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by Anne Batty
At a time when San Clemente was little more than rolling hills, ranchland and crudely formed roads, expectant parents Walt and Iris Liebig brought a son named Randy from St. Joseph Hospital in Orange to their home on Calle Campo in the north end of town. And having grown up there (eventually buying out his siblings), it is that same home that he and his wife of 27 years, Mona (also a longtime resident), choose to live in today.
“In my younger years our house was the only one on the street and the road dead-ended with a gate that separated our property from sage brush and wide open spaces,” he explained. “There was no freeway cutting the town in half, and my brothers, sister and I played and explored among the cattle and wild life roaming the area. I think it was that freedom and being in the open all the time that eventually prompted me to seek work outside and not inside a building.”
Like most beach town families the Liebigs spent lots of time at the ocean as well. It was fishing that had brought his parents from El Monte to San Clemente in the first place. When they came, the Fisherman’s bar was a boat club and the restaurant a boat locker, with a hoist holding court at the end of the pier to lift vessels in and out of the water.
As a local, Randy attended both Las Palmas and Concordia Elementary schools. While in third grade at Concordia he was named “Citizen of the Year,” an honor that his daughter Rebecca duplicated years later at that same age, in that same grade, in that same school. Then experiencing further déjà vu, he attended Tom Youngerman’s English class at San Clemente High School during Tom’s first year as an SCHS teacher; and his daughter became a student of that same teacher during that same instructor’s last year there. And … keeping it in the family … his father was named “Citizen of the Year” in 1971. An honor awarded him for his many community contributions, among them establishing the pyrotechnics for the 4th of July fireworks at the pier.
In those early years SCHS offered a work experience program whereby students who worked outside school in certain jobs could earn credits toward graduation. And while higher education was sought by some, others opted to “follow in their father’s footsteps” to learn a trade as their way of making a living.
“My brother Ron and I had lots of different jobs after school,” revealed Randy. “We had paper routes with the Daily Sun Post and the Register, and it wasn’t easy to get those jobs. You had to be on a list and know someone that was leaving. One of the things I remember most about that work is how heavy those carrier bags were,” he chuckled.
Along with newspaper routes after school, the Liebig brothers worked delivering Pizza and other meals for local businesses on El Camino Real. They also did time in the Greenwall & Liebig plumbing and appliance shops, cleaning the floors, sorting materials, delivering appliances, and whatever other menial jobs needed to be done.
In their very young years they had spent lots of time in the shop, because their mother took them along while she maintained the businesses offices for their dad and his partner. She worked, they played, and being typical boys used all the scrap plumbing materials they could find to build things. For Randy, that time spent constructing was the impetus for a career working with his hands, both in business and later in his favorite pastime, maintaining his motorcycles for riding and competing in the desert.
After working for Hobie in San Juan and spending a couple of years employed in other indoor jobs he knew he wasn’t a corporate kind of guy, and he decided to get serious about the plumbing trade.
At first he was just a gofer (go fer this, go fer that) but soon he was apprenticing with the tools, learning the trade from the ground up, going out on service calls, repairing problems, and participating in installations.
When his dad passed away unexpectedly the Greenwall & Liebig partnership was dissolved, but Randy continued working for Bill Greenwall Plumbing for 20 years. During that time he learned to read plans and do bidding, but becoming discontent with working for someone else he was soon itching to make a change. Then when another plumber in town Larry Heet (Heet Plumbing) was planning to sell his business and leave the state, he approached Randy.
“Mona and I discussed the possibilities of taking over the business and though we were a little scared to take the risk, decided we could do it,” he said. “And even though I had left all Greenwall’s clients behind - never poaching one of them - from the day we turned the phones on they have never stopped ringing.”
The couple converted their living room into an office and their garage into storage for materials, and handled all the work themselves. Through word of mouth their business grew so rapidly they eventually had to hire help, another scary step for them. Today they have four employees: two service plumbers, Mark and son in law Mike, one helper, Misael, and an office manager, Denise, who formerly worked with Randy at Greenwalls.
It is often said that if you do work that you love you will be successful, and this has certainly been the case for Randy Liebig. He admits, however, they had their struggles during the downturn, but they hung on, doing their best to keep everyone in their employ, and they survived.
“I don’t know many people who talk about how much they love their job,” Mona remarked, “but Randy truly loves what he does. He says he’s never bored, that no two days or two jobs are alike, and that there is always something interesting to do and someone new to meet.”
Another reason he says he loves his job is the relationships he has with other longtime plumbers in town. It seems they are all like a family, calling upon each other for help and advice, if and when they come across a situation they might be struggling with. There is no feeling of competition, just a bunch of guys helping each other out when needed.
Not an “all work and no play” kind of guy, spare time for Randy is filled with his leisure-time passion, off-road motorcycling. He first began cycling on trails right in his own backyard. Mounting his bike, he could take off out his back gate, find a trail and ride. But with the growth of the town and development of the back country the nearby desert has now became his playground, and he spends lots of time riding and winning awards there today.
Together in play as well as work, Randy has hooked his wife on the sport, and not only do they love the beauty and serenity of the desert they visit often, they have come to love participating in dual-sport-cycling trail rides.
“Mona’s a good ‘monkey’ (companion riding on the back), Randy remarked. “And whether working or playing it is being together that’s important to us, and we are fortunate to have a great time doing both.”