Randi Morrell, late Mission Vista leader, made a huge impact for those with developmental disabilities
Randi Morrell, one of this valley’s most effective leaders in empowering those with special needs to live full and productive lives, died recently. He was a 40-year employee of Mission Vista, an agency helping those with developmental disabilities. He started as a teenager and worked his way up to be administrator in the final 15 years or so of his career.
Health issues forced his retirement in 2019, and he was struggling with frontal temporal lobe dementia towards the end, cared for by his wife, family and a few close friends.
Randi made contributions to his family and the community that deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated. He was deeply motivated to find ways to enhance the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and support them in living full and productive lives. He helped these individuals thrive and did so with a commitment to treating them with dignity and respect.
Helping people went beyond his job description. His wife Andrea told me Randi had a box in the back of the car and when he saw someone on the street who looked cold or hungry, he would give them clothes or get them a meal.
Randi and Andrea, who teaches in the medical assistant program at Wenatchee Valley College, got together only six years ago, although they were acquaintances for many years.
“He was a one in a million,” Andrea told me through her tears, and a man of deep faith.
Since Randi’s death, Andrea’s phone has been ringing off the hook as people have made a point of telling her the ways that Randi quietly impacted their lives. “This has lightened the blow a little bit,” she told me.
Randi’s all-consuming passion was to help individuals with developmental disabilities live their best lives in a society that had for years warehoused them, ignored them and treated them as children rather than as full human beings. Randi, to his credit, saw them as complex, interesting individuals who were evolving and changing.
But the standards of care for agencies helping those with developmental disabilities was extremely slow to change. Randi was determined that Mission Vista would set the standard for being a place where individuals were empowered to find their individuality. He set a standard for dignity and respect and made sure the employees followed through.
In the 2000s, he was instrumental in closing down the Mission Vista’s group homes and putting clients into more independent living arrangements supported by the staff. This was a visionary approach and it required having a leader like Randi with courage, perseverance and an iron will.
I happened to be on the board of directors of Mission Vista at that time and remember staff members telling us how individuals who had been languishing in the large group home environment were coming to life by living in their own space and having greater independence and autonomy. Randi was an exceptional leader.
“His passion for those clients was beyond what anybody would ever think,” said Caryl Andre, who was married to Randi previously and had two sons with him.
One of his closest associates at Mission Vista and beyond was Dennis Floyd, who worked at the company for 34 years. “He wasn’t a close friend but he was the best friend a person could want in time of need,” said Floyd. As Randi’s health deteriorated over the past year, Dennis was a constant visitor.
Randi had an amazing rapport with the clients at Mission Vista. He treated them as adults who were evolving and changing and would engage in playful banter. The authentic sense of caring was unmistakable.
As older clients of Mission Vista starting passing away, Randi and Andrea would visit their graves on Memorial Day. He didn’t want them to be forgotten.
Under Morrell’s leadership, Mission Vista became one of the most effective nonprofits providing residential services to folks with developmental disabilities in the state, said William Morris, who is a quality assurance specialist with the state Developmental Disabilities Administration. Morris, who got his start at Mission Vista and was trained by Randi, said his devotion to what’s best for clients epitomized how agencies can best serve those with developmental disabilities.
What made Randi special was that he met people where they were with kindness and without judgment. And he saw the humanity in each and every person. Imagine what would be possible if all of us followed in those footsteps. It’s a choice we can make every single day.