There’s a roar of a small engine from Norma Bench’s Riverton, Utah, backyard. It means only one thing. Randy’s there. The noise is from the lawn mower.
It’s Tuesday, and Tuesday is the day Randy Johanson cuts Norma’s lawn. Well, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Why mow the grass just once a week when two cuts make it look so much better?
“I like to mulch her lawn so it doesn’t get too long and leave clumps on the grass. That doesn’t look good,” says Randy matter-of-factly.
No it doesn’t. But imagine what the lawn would look like if Randy wasn’t taking such immaculate care of it.
“He’s certainly been a lifesaver to me,” says Norma.
When it seemed as if Norma Bench’s world was falling apart, a 12-year-old deacon helped her realize things weren’t so bleak after all.
One week after Norma’s son, Brian, received his mission call to the Brazil Recife South Mission in August of 1994, her husband, Gail, died of cancer. So when Brian left for his mission, Norma was all alone.
Then another trial came her way. While helping her brother move some things, Norma fell and shattered her femur in six places. As accidents go, this one was a doozy. Doctors inserted 13 screws into her leg, and she was told she wouldn’t be up and at ’em any time soon.
Next, word came that Brian had to come home from his mission early because of medical problems that couldn’t be treated in Brazil. Norma had a lot on her mind.
During her ten-day hospital stay, she lay in bed, unable to move, pondering her situation. One of the things she worried about was who was going to take care of things around her house. She certainly couldn’t, and Brian’s condition would prevent him. But Randy had it figured out.
Randy, a member of the Riverton Fifth Ward, had been mowing the Benches’ lawn since he was ten. With Norma laid up, he just added the weeding, trimming, and general repair to his list of things to do.
“I’m happy about working for her because it’s nice to do a lot of things for neat people,” he says.
What Randy fails to mention is that he’s working for free—if you don’t count the occasional can of soda or ice cream bar that Norma gives him.
“I’ve tried to pay him,” Norma says. “I’ll hand him some money, and he says no. He’s such a good example for me. He sees things, and he knows what has to be done. He’s just a neat kid.”
Once, when Norma was still on crutches, she dropped a drinking straw to the floor. Unable to pick it up, she asked Randy if he would. The next thing Norma knew, Randy had the vacuum going through the house.
“That’s just the way he is,” says Randy’s mother, Debra. “He learned to work with his dad when he was two years old. I’ve got pictures of him helping his dad push the lawn mower.”
Norma Bench is doing much better now. It’s been more than a year since her fall, and she’s able to get around again. But Randy is still one of the constants in her life. When a tree needs to be trimmed, he’s there. When a winter storm rolls in, there’s Randy shoveling her driveway.
“I have a responsibility,” he adds. “I have the priesthood, and I’m learning more things about the Church all the time, and I feel that I can do a lot more things,” he says.
He’s right about that. But you’d have a hard time convincing Norma that Randy could do any more than he’s already doing.