Larry and I met in 1982 at Minute Man Printing. I was hired to manage the copy division and Larry would come in and take over while I went to lunch. We were part of a small work force and we had a softball team and everyone had parties so we all knew each other. A few years later I left to work elsewhere as a commercial artist and then I got my real estate license. Our paths had crossed several times when he called me in 17 years later looking for an apartment. When my kids left home I sold my house in Lunenburg and moved in with my 96 year old mother in Southborough. Coincidently, I had recently bought an 1830s fixer-upper in Barre and I had planned to go out on slow days and work on it I told Larry about the house and I said he could live there rent free if he helped fix it up. I knew he had experience in construction as he had worked with his dad who was a contractor. He agreed with my terms. As time went on he would call with questions on a project and I would go out and work alongside him scraping paint or tearing out walls.
He treated me like I knew what I was doing and I appreciated that. . I had been through some unpleasant relationships and decided that I wasn’t very good at choosing men so I had my life planned out for the next twenty years as an unclaimed blessing.
I can tell you the time and location when Cupid shot his arrow into my heart and I made the astonishing discovery that I loved that man. He had made a tape of his favorite tunes and sent it to me. I was playing it on my way to work on that morning. The tune was Welcome To My World with Dean Martin. Now, I knew that song but I heard it again for the first time at that moment. I never before had that incredible certainty that I loved someone. But I wasn’t sure how he felt so I kept my feelings a secret. I would go out to Barre and work, we’d have supper, talk or watch TV and go to our own rooms-he at one end of the hall and I at the other. One time he filled my room with lilacs from the garden and when I went to bed the room was like a fragrant bower. I got into my antique spool bed and there was a knock on the door. He came in dressed in pajamas carrying his guitar. He sat at the end of the bed and serenaded me a while and then left. I had lovely dreams.
In August he convinced me to go to the threshing bee in MN and meet his family. Wow. Everyone had work duties. Mine was to make Saturday breakfast. I pitched right in and made breakfast for 2000, well maybe it was only 200.
His family was so warm and friendly to me. I was scooped up and hugged by Boomgaarden brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was there I learned about Larry’s Elvis act. He played along with his brothers’ Iron Horse Rock Band.
I watched the famous antique Case steam tractor in action powering the thresher to separate the oats from the chaff..
Anyway, on the way home, we stopped in Worcester at a nice restaurant for supper and he proposed. He said. ‘Well, my family likes you. Do you want to get married?’ I said ‘You Bet’. That’s Minnesotan for Yes.
My mother had a stroke and she lost ability to speak. She wasn’t able to call for help on the phone so I quit one of my jobs and stayed home with her. It was a rewarding experience for me. She was very sweet and I figured out by her gestures what she wanted. But if she fell I had a hard time getting her up. So Larry moved in with us and he was a Godsend. He entertained her on his guitar and she could sing with him and then she’d clap her hands and laugh. He was so kind to her.
Larry joined my choir at Framingham First Parish. It was with that choir of 35 that we went to England in the spring of 2000 and sang in churches including Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He recorded the music at several locations and it was made into a CD which some of you have and it was a money maker for the church. My mother passed away in February of 2000.
When we came back from England I was asked by the choir director and the minister if I would like to get married in church on a Sunday. The church usually had a choir Sunday of special music but since we had recently returned from England they felt the choir was too tired to learn more music. I agreed as long as it was a secret from the parishioners. I didn’t want them to feel they had to get us gifts. So it was, that I walked down the aisle to meet my sweetheart at the altar. The church was packed as the minister advertised that there would be a surprise. Larry said later he wished he had sung a special song but agreed that he was too emotional to have done it. When the vows were over the minister said to me ‘you may now kiss the groom” and everyone laughed.
Our next big project was renovating an 1880s house in West Brookfield into a bed and breakfast and tea room. There again his ability to do renovations paid off. Larry would entertain our guests with his guitar. After 4 years, we realized our guests were having more fun than we were and so we sold it and bought a 37 ft. Class A motor home with all the amenities. It was like a nice condo on wheels. We loved it and we were completely satisfied to live year round in it. We zigzagged across the United States for almost seven years. He had all his music stuff and I had my art stuff and two computers of course.
