Family mourns West Michigan driving teacher who died of COVID-19

Kent County

ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A well-known driver’s training instructor has died following a battle with COVID-19. 

Randy “RaRa” Rand, the owner of Jungle Survival Driver’s Training died Sept. 16. He was 71 years old. He left behind his wife, three adult children and a grandson.

Rand taught defensive driving to hundreds of students in the Grand Rapids area over the years. 

“2003 is when he had his first location off of Spaulding (Avenue). It was a tiny little spot and his thing was Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come,” Rand’s daughter Sommer Rand said.

The school was known for its jungle-themed rooms and cars covered in paintings of leaves and big cats. Since its inception, the driving school has expanded to three locations in Ada, Wyoming and Dorr.

“He worked for UPS for close to 30 years and then retired from there and so he wanted to take a lot of the stuff that he did at UPS and implement it. Michigan had one of the highest fatality rates for teen drivers and so he wanted to teach defensive driving,” Sommer Rand said. 

At the end of August, Rand and his wife Jane came down with COVID-19. His wife was hospitalized but later recovered. Rand’s family says at one point, Randy Rand seemed to be turning the corner and then suddenly his case worsened. Rand was hospitalized. 

“He fought and fought and fought and ended up subsequently going on to a ventilator and his lung collapsed,” his daughter explained.

Family said Rand was planning to celebrate his 46th anniversary with his wife this weekend. He was also set to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding in a few weeks.

An undated courtesy photo of Randy Rand and his family.

“He was so special to me and my dad knew that so I have no regrets. He knows how much I loved him and will love him forever,” Sommer Rand said tearfully.

They say that though he is no longer here, the imprint he has left on the community remains. 

“I’m just glad that this (the driving school) was his dream and he had this vision and he was able to execute it seamlessly and it’s just grown so much,” Sommer Rand said. “Always drive the ‘Jungle Way’ because he will be looking down on all of us forever and he will know if you’re not following all of the checklists.”

On Oct. 17, Rand’s family will host a celebration of life ceremony at the Ada Jungle Survival Drivers Training location. The memorial from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. will be open to the public.

A friend of the family set up a GoFundMe account to help the family. Sommer Rand says they’re also setting up a memorial fund in her dad’s name to benefit his grandson Knox Jackson. The account is set up through Macatawa Bank. The family says donations can be sent to P.O. Box 3119, Holland, MI 49422-9949.

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