Larry R. Smith: Beloved Decorated Vietnam Veteran
After a 2 year courageous battle with both Pancreatic and Prostate Cancer, Larry Russell Smith passed peacefully at his home in Edmonds, Washington, surrounded by his wife, friends and family at the age of 62.
Larry was born in Bremerton, Washington, to Doris Dolbec and Russell Allan Smith. He was the youngest of three children of a ship builder and an elementary school teacher and leaves his older brother William Smith of Kenmore, Washington, and an older sister Lois Forbes of Renton, Washington, behind.
Larry was mostly raised in San Mateo, California. He was part of the first graduating class of Aragon High School in 1963 lettering in both the football and wrestling programs. He attended both San Francisco State and the College of San Mateo before ultimately finishing at the University of Washington majoring in Mathematics in 1967. He was a lifelong Husky fan attending many of his alma mata's Rose Bowl games.
Larry was drafted into the Army shortly after college and served courageously in Vietnam earning two Purple Hearts as part of the 199th light infantry brigade known as the ‘Redcatchers’. Larry served out his military career at the Presidio of San Francisco applying his mathematical skills in the payroll department until 1970.
Larry was a loyal and dedicated husband, friend, brother, father, grandfather, employee and mentor to many. He worked for Rael and Letson as a Consulting Actuary for over 30 years rising to the Chief Actuary and Vice Presidency role and serving on its and many of its clients’, boards during his employment. He obtained his MAAA and EA certificates and distinctions from the Society of Actuaries while working for Rael and Letson.
Larry loved his children and grandchildren dearly and is survived by 3 grown children, Michael Smith of Palo Alto, California; Kathleen Pacheco of Moss Beach, California; and Alex Smith currently obtaining his MBA degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo along with 2 step-children Jason Hoff of Yakima, Washington and Sharmon Hoff of Bainbridge Island, Washington.
His Grandchildren and step-Grandchildren will have many fond memories of their grandfather. Sebastian and Eva Pacheco, Sophia and Trevor Smith, and Amanda and Andrew Hoff will miss their grandfather and his loyalty to his family.
He is survived by his wife Betti-Jo Picatti Hoff Smith of Edmonds, Washington, and his first wife of 30 years, Kathleen Alderman Smith of Montara, California. Larry is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Larry was a point of inspiration to us all with a passion for life and living. He was a world-traveler, an aficionado of fine wine, scotch whiskey, a good cigar and great conversation. Larry was an avid follower and season ticket holder of the 49ers for 35 years and of the Seahawks for the past 4 years.
His love for the outdoors fueled his many trips to both Alaska and Lake Tahoe throughout his life. He was also a 25 year resident of Montara, California along the Pacific coast below San Francisco. He will be deeply missed by those who had met him and all agree that he left us too early in his life.
Friends, family, and those who were touched by his life will be meeting to celebrate Larry’s life on April 5th. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, please donate to either the American Cancer Society or The University of Washington’s Tyee program.
The family would like to thank the wonderful staff at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and the hospice program through the VA and Sisters of Providence.
Memorial April 5, 2008 |
remarks by son, Michael
Hello, for those who have not met me, I am Michael Smith, Larry’s oldest son, I think I was asked to say a few words about Larry not just because he was my father but also because I look more like him than anyone else in the family.
I want to thank everyone here for being a part of my father’s life. I only hope he has touched your lives even a fraction as much as he has provided for, lead and dedicated himself to my brother’s, my sister’s, and my life. Losing my father is one of the most difficult things that I have ever gone through. Only time will heal the sorrow that we all feel. I hope I can provide you with more of a glimpse into my father as my mentor and friend.
I, like many of you, am greatly saddened by Larry leaving us so early in his life. To think about what he was able to accomplish in his first 62 years and what he could have accomplished in the next 30 to 40 years. What Larry was going to do with himself should he have retired, only God knows at this point. First, it is difficult to ever imagine him retiring. For him, work provided a great deal of life, pride, strength, and
Personally, Larry had such a loving nature as a Grandfather and I am saddened to think what of all that his grandchildren will not experience with him. I hope they remember glimpses of him as they grow up.
Larry was the ultimate host. The ever-flowing bar that he had built in his home will never know what it has missed. We can think of all of the things that we will miss by not having my father with us. However, I would rather cherish his memory and celebrate who he was as he celebrated life every day.
Larry was a quiet dad that had his own way of doing things. We often referred to it as ‘Lars logic’. He, however, taught us many things without actually saying much. He
always spoke the truth and rarely lost his temper. He valued his friendships, his family and his work. Up until his last week, he still felt he needed to head into the office. Those that knew him well would confirm that he was one of the most loyal and focused people that you would have come in contact with.
With Larry, once you were a friend, you remained one forever. He lived for his family, his friends and for his work with grace, dignity, and a high moral standard. He was always quick to lend his support or help and did so in a way that made you feel as if you were the most important person in the world. Larry, and with his ‘Lars logic, was one of those few men that you did not really appreciated until you were away from him.
As a youth, I never understood his dedication to his work and wondered why he was doing it and thought that he was missing so much. He often worked on weekends and over our vacations. However, as I grew older, I realized that his dedication to his work and his focus on his success was simply for his family. Whatever he did, he did it to the best of his ability. I realize now that he was already teaching me one of the most valuable lessons in life, work hard for what you believe in and provide for your family.
Through this, I discovered that he was a very compassionate and kind person. I learned that the most important thing that he had was us, his family. Though he may never have said it out loud, I know that he was really proud of what we had become. We are who we are now because we had a father like him.
I remember when I was little how my father found time to attend every one of my soccer and baseball games. He picked me up from nearly every practice that I had. He did this for nearly 10 years. Similarly, his love of sports saw him attend nearly every 49er game for 25 years. I was fortunate enough to attend the majority of them with him including ‘the catch’.
