CHARLES L. SOMMERS ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, INC.

Log in

Remembering Larry Whitmore

January 04, 2012 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

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.

 

Dave Greenlee

 

Comments

  • January 04, 2012 10:18 AM | John Thurston
    I am always saddened to learn of the death of an old friend and when it’s a Charlie Guide, I am drawn to my well-read copy of Listening Point. Sig captures perfectly what we are all feeling today, another broken paddle.

    This is from "Listening Point" by Sigurd F. Olson

    "Paddles mean many things to those who know the hinterlands of the north. They are symbolic of a way of life and of the deep feeling of all voyageurs for the lake and river country they have known. Some time ago I received an envelope bordered in black, one of those old-fashioned conventional letters of mourning which today are no longer used. I glanced at the date and address, tried hard to remember from whom it might be. With hesitation and foreboding, I tore open the seal. Inside was a simple card edged in black and across the face of it the sketch of a broken paddle. In the lower corner was the name.

    The significance of this death announcement struck me like a blow. The paddle was broken and my friend who had been with me down the wilderness lakes of the border regions on many trips had cached his outfit forever. That broken blade meant more than a thousand words of eulogy, said far more than words could ever convey. It told of the years that had gone into all of his expeditions, of campsites and waterways. In its simple tribute were memories of the rushing thunder of rapids, the crash of waves against cliffs, of nights when the loons called madly and mornings when the wilds were sparkling with dew. It told of comradeship and meetings on the trail, of long talks in front of campfires and the smell of them, of pine and muskeg and the song of whitethroats and hermit thrushes at dusk.

    I know now, thinking of the broken paddle and what it really meant, that if a man in the course of time can so identify himself with a way of life that when he goes it is not just another passing, then he has achieved a lasting place in the memories of his fellows, a bond they will cherish forever. The broken paddle was an insignia forged in the wilds, of loyalty not only of men to each other but devotion to lasting and eternal things."

    See ya round the bend, Larry… John Thurston
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 04, 2012 6:51 PM | Koz
    To our next portage. May God bless you and comfort your family.
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 05, 2012 10:19 AM | Barb Cary Hall
    Larry worked one autumn for my parents at Canadian Border Outfitters in Ely. Two great memories from that time: Larry nailed a huge black bear with a bow and arrow, which my dad wrote about in his book 'Tales from Jackpine Bob' with the Chapter title:
    The 'Pope & Young' Bear. The other; he taught me how to finger pick the guitar with more patience than Job.
    A unique individual....deepest condolences, Barb
    Link  •  Reply
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software