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View a eulogy for Randolph Kent Guenther, USMA '65, who passed away on May 7, 2013.

Randolph Kent Guenther

West Point, 1965

Be Thou At Peace

Posted by Hank Kelley on May 19, 2013:

This story had its origin in Ordinance Class, second semester of senior year. Ordinance was another of those required subjects whose mysteries still escape me after nearly 50 years, but exposure to which, like eating broccoli at mother's insistence, was somehow thought to be beneficial.

We had spent the morning in Ordinance making merry by firing bullets of several calibers into a block of gelatin, observing the results, taking measurements, and performing calculations which led to conclusions that I don't remember other than if given a choice you should opt for being the shooter rather than the block of gelatin. I met Randy after class as we walked back to the barracks to get ready for the noon meal formation. (In the interest of full disclosure let me state here that Randy and I did not share a class in the same academic section. In fact our classrooms were likely separated by the equivalent of a city block or two. While Randy galloped in pursuit of knowledge, I plodded wearily along.) I noticed that Randy was carrying his books in front of him like a tray in a cafeteria, and on that makeshift tray was a block of gelatin such as we had just murdered in Ordinance class. Somehow he had gotten permission to take it home with him. As Randy explained, he felt the experiment was incomplete; we had just observed the effect of projectiles on the gelatin, he now wanted to observe the effect of the gelatin on some other object. In short, what he proposed to do was drop the block of gelatin from the top of New South Barracks.

Well, this certainly sounded like my kind of experiment. And so together we trooped up the stairs to the fifth floor of the barracks to where a hallway window overlooked the ramp into New South. After opening the window, Randy patiently waited for those returning from class to get out of the way. I must admit I wasn't nearly so fastidious; I could easily identify several passersby deserving to get hit with the Great Blob from Heaven as I had come to think of Randy's experiment. But Randy was not only a man of science, but a great humanitarian as well, and so he made sure the drop zone was clear before he launched, possibly sparing some future general from being slimed.

Now I've read somewhere about a Roman emperor who liked to have large animals thrown from the top of high buildings because he enjoyed the sound they made when they hit the ground. I guess nothing much has changed over the years, because here we were standing at a fifth floor window surrounded by a group of the curious and clueless -- a roundup of the usual suspects of I-1 -- all looking forward to the big SPLAT!!! that would result when Randy dropped the blob. And after a proper pause for dramatic effect, he did so. Down it plunged more than five storys to the ramp below.

But there was no big SPLAT!!!. Not even a disappointing plop. Instead what happened was what no one expected. The blob bounced! And not just an ordinary bounce. A real Superman bounce! When it hit the ramp, the block of gelatin bounced high up, up and away onto the roof of Grant Hall. We made no effort to retrieve it. It may still be up there. Or more likely it has dissolved over the years and like the old soldier faded away, blending its elements with those of our Highland Home, part of 65's contribution -- and Randy's in particular -- to the Legends of the Long Gray Line.

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