Before succumbing to COVID-19, the Rev. Tinnie Randall had a final word for her family: Pray. She was a spiritual dynamo packed into a 5-foot-tall body.
She died Dec. 17, 2020, at age 63, after a 54-day stay at Springfield Memorial Hospital.
Her husband of 35 years, the Rev. Nate Randall, recalled with a laugh that he asked her to marry him on their first date – and she turned him down — but they wed within eight months of meeting.
The pair, who met at choir practice, had a song they sang to one another: "I'll love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow."
"Sometimes we would sing it when we were in the car together, or in the kitchen or just before going to bed," he said. Nate added their three daughters never joined in the melody. "It was just between me and her," he said.
Nate is a quiet man, while his wife was boisterous.
"She could show up at a party and manage to be friends with everyone in the room within half an hour. I, on the other hand, would only manage to speak with one person during that same period."
If she hadn't entered the ministry, she might have had a future as an international diplomat. Nate said he remembers when she brokered peace between two Springfield street gangs.
"It was at the YMCA, when it was at its old location. She wanted to get some youth to go to a night at the Y, but she did not know that she had invited two gangs. They played together for about an hour. And then, all of a sudden, they split up into their sections and it was only me and a worker at the Y who stood between them. But we realized that we could not keep them apart if they wanted to come together."
At the brink of violence, Tinnie walked into the room and picked the biggest guy, Nate said.
"She said, 'Bend down so I can hug you.' She hugged him and said, 'You guys are not going to fight.' And I still remember him saying, 'Rev. Tinnie, we want to fight.'"
But violence was averted.
"So, I got on the bus and I took him home. Then I came back and got the second group and took them home. And the Y never invited us back. But she managed to stop a fight, with just hugs and kisses. That's what a lot of them just came for — hugs and kisses. So, she gave them out freely."
The couple reared three daughters: Natalie, Lillian and Tinnie Rachel. They pastored together at Faith Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Springfield and Tinnie also pastored at Allen Chapel in Taylorville. Since her death, Nate Randall has pastored both churches.
Tinnie Randall also held outside employment at the same time she pastored. She worked for Franklin Life, the Illinois Department of Health as a microbiologist, and later as a system analyst for the Department of Human Services.
The Randall's youngest child, Rachel Randall-Davenport, said her mother had a servant's heart.
"She was always doing for others.... When anybody was ever in need, she would help them —whether it was a listening ear or they needed groceries because they were just short – she would step forward."
Her mother always had a love for helping children, particularly those living in lower-income neighborhoods, Randall-Davenport said.
"She liked to have Christmas plays, Easter egg hunts. We also had an annual chili dinner. She made some of the best chili that everybody loved. She took kids to Sky Zone (Trampoline Park). And she would take them to St. Louis to Six Flags. She was always heavily involved with the children," her daughter recalled.
Randall-Davenport said, "I remember her getting ready to go to the hospital and me telling her 'I love you,' and that everything was going to be all right. But God had other plans and decided to take her home a little bit early."
During Tinnie Randall's time in the hospital, the family had video conferences with her, despite her being weak and drifting in and out of consciousness.
Randall-Davenport said, "I'll always remember her last word that she ever spoke: 'Pray.'"
Scott Reeder is a staff writer for Illinois Times. He was active in the public speaking club, Toastmasters, with Nate Randall many years ago.