Monday, January 16, 2006

In Memoriam

I learned today, not unexpectedly, that my old friend Larry has died, after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis and its effects.

Larry and I met in 1986, the year I started at Caltech. We both lived in Ruddock House. At Caltech, frosh go through a process called rotation, a process which culminates in being adopted into one of the (then) seven houses, an association that typically lasted through one's entire undergraduate career. Larry was a sophomore, rooming with Mel at the end of Alley Two, and I lived down the hall in Alley Three. Mel was from Green Bay, WI, and had already earned a nickname from Sean: "The Big Cheese" I think. Sean gave everyone nicknames, and following in Mel's footsteps I became "Bucky", after Bucky Badger, Wisconsin's mascot. But now that I think about it, Larry might have escaped a moniker from Sean. How could that have happened? Perhaps I have forgotten it.

I got to know Larry, Mel, Sean and many others through InterVarsity. We spent hours together at LGM's, DPM's, Bible studies, retreats and whatever else. Larry often led worship. As anyone who knows Larry can tell you, one of his greatest loves was playing the guitar. He inspired a number of us to learn, working for those callouses on our fingers. Larry (and Mel) were so tolerant of us as we played the same simple songs over and over again.

Along with Janice and a grad student whose name I cannot quite remember (Elly?), Larry and I attended a nearby Presbyterian Church. That is, it was nearby by the standards of the Los Angelos basin, only a twenty minute drive away. We were adopted, more or less, by a couple of families at the church who picked us up not only for church on Sunday mornings but also for choir practices on Wednesday nights, and often invited us to their homes on Sunday afternoons, as well as a winter retreat with their high school youth group.

As Mel was a year older than Larry, Larry needed a new roommate after Mel graduated, and he asked me to join him in "Lower Fishbowl". Lower Fishbowl was a larger room in one corner of Ruddock House, so named because its windows faced the courtyard near one of the entrances where people could easily look in as they came and went. Being a larger room, it was generally a desired room, and Larry, as the Alley leader (the exact term escapes me) got to pick first. Before school started that year, he arrived a few days early, removed the old loft and constructed a raised floor at the far end of the room. We slept underneath. Some people did not like that style of loft, but with the size of that room, I think it worked out very well, forming two different spaces in the room. It became a center of activity that year for people playing Hearts and Spades, as well as an occasional game of chess or bridge. Larry's bean bag chairs were great for relaxing, and his stereo and music collection were wonderful. That year was easily the high point of my time at Caltech.

Larry and I also shared a major, Applied Physics. I only recall one class together, APh 181, Semiconductor Physics. As an upper 100-level class, there were a mixture of undergrads and grad students. The professor, in the first day of class, said that the grades usually fell into a bimodal curve, with the graduate students forming the top hump, the undergraduates forming the bottom hump, with junior underclassmen (like myself) falling on the lower half of the bottom hump. Larry and I stuck it out together, and I think we both got B's.

I mentioned earlier than Larry had cystic fibrosis. That was something you learned about quickly with Larry, due to the intense fits of coughing he endured. But I do not recall him ever complaining about it. It was a fact of life for him, but he did not allow it to rule his life.

While I have not kept in touch with Larry, I count it an honor to have known him. He leaves behind a wife and two children, a sister and a brother, and (as far as I know) both parents. I am certain he will be missed even while we can be thankful, in a sad sort of way, that his suffering has ended.

We'll miss you, Larry.


Dr. Ernie said...

Thanks, Alan. Was Eme Burt the grad student you were thinking of?

Alan Lund said...

Yep, it was Eme. Thanks, Ernie.