Even though I didn't know him well, I felt compelled to go and pay my respects. I flew down this time and my friend Genny (whom I met last year during the March on Blair Mountain) picked me up and brought me to stay at her house in South Charleston. Through Danny Chiotos, who works with Larry's Keeper of the Mountain Foundation, I was able to get a ride to Kayford with Rory, and his adorable little dog, who sat on my lap for most of the hour-plus ride.
It was a perfect fall day, sunny, warm and breezy, and the sign over Larry's cabin -- "Larry's Place, Almost Heaven" rang true. I walked under an amazing variety of trees, and on one trail I found hundreds of golf ball-sized green fruits with black walnuts inside. I bagged up a bunch to give to Rory, who already had a big bag of them in his car.
There was music on the mountain, including some beautiful a capella sounds from a trio who came up from Asheville, N.C. I got a ride back to Charleston just after sunset, wishing I could have camped out on the mountain (as many others were), but it didn't make sense to schlep all my gear for one night. I recorded lots of tearful and funny tributes to Larry, which continued the next day at the four-hour memorial, where the story-telling was interspersed with music, prayers and video clips of Larry in action. That was followed by a candlelight vigil at the Capitol so even more of his friends could speak.
The "400 pounds of ugly" is a catchy phrase that Larry's daughter, Victoria, recounted her dad using, about the need to be true to yourself. Click here to listen to a 4-minute vox pop (collection of voices) I put together for Free Speech Radio News. (Scroll down to the last feature on the newscast and click on Download Audio.) It begins with
Victoria and ends with a young man who worked with indigenous people in Ecuador, fighting oil pollution, who took Larry down to meet with some of the locals to share stories about fighting extractive industries. Another of the voices belongs to Debbie Graff, who was on the speakers' bureau of Keeper of the Mountains Foundation and is pictured at the top of this post. As Larry's friend Bill DePaulo said in his eulogy, his death is a sad occasion, but not a tragedy. "It's a not a tragedy to die where you want to be, doing what you want to do with the people that love you and surrounded by the people you love."
Larry expected to die in the struggle, and had been the subject of innumerable threats and violence. He told friends he was concerned about that, but not scared. He had a bad heart, and the stress of those confrontations could have worsened his condition, but he believed in his mission. He was probably the closest thing to a Happy Warrior since Hubert Humphrey. Amen to that.