I had mentioned to him that I had a dream of illustrating a children’s book. After reading some of the horrible books for children today I wanted to write a nice one but I had no idea what about. He came to me one day and handed me a sheet of paper. “Here it is, an outline for your story. All you have to do is flesh it out.” I did. He was technical supervisor. I gave him first billing because if we were going to sell any they would surely be to his big family. It is called Up in Smoke. It is a great children’s book showing a loving family working together to get a job done and having fun. It will go down in history as a classic.
We became workampers traveling every 5 months to a different park around the country. He entertained with his guitar doing campfire sing-alongs. He would select a girl in the audience and sing a special song to her using her name. He also did DJing and karaoke. But mostly he worked in maintenance doing repairs, plumbing, electrical and construction and I worked in the office or store. During that time we saw pretty much all of California, Oregon the coast and the Willamette Valley, Washington state to visit my nephew’s family in Seattle and over the snow covered Cascades to Larry’s brother Allen’s family in Chelan for a month then across thru Idaho, Montana and saw his niece and nephew in Yellowstone National Park. He thought the nice thing about visiting relatives in our RV is not having to disturb the household. Larry felt connected to those that came before him. He often updated his family tree and had European connections. Our travels were from one relative to another. There would be his cousin in Corpus Christi, his cousin, Don in New Orleans, my nieces in Virginia, my daughter in Los Angeles, , a school chum in Sacramento , a sister in Hawthorne, Nevada, his cousin in Amarillo, my brother’s family in Phoenix, his family in South Dakota, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, a sister in Iowa, and a boat load of relatives in Minnesota and friends in Arkansas and Tennessee. Wherever we went he brought his guitar and played and sang for people and got them or their kids to play too. He found folks to jam with at parks and hunted down the places where there was an open mike. He wasn’t the least bit shy. He was an avid fan of steam engines and we went to every train museum. He loved his family and his friends. He called them on the phone to see how they were doing. If someone wasn’t doing well he made a special effort to keep up with them. He was immensely patriotic and proud of his service in military. He was a constitutionalist, very interested in government and politics. We visited Washington DC several times.
I remember how athletic he was. His high school games were legendary. He was singled out in the newspaper sports columns for some outstanding play saving the day for the team be it football, baseball or basketball. He helped win some of the trophies in the Ellsworth High School foyer. What may not have been well known was that he tried out for a baseball major league. When he first came to live in Southborough we went next door to my brother’s pool. I asked him if he could swim. He said no. I said well, I’ll keep an eye on you and if you get into trouble I’ll save you. He went to the edge of the pool and dove in swimming under water the entire length. I felt like a fool. I yelled at him ‘How come you said you couldn’t swim!’ He said ‘well, I am not good at the crawl but I can swim under water’. The next time he conned me was when we played golf. I lived adjacent to Stony Brook Golf Course which my father had designed and built after he retired. Larry said he couldn’t play golf very well. He whacked the first ball onto the green. Again I yelled at him for conning me. He just laughed and thought it a big joke. He was also good at tennis.
He was great about keeping things in repair and took care of problems right away. He was often thinking of better ways to do something, a better sign, a better display.
If someone was tentative he gave encouragement. He was not awed by a person’s fame or fortune. They were his equal. He said marriage was work. He showed me how to be a better person, to understand what is important in a relationship and to overlook petty details of little worth in the larger picture. I did all the cooking but when I broke my leg last year he did everything-he learned to cook, did the laundry, cleaning, shopping and worked my hours as well as his.
He wished he had studied music when he was young. No one taught him to play. He watched other guitarists play chords and learned from observation. He never felt he should teach anyone how because it might be wrong. He admired anyone who could pick a tune on the guitar. He admired his father’s ability to play any instrument. His father had an orchestra and after the Second World War ended his father played for wedding dances 364 nights of the year. He also regretted he didn’t spend more time with his father and talked with him more. He left home soon after he finished high school and joined the Air Force.
In Texas a couple years ago he got a deal from a professional studio for us to cut a disc with them. That was pure fun. We only could afford one take, so any mistakes that are in it, we know about. At each park campfire I handed out rhythm instruments and sing along sheets, we did duets and we entertained at parties in people’s homes. We made a lot of sweet memories. We said ‘I love you’ every day.
We finally landed jobs doing just what we wanted. I was teaching art and some crafts and Larry was doing music-live, DJing and karaoke at this really beautiful park in Fredericksburg, TX called Texas Wine Country RV Park.
Two weeks into that gig, it ended. God called Larry home. Remember the good times and every day; tell your sweethearts how much you love them.