Shared by WGPO President, Laurie Cohen:
On March 7, we found out that we lost Larry Rand. It was only a little over a year ago that we learned that Larry and Barbara were retiring from directing tournaments after Larry was diagnosed with dementia. In 2022, the Phoenix tournament honored Larry and Barbara with a special celebration and scrapbooks of memories and photos sent in by current and former tourney and club players (some going back to the 1980’s). Although Larry forgot a few names, he was present and active in the celebration, even giving a speech thanking all present. I’m so glad he was able to be there to hear all the love expressed by the attendees and the love expressed in messages sent in as part of the scrapbook. The 2023 tournament, held just weeks ago, was renamed the Van Rand Phoenix Tournament to honor our beloved directors.
Every family seems to have one member who is at the center and who keeps everyone informed and engaged with each other. Here in the Phoenix area, that person was Larry. He was the one to let you know if someone was sick, if someone needed help, or if someone passed away. He was the first person to bring in a card or oftentimes a cardboard Scrabble board for everyone to sign. He was also the person who sent out messages of celebration. This person just won a tourney! This person improved their rating by 20 points! The person played in their first tournament and won a few games! In 20 years, he never once missed a birthday!
Larry ran a tight ship both when directing a tournament on land or sea or when directing the Phoenix Scrabble Club. He was extremely efficient. Things started on time, not a minute later. You didn’t want to have a messy scoresheet or make a mistake on your tally slip. Also, no asking when we need to be back from lunch! It’s right on your scorecard! Larry’s was intense, but kind and caring, too. He cared about every person playing at his tourneys and clubs. He once told me that his favorite part of running a tourney was hearing all the compliments from players when it was over. He was committed to making the experience a good one for all attendees and was happy to hear when people enjoyed themselves. I regret that I never had an opportunity to go on one of their Scrabble cruises. They always sounded like such a blast!
Across the board, Larry was also a formidable opponent. His word knowledge was much better than mine when I first started playing in Arizona. However, he would always try to help me improve. He’d often quiz me on anagrams of words played during the club. His influence was partly what convinced me to strive to be a better player.
Back in 2010, Larry was also one of the first directors to start directing tournaments for WGPO, announcing his plans and reasons in an email to the community. It was a hard decision to make at first, but WGPO’s democratic principles and lack of fees convinced him to take the leap. Larry also served on both WGPO’s Executive Committee and Board of Player Representatives in the early days of the organization, shaping its formative policies and strategies. Of course, no mention of Larry would be complete without also talking about the other half of the dynamic duo – Barbara Van Alen. Larry’s love for Barbara always shined through whatever he did. Although the last year has been difficult, Barbara’s love and devotion for Larry was always in the forefront as she helped him through all the challenges of this terrible disease. She fought hard for him up to his last day.
We’ll all miss Larry very much, especially those in the Arizona Scrabble community. I’ll always think fondly of Larry and try to do my part to keep our Scrabble family in AZ and around the country a strong one and a caring one.