11 June 2016
I knew when I saw how thick the memorial booklet was that Larry would have loved it.
Yesterday we laid our friend Larry Fanning to rest at a Mass at St. Martin's Episcopal church in Davis. Larry was a very religious man and any service without all the prayers and hymns would have cheated him out of a first-class send-off.
Born in Arkansas in 1947, Larry and his family moved to Dixon (the next door neighbor town of Davis) when he was a young man and he graduated from Dixon High, Sacramento City College and Sacramento State University, where he received a Masters in Medieval History.
He was baptized a Roman Catholic at age 16 (he always stressed the "Roman") but as a gay man, he was disillusioned with his exclusion from the church. He found a new welcoming home with the Anglican community in Davis, where he worked for many years in many capacities, both as a volunteer as an employee.
After his death, Stephen (his partner of 43 years) donated Larry's books to Logos and Susan said they were mostly medieval history and books on religion. If there is one thing Larry liked talking about, it was religion.
The memorial service yesterday was a full house and as I looked around the church, and later the reception, it was just about every member of the Davis Comic Opera Company still living in the area. Stephen was an actor and director for DCOC and Larry was a faithful member of the tech crew throughout the company's 30 year history. He was also an informal social director, hosting many social events for members of the company.
The eulogy given by longtime friend Nancianne Pfister underscored what I think everyone felt about Larry -- that he had a very big heart. If anyone was in need, he was there. He was ready to give himself to any cause and worked for many years for Yolo Hospice and other local nonprofits.
During the Mass, when it came to giving our neighbors in the pews a sign of peace, I spied Ned and his friend Greg in the back and flashed them a peace sign. Ned and Greg have been friends since high school. Greg is to Ned what Charlotte has been to me throughout my life. I was going to say "though they are a bit more crazy than Char and I," but remembering our adventures with Christmas trees, pumpkin pies, and craft activities, I'm not so sure.
Ned and Greg made hundreds of movies together, their best work being Ned and Greg Investigators, the very fist made-for-local-TV production, a mystery which started with Walt being thrown off the highest building in town and the subsequent hunt for the murderer of "Ned's Dad." It was filmed all over town, and included a major fight scene outside the local police department (for which they received permission of the police), and a gathering in a local restaurant, for which they opened in the morning and let Ned, Greg and all their friends inside to film.
This was in the very early days of Davis Community TV, when there was almost no local programming (and probably not many viewers either) and you could actually call the TV station and ask them to run Ned and Greg Investigators and they would.
The guys had just come from a whirlwind trip to our condo at Lake Tahoe to take up one of the big pieces of furniture, a cabinet that had belonged to Gilbert, from my office. It fits beautifully, Ned reports, and holds all of the records that people have taken up to the condo over the years. (When it belonged to Gilbert, it was a record cabinet, so it has now come full circle!)
After Larry's Mass, we proceeded to the Columbarium behind the church, where his ashes were placed, and then to the parish hall for a brief reception. It was old home week, with lots of friends standing around telling "Larry stories."
I had the chance to visit with one of Larry & Steve's neighbors, who is also a volunteer at Sutter. She was with another friend of hers, who looked very familiar and obviously knew who I was (and who called Walt by name too). It wasn't until she left, when she mentioned her husband's name offhandedly that I realized she was someone I had known for many years, though have only interacted with in the last 20 or so years through Facebook. She has been through chemo and has what she calls "chemo hair," which has grown back curly (and grey, of course)...one reason I didn't recognize her.
But it was nice to chat with the woman from Sutter. The problem with working the information desk is that you have almost no interaction with other volunteers, certainly not often enough and long enough to remember anybody's name. But now that we have shared Sutter experiences and our shared experience of mothers with dementia, I won't easily forget her name when I see her again.
I also had a very long conversation with a guy who was involved with DCOC, as was his son, who still acts (I recently reviewed him in a show...positively, fortunately!). The guy is a very long time Lamplighters fan and we have discussed Lamplighters before in other encounters. He has been attending Lamplighters performances for longer than Walt and I have (and we have been going for nearly 60 years!) It's always very flattering to talk with him because of his nice comments about our two Lamplighters histories.
The whole day made me realize that Larry has hosted his last social gathering, and that he went out in the absolutely perfect way for him, surrounded by lifelong friends who were all there because we loved him so much.