This is the Life: Creston has lost one of its best

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I sat at his desk and looked across the room at a Warner Brothers cartoon print he loved. On the left, huddled into a group are a somber Tweety, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzalez, Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Pepé Le Pew, all with eyes and mouths closed.

On the right, in a bright yellow spotlight is a microphone on a stand. Beside the illustration is printed “Mel Blanc 1908-1989” and the print’s title, Speechless. The sobs and the tears came, as I knew they would, and I sat until they had run their course.

An hour earlier I got the call I had been dreading all week. “Rand has left us.”

I first met Rand Archibald in August of 1990. I was advertising manager at the Advance and he had just moved to Creston to take over as manager of what is now the Creston campus of College of the Rockies. We met in his office, talked advertising and learned a little about each other. As I was about to leave, he said, “We should get together for lunch sometime.”

That sentence, that little gesture, led to a deep friendship that lasted for nearly a quarter-century. For most of that time we were fellow Rotarians. He sat on the board of directors of a sustainable communities pilot project for which I would become co-ordinator. I lured him to run for the credit union board and he succeeded me as president. When he and Barb married they bought a house on the Scott Street block I live on, and we named the area Lorandville, combining our first names. We used to joke that we alternated our positions of mayor and sheriff weekly. We watched over each other’s houses and swapped vehicles when needed.

We continued that lunch tradition through the years, talking about anything and everything, catching up on each other’s family and professional news, and laughing. There was always laughter. Rand had a great, wickedly quick sense of humour. And he took as good as he gave. Anyone who knew him also knew that he reveled in his reputation of being a cheapskate (he’d always ask whose turn it was to pay for lunch before agreeing to a restaurant — he liked to go the cheapest places when it was his turn). The Creston Rotary Club has a Happy Buck tradition in which members throw money into a pot to share good news. Inevitably, when Rand pulled out his wallet, and he always made a great show of it, there would be gasps of surprise, some making creaking sounds as he opened the billfold and others pretending to swat at moths that surely must have been flying out.

Rand was a conservative guy who liked to have everything in order, planned to the nth degree. It’s part of what made him such a good administrator, and why he’s always been a valued part of the executive team in his many volunteer efforts. So it came as a bit of a surprise when, in 1994, he decided to step out of his comfort zone and become part of the first ever Creston delegation to Kaminoho, Japan.

Our group of adults and teens (my son, Evan, included), led by former mayor Lela Irvine, was treated like royalty and we had some great experiences. But the one that always comes to mind first took place in our shared hotel room in Nagoya, where we were visiting to take in a fireworks festival, tour shrines and see the cormorant fishing. We were enjoying the air conditioning in our room, a respite from frazzling hot temperatures, one of the rare times that he removed the towel that he used as a headband for most of the visit. On the television was a documentary about a 600-pound sumo wrestler. A segment of the program was devoted to the day-to-day challenges of being that big and it showed the man entering a toilet cubicle. Rand watched, wide-eyed, then exclaimed, “I’ve been squatting in the wrong direction!”

In recent years, Rand had many health struggles. A few years back I was happy when he called from Calgary after having open heart surgery, asking if I could come and drive him and Barb home — he didn’t ask for favours if he didn’t really need one. We drove home in frigid winter weather, battling snow and icy roads. I wanted to keep him distracted, so I played a George Lopez comedy performance that I knew he would like. It was weeks later that he told me he had been afraid his stitches would burst as he struggled not to laugh too hard. I felt like a jerk, but he assured me it helped make the trip easier.

I think that a good indicator of a friendship is in how easily it continues through the years, as both parties grow and their interests and priorities change. I don’t ever remember a time when we struggled through a conversation, trying to fill in silences. He was a friend in the truest sense of the word and I always knew that if I needed something, I needed only to ask. And he knew it was reciprocal.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.