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Larry Walker 1951-2010
Captain, Father, Santa
December 3, 2010
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The US Navy ship Huntington that both Larry Walker and Oriental resident Joe Valinoti served on in the 1970s – this photo taken in New York Harbor in 1977. (Photo from Joe Valinoti.)

Joe Valinoti writes:

I was honored to have known Larry these past 11 years. Larry served on two ships that I know of, the destroyer USS Robert K. Huntington and the amphibious landing ship USS Nashville. His official US Navy title of Hull Technician 2nd Class would see him taking care of the ships watertight integrity and fire fighting.

I served on the Huntington during the same time period as Larry although out duties were in different departments and we did not know each other. He in engineering and mine in operations. We did not realize this until one night while having a beer after a Rotary Club meeting when we talked about our naval careers.

I will sorely miss running into him in Oriental and having him yell out “Hey Shipmate”.

Joe Valinoti CPO
USNR (Ret.)

From Athens, Illinois, Richard Mann sent these memories:

Larry Walker was my shipmate aboard the USS Nashville in 1971 & 1972. He was the first sailor to greet me as I arrived on board and quickly became one of my best friends. Our friendship continued through our Navy years, even after he transferred off the Nashville to a somewhat “landlocked” destroyer stationed in northern New Jersey. His buddies and I razzed him about that transfer every time we’d see him, even into civilian life. I guess a guy will do anything for the “glory of love”.

The two former shipmates, Larry Walker and Rich Mann. This photo was taken, Rich Mann says, “in the old ‘DC shop’ where we both worked back in the day.” (Photo from Rich Mann collection.)

In 2005 it was Larry who organized our Nashville “First Watch” reunion, bringing all the old Navy buddies from Nashville’s commissioning and early service days, back together again in Norfolk, VA. We had a great time and renewed friendships that will be life long now. Though he will not be with us in body, his spirit will never pass beneath the way.

Larry and his former shipmate Rich Mann in front of the USS Nashville in August 2006 while the vessel was undergoing repairs at Norfolk Naval Shipyards. They stopped there while cruising the ICW on “Glory Days”. (Photo from Rich Mann collection.)

I had the pleasure of spending time with Larry in Oriental in 2006, where we cruised the Pamlico Sound and ICW together aboard “Glory Days”. We got together as often as possible in Grafton, IL (one of the places where Larry conducted his World Wide Marine Training courses. Ed.) and always had a “hoot” of a time. Larry was gifted in may ways but his ability to bring people together was something to behold. He made you feel good just to be there.

Larry was my friend.

Richard A. Mann
Damage Controlman Petty Officer 2nd Class – USN
USS Nashville, 1971-72.

Gordon Pickett follows up on the words of his daughter, Mary Norman, who mentioned her 6-year old nephew:

That’s our grandson Gabe. I don’t know what I’m going to tell him next week about Santa’s absence. He has been to the Spirit of Christmas and the Croaker festival every year of his life. His birthday is July 1st, and for the first few years, he thought Oriental threw a big birthday party for him. And the Spirit of Christmas is even more special because he got to talk to the “real” Santa Claus.

Larry would call Gabe by name when he saw him on the street before or after the parade, and since Larry and I were good friends, I would prep him with details, like what Santa gave Gabe last Christmas. During these discussions, Gabe’s eyes were the size of dinner plates. Just magical.

Gordon Pickett’s grandson Gabe with his “real Santa” at the 2008 Spirit of Christmas.(Photo from Pickett Family collection.)

Last year Larry missed Gabe in the crowd during the parade, but spotted him from down the street and called his name. Gabe ran down the street and nearly jumped in the boat with Santa.

His parents took him to the big Raleigh Christmas parade once, but Gabe wanted to leave since he doesn’t consider it a real parade; you can’t sit on the curb with no one in front of you, there’s lots of pushing shoving, they don’t throw candy, and they don’t have the real Santa.

Everyone is going to miss Larry in their own very personal way, because Larry affected each of our lives in such a special way; we’re grieving as a family, as a village, and as individuals. There’s a huge hole that will grow smaller over time but never close completely, and Christmas will never be the same. At least we all have some priceless memories.

Lisa Kelly taught drama at Pamlico High School a few years ago. She now lives in Chicago.

I have many memories of Captain Larry that I will treasure; talks at the Tiki Bar, bonfires and pork roll sandwiches at his house, karaoke nights, and, of course, driving Santa around in the red convertible the year I got to be the # 1 Elf.

Just last month he called me out of the blue because he had heard that I was sailing in a charity regatta in Chicago and he wanted to contribute something. It was so nice to hear his voice and to catch up on Oriental news.

