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The following message went out to our iContact list on 2014-02-19:
Long-time tournament veteran Lester Schonbrun, a worthy expert competitor for more than four decades, passed away last week.
I met Lester in 1980. Already a legend then, he had earned national respect as one of the best players in New York City, before settling in the Bay Area with his wife, Joan Mocine.
Below are only a few of the many tributes that players have posted in celebration of the life of this popular SCRABBLE® marvel. All together, they illustrate dramatically what a powerful, positive effect Lester, our own game-play treasure, had on so many people. We will all miss you, Lester.
"Whenever I've told people that SCRABBLE players are a colourful bunch, I've always had Lester in mind as a canonical example of how that can be a good thing. May he rest in peace."
"Les was SCRABBLE royalty's benevolent king, playing at the highest level throughout his half-century at the game. His playmanship was exceeded by his heart, and he brought out the best in others."
"Today, I mourn Lester Schonbrun, who passed away last night. My first memory of him was from the summer Reno 2006 SCRABBLE tourney. He beat me, but almost immediately after the game, pointed to my bingo play of JABIRUS and said, 'I won't be beating you for long.' He was always so gracious, so kind, and I can speak for a lot of Scrabblers in saying that he was like a grandpa, or father. I'll miss you a lot, Lester. RIP."
"Lester was my SCRABBLE idol and inspiration, even more so in the last few years since I became a senior citizen. He remained a friendly, top-notch opponent until the end. He will be missed."
"I never saw him as a father or grandfather figure. He always seemed youthful, younger than some folks half his age. There was always a vitality about him. A great SCRABBLE player and a great person."
"The last word ever played in a game between Lester and me was EMPYREAN. Rest in peace, Nov. 10th birthday buddy. You will be missed dearly. Thank you for being a big influence in my SCRABBLE game, and for being such a big part of our cherished community. I can honestly say you will live on with us forever."
"I am very saddened to hear of this. I never got to see as much of Lester as you Californians did, but I always enjoyed the time I did spend with him."
"Oh, man. That's so sad. I feel the way Frank did. Only ever met him briefly, but was very touched when I did. Condolences, especially to those of you who knew him better."
"A highlight of the CO was getting to meet Lester and play him for the first time. This awful news only makes me more grateful for that opportunity. After talking to him for a while before the game, it was immediately apparent why he was, and will continue to be, so highly regarded in our community.
"It feels unnatural that after literally thousands of tournament games, I somehow ended up being his final tournament opponent, but I consider that an honor on par, or better than, anything I've done over the board. RIP."
"I remember reading about him, so I've known about him for a while. My condolences to his family and friends."
"He was a dear friend to me and beloved in Bay Area SCRABBLE. I'm gonna miss the hell out of that guy."
"Wow ... sad news. Lester was an absolute classic and a true legend."
— Tina Cur
"I first 'met' Lester and Joan online in the days of posldoom and marldoom. It was great to meet them later at the Nationals."
"That is so very sad."
"I only played Lester Schonbrun once and found him to be exceedingly charming. I won, and he told me I played well. I wish I could have played him more (and I'm sure I would have lost most of the time)."
"Sad to hear this."
"Very sad news. A total gentleman."
"Sad news. RIP, Lester."
"This is very sad news, Chris. It's many years since I saw Lester, but he was one of my very favorite people in the SCRABBLE world. RIP, Lester."
"RIP to him. I'm certain he lived well. People like him made us stay in the game until late ..... undying passion."
— Segun Durojaye
"Always enjoyed playing Lester. A class act. RIP, Lester."
"Extremely sad news to learn of Lester's passing. Our hearts go out to Joan.
"SCRABBLE has lost a legend, and we should perhaps find some way to honor him. We believe he invented the 'geezer prize' nomenclature, and we would like to suggest that we create such a prize, named after Lester, open to both geezers and 'geezeresses' to be awarded at every National Championship.
"We would be happy to contribute funds towards such a prize."
"It was probably back in 1974 at the club on Broadway and W. 96th St. About that time, the Head Prazy was still spotting me 15 points, and definitely before I became the Head Meaty Okra, before forensics meant ten, before ubiquitous (Hubie quit us) but herbivorous (Herby for us), and Telly Salavas (Telly's alive us).
"The Head Prazy announced that Lester would be in NYC and would probably play a session with Mike at the 42nd Street club. So every night for a week, I went there until the two showed up to play.
"Out of deference to these players, no one else played SCRABBLE. The session lasted long into the night and early morning.
"By virtue of being one of the last few kibitzers left, I was asked to annotate the game. Mike was, by far, drawing so many more of the premium tiles than Lester, despite Lester playing more tiles. Yet Lester was keeping up with Mike.
"Near the end of the game, Mike laid down the bingo CLARETS with the 'S' landing on row 15, column 4. Lester was holding IIIOUTT. I was thinking that Lester had no chance of winning, so why was he letting his clock run so long? He laid down OUI in front of the 'S' followed by TITI, forming OUISTITI for triple-triple + 50 + Mike's unused tiles, and eked out the win.
"It was a play of beauty!
"At that time, tears ran down my eyes. Today, they'd probably run down my leg."
— Gary Brown, Player Emeritus
"Even though I didn't know him very well, to me, Lester was, above all, a great example of prowess and humbleness, excelling in the game and staying sharp even until recently. He will be missed."
"I played him in Rhode Island (Nationals), and remember him as having a very warm personality."
"Playing him is something I'll always remember."