St. Louis Character: Real estate broker Rick Randall leads St. Louis efforts to remember 9/11 sacrifices with Flags of Valor display – St. Louis Business Journal – St. Louis Business Journal

During his 32-year career, commercial real estate broker Rick Randall of Pace Properties hasn’t just been focusing on bringing Costco and Ikea to St. Louis. With support from Pace and other businesses, Randall started a nonprofit, America’s Heartland Remembers, that runs the Flags of Valor display that last month placed 7,582 American flags on Art Hill in Forest Park to remember the service members who died in the military theater since Sept. 11, 2001. The display has happened three times, every five years. The organization has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to military nonprofits, including $100,000 this month.
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 already carried extra significance, but as the U.S. withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan, 13 service members were killed Aug. 26, including Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz of Wentzville, 20. Flags of Valor had to add those 13 flags at the last minute.
It’s not yet certain whether the display will return in 2026, but the mantle will have to be taken up by new leadership: Randall is retiring at the end of this year and hopes to travel with his wife, Susie, and hand Flags of Valor over to a new generation.
Why did you start Flags of Valor? My friend Larry Eckhardt, who was known as “The Flagman,” would put up about 2,000 flags at military funerals of these kids when they’d come home. I got to know many Gold Star families and got to know the power of a lot of flags to make a statement. The fear that all these families have is that the sacrifices made by their loved ones will be forgotten — that their young people went over there, sacrificed their lives and then will just fade off. That’s the No. 1 reason why we do it. The families take great solace in the fact that at least here, in St. Louis on Art Hill for those eight days, we are remembering their kids and their loved ones. I call them kids because they mostly were. Some of them weren’t, but mostly they just seemed like young kids. And that’s another reason why I think every five years, this younger crowd needs to make Flags of Valor happen.
Do the flags still affect you? I was there all eight days. I would get there real early in the morning, and it would be misty and the sun would be coming up. And you just look at them and it would hit me. You realize that each one is not just an individual who gave their life, but a family and friends. You can just multiply that in your mind — you can look at them and multiply that by 100 and know more than that many people are terribly affected by it.
How was this year different? It affected everybody just a little bit more because of losing those 13 at the airport as we were trying to withdraw, one of them being a St. Louisan, Jared Schmitz. It was just a display of enormous sacrifice. And thousands of people came, you could hardly get into the park. I remember when we were losing many, many young people a day back in 2011, 2012, so there’s hope that we can find a better way to try and do things in the future. And I think we will.
How do you make this happen? Pace Properties does an unbelievable amount of work, some of the employees work weekends. There’s just so much to do. Guarantee Electric provides the facilities. Stock & Associates provides hundreds of hours of engineering helping us mark 7,000 marks on the hill. They all do it gratis just because they believe in it. They use a GPS to give us a 49-foot grid and then we have professional surveyors from Brinkmann Constructors and Castle Contracting and other companies come out and use these precise chain measurements. It’s laid out in the same geometry as a military cemetery. All the real estate companies also helped. All these companies are just great companies that we work side by side with over the years. We also had about a thousand volunteers.
What is your favorite real estate deal that you’ve worked on? Bringing Costco to St. Louis — they don’t build a lot of stores, but they’re a really, really good company. They provide a great service for their customers, but they’re also a really, really good employer. They pay their people correctly and they promote from within. It was really fun to work with them, and my last year at Pace I was finally able to get that fourth store done (in University City, following St. Peters, South County and Manchester). I also really enjoyed working with Ikea and all their people and the city of St. Louis to get that deal done. That’s a nice thing about Costco and Ikea, they don’t close and they don’t move. They don’t go around to the next community who gives them a better deal. As far as developments, the one that I worked the hardest on and I’m most proud of is called Manchester Highlands, where we had a Walmart, a Costco, Best Buy and all kinds of other stores. That was a hard project.
What are your thoughts looking back on your career? The St. Louis real estate industry is a great group of companies across the board, so I just feel very lucky to be at Pace Properties and to be a part of that industry during the last 30 years. Flags of Valor would not have happened if I wasn’t working for Pace. It’s been a great company to work for and I’m sad to leave, but I’m ready to do some other things. I’m just so grateful.
Age: 71

College: Mizzou, where he played on the doubles and singles tennis teams
Hometown: Grew up in University City and went to Delmar High School
Current residence: Kirkwood

Family: Wife, Susie, of 31 years. They have four children and six grandchildren.
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