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Randy Flater

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

Randy Flater was a quiet, efficient Agilent retiree and Vietnam combat veteran who refused to let a prolonged battle with cancer deter him from his avocation of helping fellow vets avoid or escape life on the streets.

Flater, a co-founder and stalwart of Sonoma County's nationally recognized Vet Connect, died April 1 at the age of 66.

With his passing, “We lost one of our hardest-working members,” said John Cooker, a fellow co-founder of Vet Connect.

Every Tuesday morning at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, the organization helps vets of all ages who struggle to find or keep shelter, or who need a hand-to-find job or make use of their Veterans Administration benefits. Vet Connect volunteers also set up shop monthly in Guerneville, Petaluma and Sonoma.

Flater was the volunteer in Santa Rosa who made sure vets could get onto the Internet and make phone calls or photo-copy important papers. He showed up consistently, even when cancer made it difficult and painful for him to move about at all.

A son, Mark Flater of Santa Rosa, said service to military veterans in need “took over his life, for the most part. He was very devoted to that, very proud of that.”

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will recognize Flater's work by adjourning next week's meeting in his honor.

Granville “Randy” Flater was born in Davenport, Iowa, and came to the San Francisco Bay Area with his family as a child. He graduated from San Bruno's Capuchino High in 1964 and two years later joined the U.S. Army.

He served with the First Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966 and '67. Shortly after his honorable discharge he fell in love with a friend's sister, the former Judy Donohue, and went to work for Hewlett-Packard.

In the early 1970s he seized an opportunity to transfer to an HP position in Santa Rosa. While working, he studied at Santa Rosa Junior College and then Sonoma State University.

He worked nearly 30 years for HP and its successor in Sonoma County, Agilent, and retired as a production manager.

If Flater wasn't serving fellow veterans toiling to stabilize and improve their lives, he was happily engaged with his five children and seven grandchildren or, until the cancer put an end to it, chasing golf balls.

He spent so much time at Snoopy's Home Ice, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, with one grandchild in particular that he joined the board of the Santa Rosa Figure Skating Club.

Did he ever skate?

“I think he tried it once or twice,” said son Mark Flater. “It didn't turn out too well.”

In addition to his wife and son in Santa Rosa and his grandchildren, Flater is survived by children Lindsay Flater and Scott Flater, both of Santa Rosa; Julie Williams of Pleasant Hill and Michael Flater of Berkeley.

A memorial service is at noon today at Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.

Donations are suggested to Vietnam Veterans of America, P.O. Box 1583, Santa Rosa 95402, or www.vva223.org.

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