Tonight we will listen to the hauntingly nostalgic refrain of Auld Land Syne and plot our well-intentioned new course for 2015!
Today I am immersed in memories, and wanted to share a letter I received from an old friend of Larry's and the Haws family. The letter was sent by Jim Pollock whose life and work, along with his family's, were woven through our family's a long time ago when we were a bit younger. . . .
This is from Jim:
"Sorry this response is so delayed, but the loss of Larry and who he had come to be, left me at a loss for words. For so many years Larry was a large part of my life as were you and your family. It was, of course, impossible to separate family from Larry. I once counted up the number of Haws' on the Park and Rec payroll and ran out of fingers and toes. Once, when I as Rec Superintendent, agonized over the conflict of hiring my sister Sally's daughters, Larry quickly pointed out that because we came from such good family stock, nepotism was inevitable. "Besides, he said, we also have to hire the Mayor's sons."
Which brings me to Larry's humor. Early on in life, much before it ever dawned on me, Larry had fully discovered the need for certain people to take advantage of others. Life, if left to run its own merits, Larry might have suggested, would not only overlook the less fortunate, but also favor those born with silver spoons in their mouths. So Larry with great good humor took pleasure in stepping on a few of the chosen one's toes while coming to the aid of the others. Jimmy Bittner was one example. Jimmy didn't get much of a break at birth, but he had a big heart and so did Larry. So for many years those of us who worked at the old Civic Center were blessed with Jimmy's delightful, innocent spirit. Whether he rounded up all the dust balls in the corners of the gym was of little concern. Larry set a tone in the Park and Rec Department that allowed us, not only to get our work done, but also enjoy the people we worked with. I've never laughed so much at "damned foolishness" as I did during those years at the Civic Center. Of course, we got plenty of help from Carol Thill. If some of these employees, Larry would reason, had familiar last names or were ex-Cathedral or St. John's athletes, well, that shouldn't unfairly exclude them.
Larry was also remarkably creative and far-sighted when it came to how Park and Recreation best served the City. He recognized the value of parks at a time when developers would have cut down every CO2 consuming plant in town. He saw the need to replace shade trees during the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic with hardier stock. He fought hard to hang onto the Forestry Division when other cities were dropping theirs. Now, some forty years later, we see the results along our streets and boulevards. He also recognized the need for keeping city residents active long before the trendy pilates and Jane Fonda videos came along. Running and ski trails were developed, and, of course, Whitney Park. When I revisit St. Cloud during the summer months, I love to run on the trail around the park watching all sizes and shapes of males and females burn calories chasing after balls. Swimming pools and other facilities were adapted for use by the handicapped so everyone could get involved.
But there was also another side to Larry that I didn't see much of when we worked together, yet was able to see through other people. Larry, this Park and Rec guy who could coach a squirrel out of a tree to defend a soccer goal, was also an artist. He saw the beauty in nature and eventually expressed it with a paintbrush. And he observed the music and poetry in life. At my mother's funeral at St. Paul's Church, he sang in the choir. At the Offertory, when the congregation began greeting each other, Larry came down and the two of us hugged each other. Larry whispered in my ear, "We should have done this years ago."
We should have. All of us, I suspect, as we grow older end up with a number of "should haves." Larry and I should have dropped whatever differences we had and enjoyed all the similarities, enjoyed all the things that both of us loved. I can get some of this when I remember all the times we laughed together, and the times we also fought for the rights of the less fortunate and wrestled with the darker side of life. I can still hug those memories."