When Darold Gleason crosses the weigh-in stage at the Academy Sports & Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by HUK, he’ll have a bunch of buddies back at Toledo Bend green with envy, but somewhere in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex stands, one very special fan will be pink with pride.
That’s a reference to his wife Randi’s career as a pink Cadillac SUV-driving Senior Sales Director with Mary Kay. We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, meet this amazing Classic couple.
Fifteen years after proposing to Randi on Cypress Bend Resort’s 17th hole, overlooking Toledo Bend, Darold punched his Classic ticket by winning the 2019 BassPro.com Central Open on that Sabine River reservoir. Doing so put the South Toledo Bend Guide Service owner on track to fulfilling a dream he’s been chasing across 13 years of tournament fishing.
“It felt like a culmination of all those years of struggling and grinding,” Darold said with a quaking voice. “To be able to have that moment with my wife was incredible — for both of us. She’s been a big part of this even when I wasn’t winning, so sharing a victory with her was pretty special.”
While that’s certainly a compelling story, glossing over the Gleasons' thick-and-thin devotion to one another would be unforgivable.
If this sounds like just another sappy lead, buckle up. And if you’re the tissue type, now’s the time.
The story starts at Simpson High School in their Western Louisiana hometown. When Darold, a sophomore, looked across a Friday night dance floor and saw a feisty little redheaded 8th grader, he felt a flutter in his heart that would dramatically alter his life’s trajectory. A rare and wonderful alignment happened that night, and it wasn’t long into their dating that Darold knew he’d someday marry this girl.
He also knew Randi had Cystic Fibrosis, the nation’s leading fatal genetic disease, which affects the respiratory and digestive systems with abnormal mucus development. Darold understood the reality, but he knew how he felt.
This was the one.
But lasting love is predicated on truth and, for them, embracing the facts of Randi’s illness has cemented their relationship. It’s the kind of stuff that shows you what you’re made of and what really matters.
When Darold and Randi met, a CF patient’s life expectancy was mid-20s. Medical developments gradually increased that number to 41 and Randi reports that new medications are adding another decade.
Thankfully, the Gleason’s diligence and personal faith have kept Randi moving forward with a brilliant smile and boundless enthusiasm. But consider this: The day Darold said “forever,” this man knew his forever would almost certainly be much longer than that of the woman he loves.
“I’ve just been so blessed that he took that on,” Randi said. “It’s pretty special to know you’re loved enough that someone can take your baggage too."
Walking the walk
CF has taken the Gleasons aboard an emotional roller coaster, with the joy of good checkups and tears over the tough ones. Hospitalization remains a looming possibility, and if you think losing a 7-pounder during the last day of a tournament hurts, try seeing the light of your life in one of those beds.
Randi stays on top of the medication and dietary requisites, while Darold has built a fortress of protection around his beloved, which includes nightly Chest Percussion Therapy. Essentially, Darold cups his hands and drums his wife’s upper torso to help her clear enough congestion so she can breathe while sleeping.
Darold does this every night — even the ones during his career’s most important event.
“Every time I do that it’s prolonging her life and making her healthy,” he said. “I feel like I have a very small hand in (her health) and her commitment to the regimen lets me know she loves me enough that she wants to hang around with me. That makes us feel incredibly close.”
Randi’s appreciation rings clear: “It feels like I’m not in it alone. It’s not just my battle, it’s our battle. On the hard days, I have someone who will be there every night with me.”
We could stop there and have a greater tale of true commitment than most will ever know. But there’s more worth telling.