Like clockwork, he had his pre-game routine for tailgating, the route he took to get to the seats, and the exact moment he was leaving to avoid traffic. Larry also loved the mathematical aspects of poker. He religiously attended a monthly poker game with a group of 7 others for the better part of 30 years while he lived on the coast side. I am not sure if he won or lost, however;, I am not sure if he cared. Like his work, he dedicated himself to his friends and family and was loyal to all of us to the very end.
No discussion about my father would be complete without mentioning his devout adoration of the outdoors and driving. As a kid, I listened in admiration about my father’s stories of his road trips. He spoke of his record time between Seattle and San Mateo of 12 hours. He hated anything with traffic and would do everything he could to avoid traffic or crowds. I picked up my first knowledge of expletives after a crowded departure from a 1980 49er game.
I loved his descriptions of his travels across the US after high school graduation. I recall, much to my family’s anxiety, sitting next to him in the front seat, or on his lap holding the steering wheel and driving our way to my grandparents home in San Mateo. Larry spoke fondly of his childhood and the many days that he spent on Lake Tapp’s in Washington. I believe that translated well into his wanting to share his love for the outdoors with his family by spending many days with us in Lake Tahoe.
Larry was an accomplished bar-b q’er. He hated lighter fluid and gas grills and was the only person that I knew who had to use a charcoal chimney to get his coals going. I have fond memories sitting on the back porch in Lake Tahoe at the end of Summer, overlooking the lake, with his New York Steak going on the grill, a fine cigar in his mouth and an incredible glass of red wine in his hand. I think all those that experienced this with him still carry the fond memories of their time with Larry in the outdoors with them.
I am so proud of my father and admire him for his effort in Vietnam. He rarely spoke of his experiences there, but when he did, it only strengthened my admiration of him. He did not like to be in the spotlight and felt that he wanted to earn the respect of his friends, the public and his family. With 2 purple hearts and an amazing scar on his arm, I used to day-dream of being a soldier with my dad always overcoming the odds and destroying the bad guys. It was not until much later did he begin to realize the sacrifice that he made and the respect that he deserved. Those that saw him in his Jaguar’s, or the old Cadillac that zigged, or the 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado that he drove for 10 years will remember the license plates with the purple heart.
Photo courtesy of redcatcher.org
He showed us his tremendous dedication and strength until the end and still had some Lars logic for us. I can only hope that I will be able to continue what my father had started and cherish his friends and family as much as he did. To have half of the zest for life that he had, his endearing demeanor as a host, his willingness to help when asked, his love for his family and his loyalty to everyone, including his employer would allow me to pay tribute to my fathers’ memory.
I will remember his smile and his love and his focus for everything that he did and everyone that he met. Almost in a stubborn, Lars logic way.
I will miss my father and will wonder what the future would have been like with him over the next 30-40 years. I am happy that he is no longer in pain and only hope that he is now playing host to several of his mentors, his father and mother, his father and mother-in-law (Wade and Kate) and his grandparents wherever they are. [mother? Grammy?]
For Larry, I am sure that he is anywhere that has a great snifter of scotch, a fine London broil, and an amazing bottle of red wine, and a top notch cigar. I am sure he will dedicate himself to befriending those that he meets for eternity and will find a way to become the best at whatever he chooses to do.
I feel a sense of pride for having been Larry’s son. I am, like many of you, even more proud to have had him as a part of my life. Thank you all for being a part of who my father was and for including his memory into your daily lives.
remarks by brother, Bill
...There are so many things that I could say about my brother. One, above all, that has great meaning to me is the fact that we have all received a great gift. With two purple hearts in Vietnam, we know that he should have died. And, yet he didn’t; God returned him to us. And, this is the gift. We have had 40 years that by all rights we should not have had— forty years of my brother’s life. And today, I celebrate those years with you. Thank you dear God for the wonderful gift of my brother, Larry.
remarks by Chaplain
For everything, there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven. He has made everything suitable for its time: moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds..I know that whatever God does endures forever...that which is, already has been, that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.
The writer of Ecclesiastes describes well the human condition. Every time I hear the words of this passage, I am reminded of he amazing ambiguity of life. Life and death, war and peace, love and hate, gain and loss, joy and mourning—all occur side by side at all times and in every place. Even as we gather here to mourn the loss of a loved one, in another place another family gathers maybe to celebrate the birth of a child.
I surely don’t want to wax too philosophical and never labor under the illusion that there is something that I can say which is going to make a real difference to our adjustment of loss. Words for one thing are very inadequate. And, I surely cannot add anything to those remarks before me.
Life is seldom one dimensional. Even at this moment, we experience a complex range of emotions. We are sad because we will miss the physical presence, the strength, the dedication, and the joy that Larry brought to our lives. We are relieved that his suffering is no more and for those of us of faith, we can say assuredly that now he has passed from this life into the next. It is a continuing process—life and death. The circle is unbroken, it is broken. It is the process. We are born, we live our lives the best we can and then we die.
Every person here has a story—a life story. Even as we mourn Larry whose earthly story ended in this life, we are in a sense jolted into a deep sense that we are a lasting part of his story on this earth. Our commitment is to look at how our story weaves with his and dedicate ourselves anew to living out our lives the best we can. The poet Angelo Patri said it this way, “In one sense, there is no death. The life of a soul on earth lasts beyond his departure. We will always feel Larry’s life touching ours. His voice speaking to us, that spirit looking out of other eyes, talking to us in the familiar things he touched, worked with, loved as familiar friends. He lives on in our lives and the lives of all who knew him.”
I envision that Larry at the end did somewhat as the poet, William Cullen Bryant proclaimed: So live that when thy summons comes to join that innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death. Go not like the quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust—approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.