Celebration of life for Larry Norfolk

640px2015-07-28-26WILLIAMS — I will tell you that writing this article has become increasingly difficult. This is one of the times that I find it extremely difficult to separate the reporter from the subject.

Here’s the reporter stuff.

Friends and family gathered at the Senior Center in Williams in a standing-room only celebration of life for Larry Norfolk who passed away on July 9. The gathering was attended by the Williams City Mayor, John Moore, who is not always known for attending such gatherings. The crowd would probably have been larger except for the fact that many had jobs to go to.

Father Killian and Mayor John Moore join the Celebration of Life for Larry.

Father Killian and Mayor John Moore join the Celebration of Life for Larry.

Father Killian of St. Joesph the Worker Catholic Church—the Church also put in many hours arranging a mass and this Celebration of Life—gave a prayer of intercession that the Lord would guide the soul of our friend to the eternal City of Jerusalem.

Like many of us, the Mayor recounted that when asked where Larry was from, we did not know. When asked what Larry’s last name, we did not know. He commented that Larry was to Williams what Cher is to America. He only needed one name. Larry. Because everyone knew Larry. Yet, like many of us, while the news of Larry’s passing spread quickly, many of us did not connect it to our Larry.

The Mayor also spoke of a research paper on success that he did in college and had to say that Larry was “very successful.”

The rest of the crowd shared stories of humor and love that Larry tended to generate whenever he met people. He was a true ambassador for Williams as representatives from the Williams Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce pointed out.

I have to admit that my “reporter instinct” failed at this celebration. For some reason, perhaps because of the solemn nature of the occasion, I failed to get the name of Larry’s brother and niece who brought the memorabilia representing the life of Larry Norfolk. I apologize.
Larry’s brother noted the toy soldiers which were lined up next to the Mickey Mouse items. He recounted how Larry had contracted polio as a child. He was bedridden for years while his family was an active family. Larry’s mother built a table so that the children could play. He was known as “Sarge” by the family. One time Larry apparently crossed his mother and she called him by his full name. Larry’s brother, being younger, looked at his mother and had to ask who that was.
Overcoming the polio, he told many of the attendees how he remembered playing basketball with brothers.

That is the news. Here is the personal story.

Now I will relate something of a gift that Larry left me. It did not strike me at first, but as I thought about his bout with polio and overcoming it, things about Larry fell into place for me. I will try to relate this with all due humility. I do not even know if I can explain this to my own satisfaction.

Larry and my dog Prince were friends, so Prince would drag me over to say hi whenever he saw Larry. For the most part we made the standard small talk. I recall, however, one particular encounter that I had with Larry some years ago. He had an infection in his leg and his physician was even recommending amputation. Off-offhandedly I suggested the standard second opinion. The conversation was more blunt than that, but you get the picture.

I do not know, nor will I speculate, that I saved Larry’s leg. He probably received the same advise from others. The gist is that his leg healed and he continued walking throughout Williams with a smile and a kind word. I may suggest that, because of his polio, he was perhaps a man—if you will excuse a hackneyed expression—who wanted to stand on his own two feet. To live life on his own terms.

The gift I speak of is that if a relative loner who traveled around Williams with a smile and a hand shake can cause a gathering such as this, there may even be hope for someone like me.