By Leslie Radford: CNJ Staff writer
Will Anderson remembers Randy Gregory as one of “the two finest unicyclists in town” — with Anderson being the other. He remembers Gregory’s “bright silver caps” after getting his two front teeth knocked out around age 7. He also remembers them tapping out messages in Morse code to people in Europe from his family farm in West Texas.
But more than anything, Anderson remembers Gregory’s passion to become a minister.
Gregory, 51, and his teenage son were among the seven people killed Saturday in a Brookfield, Wis., hotel after a congregation member opened fire with a 9 mm handgun during a weekly church service.
Gregory was the minister of the Living Church of God, which regularly held its meetings at the Sheraton hotel. The Milwaukee-area church did not have its own building.
Police said Terry Ratzmann, a 44-year-old computer technician, walked into the room and fired 22 bullets within a minute. Ratzmann then killed himself with the gun, police said.
Gregory’s wife, Marjean, was listed in critical condition Monday with a gunshot wound to the chest at a Wisconsin hospital, the Associated Press reported. Three others were wounded.
“Randy was one of a kind. You always hear things like that about people after they’re gone, but he was,” said Anderson, now a Navy intelligence officer at the Pentagon who graduated with Gregory from Farwell High School in 1972.
“While the rest of us were part of the Spider-Man Fan Club and swapping comic books, he was studying scripture,” Anderson said. “He always wanted to be a part of the ministry. I believe he was used by God to fulfill a mission.”
Farwell schools Superintendent Larry Gregory said there was little doubt his younger brother was going to be a minister.
“He wasn’t like any other kid growing up; he knew what he wanted to do with his life when in high school,” Larry Gregory said. “He just felt like that was his calling in life.”
He said his brother moved to Wisconsin from Round Rock, Texas, about five years ago.
Anderson said he and Randy Gregory kept a long-distance relationship over the last few decades. “He went to his university and I went to mine,” he said Former Farwell High School teacher Lucile Franse remembers having Randy Gregory in English class as a sophomore and senior.
“He was very good student, well-behaved and disciplined,” Franse said. “I remember he was into sports.”
Farwell Postmaster Lynne Mahaney, who also graduated in 1972, said she had not talked to Gregory in several years and was shocked when she learned Gregory and his family had been involved in what is being labeled by the Wisconsin press as the “Brookfield hotel massacre.”
“I can’t believe that something like that could happen… and to someone you know,” Mahaney said. “It makes you realize how small the world really is.”
Anderson was philosophical about his friend’s tragic death.
“(Randy) had a purpose in this life. We may not know what that was right off hand, maybe it was to plant a seed in that church. I would like to think there was a purpose in all of this.”