, CA 93240.