Friends of Larry Whitmore,
Larry Whitmore passed away on January 1, 2012. He had been battling cancer for several years. My remembrances of Larry will not be about his health issues, but rather the unique person who was my good friend and colleague.
On Thursday, January 5, 2012, there will be a visitation with family at 5 pm and a "celebration of life" remembrance service at 7pm held at the Heritage Funeral Home in Sioux Falls, SD.
Many of Larry's friends are geographically spread out, so we expect many will want to "stand up and say something" from a distance. Please leave your thoughts and memories about Larry by adding your comments on the bottom of the page or on the Obituary page (Adobe Flash required).
As near as I can figure, we met over 45 years ago, when we were both Boy Scouts in the Sioux Council Order of the Arrow ceremonial team. The Order of the Arrow is a brotherhood of honor campers in Scouting, and as the ceremonial team, we took our duties seriously. We wore special buckskin Indian garb, carefully memorized our lines, including lots of Indian words that we probably butchered in their pronunciation. We conducted a nighttime ceremony where we "tapped out" new honor campers after paddling into camp at the shore of a lake, skillfully lighting a campfire with a flaming arrow. All of this had been carefully rehearsed to maximize the impact of the solemn ceremony. Larry and I shared a respect and reverence for Indian ways, and I suspect our feelings go back to our time in the OA.
Also as Scouts, Larry and I spent time together on a wilderness canoe trip through the Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base near Ely, MN. It was a great experience. We both ended up getting jobs there the next year, first getting trained and then working as wilderness guides. Each subsequent summer, we took 5 or 6 Scout crews into the woods for ten days at a time, paddling hundreds of miles, portaging between lakes, and "delivering the Wilderness Experience". In between trips to the woods, Larry would play his guitar, usually drawing a crowd around his locker in the guide's quarters. Some of his songs were folk songs, some were songs of the day - some of my favorites were written by Bob Dylan - and some of Larry's songs he had written himself.
Larry guided canoe trips at the Sommers Canoe Base for seven years, much longer than most guides who might last a year or two - maybe three or four at the most. Larry generally got excellent reviews from his crews - his trips were always an adventure, and that's what they came up to the Base for. Remarkably, he also got excellent reviews from his adult advisors - who weren't always there for an adventure in the woods - many were just there following up on their commitment to the boys - and Larry somehow got them into the spirit of the wilderness treks - thus earning their respect and admiration.
Larry had lots of friends in the days he was guiding - and why not? He was an adventurous voyageur among fellow voyageurs. ...someone to look up to ...to hang out with ...to aspire to be like... and he could sing and play guitar and tell stories all night long.
After our days guiding, I sort of lost track of Larry for a few years, even though were were both within a few miles of Sioux Falls. We were busy working our jobs and raising our families. We did hunt together once in awhile. My God, could that man shoot a shotgun. I understand he was a champion trap shooter. One of my favorite stories is how he got to be a "hired gun" for some of the ranchers who hosted goose hunts out on the Missouri River. Everybody paid the rancher for the experience of hunting in the "pits" based on how many geese they brought home. Larry's job would be to take the end pit, patiently waiting for everyone else take their shots, and then make sure that none of the honkers got past him. For his trouble, Larry's fee's were generally waived. I think they had his phone number on speed dial for the times when they expected a hunting party with questionable shooting skills.
Years later, Larry began to develop a series of health problems that seemed to consume his energy and change his spirit of optimism and adventure. For those of us who knew him in the good old days, he always seemed to have time for us - to laugh and sing and recall tall tales and great memories. I think it became harder and harder to change gears and be the Larry that we grew up with. The crowning blow may have been when his fingers became so numb that he couldn't play guitar.
I believe Larry is playing his guitar again now, singing, and sharing stories with his friends. In my mind, I can picture his spirit enjoying some of the many places he visited, bringing in some pheasants or catching some fish for supper. He was my great friend, and I will always remember the times we spent together.