The main thing I remember, though, is his support of the students in Pamlico County. I don’t think he ever missed a play we put on, either at the Old Theatre or at the high school, and he always helped with publicity, inviting my students to perform at Rotary Club meetings, selling tickets himself, and even creating and printing posters free of charge.

He once showed me his stack of programs. He had kept every program from every show he had been to for years, and each one was just as important, from a sleek Broadway playbill, to a hand-printed high school show bulletin. He usually asked the high school performers to autograph his program too, making them feel like stars. He really encouraged them to believe in themselves.

Lisa Kelly
Chicago, IL

From Greenville, former resident Amy Moore remembers Larry:

My name is Amy Moore. My husband Steve, my children and I lived in Oriental for a short time, from 2001-2003. We now live in Greenville, but visit Oriental and my children look forward to the Christmas parade each year.

I first met Larry while I was waiting tables at M&M’s when it was still owned by Marsha and Dave. He was always such a nice and gentle person. My children and I were privileged to live on the same street as he did for a while.

My children were very young when we lived in Oriental, so some of their memories have faded from that time but they recognized Larry as the man who plays Santa in the parade. The kids remember seeing Santa get into his red convertible and ride around town. They have memories of meeting him in his Santa suit, and seeing him in the parades.

Oriental has lost a treasure. I am sad to hear of his passing and thank him for the memories he has provided me and my family. Rest in peace, Larry.

Larry as Santa had an impact not only on the youngest children, but adults, too. Ken Stickrath writes from his boat in Abaco.


We are truly saddened by Larry’s passing. I have to relate a story from our son, Eric, not long after he had moved to Oriental. Then as now we were on our boat in the Bahamas and Eric was alone for the annual Christmas parade. He was feeling kind of sad.

But a year later and Christmas parade time came again it was a different story. He told us that you knew you had “arrived” in Oriental when Captain Larry waved at you from his position as Santa Claus atop the fire truck and most importantly — called you by name. And Larry waved and said “Hello, Eric” as the truck passed by.

Christmas will not be the same without Larry as Santa Claus.

Best regards,

Ken Stickrath
SV Odyssey
Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas

Santa For Everyone, II. This is from Carol Small.

This is our Christmas card we are sending this year. We are so sad to lose Larry. He was a beacon, an icon, a fixture in our village and our lives.

Carol

Carol and Ken Small and their dog, Mariah with Santa.
Barb Ritchie remembers Larry.

One of my many memories of Larry was when I was working at M&M’s, when Marsha was the owner. He came in for dinner, and when he saw me he stated “Well, if it isn’t the lovely Barbara”. Ever after that I would always greet him by saying.. “Well if it isn’t the “lovely Larry”.

He was a lovely man…so generous, caring and always there with a kind word. The Christmas season will not be the same without “our” wonderful Santa.

Another kindness remembered. This is from Mary Beth Thorn.

I don’t know exactly when we met Captain Larry, but we moved to Oriental around the same time, so I feel we have known him during our entire Oriental existence.

In 2005, we felt it was time for a change, so we moved our family to Colorado. Since we hadn’t been able to sell our house, Larry signed a long-term lease and lived in and ran Worldwide Marine from our house. After a few months, it became obvious that we had made a HUGE mistake in leaving Oriental, and we decided to return HOME.

While it sounds easy now, it was a very difficult time for our family. We contacted Larry, and he immediately said that as soon as he could find another place, he would move. He always loved our girls and knew their lives wouldn’t be like they should be until they were truly back home.

For a few short months, we rented the house next door to our/Larry’s house and he invited the girls over in the afternoons to do homework and feel at home. We are forever grateful for his compassion and kindness. Because of him, we are all better people.

From Charis Hill, who grew up in Oriental and lives in Raleigh now:

Where do I begin? I first met Larry when he was a boat broker for Deaton Yachts. He quickly became a good friend and mentor as I grew up in Oriental. Larry began calling me “CH” early in our friendship because he believed I would be a CEO of a major company one day; he wanted me to get used to being hailed by my initials (as, he said, CEOs often are). I began calling him “LW.”

I cut his grass when he lived on Mildred Street. $20 each time! During my time there, I learned of his life through the pictures on his walls and his stories, and I learned of his love for his daughter. I felt I had a bit of an inside look at his life, and I felt his fatherly love. I felt so important as a young child to have this friendship with Santa.

LW came to my 8th grade graduation. He came to my High School graduation and graduation party. At that party he gave me a vase with ‘Oriental, NC’ inscribed along with the imprint of a crab, he said, for me to always remember Oriental. I spent a long time holding that vase when I learned of his death. He promised he was going to make it to all my graduations. The morning I graduated from Meredith College, he called my mother several times saying he was still trying make it there to see me. He was traveling by boat and had rented a car but did not realize the rental place was not open on Sundays. He was unable to pick up the car and therefore unable to make it to my graduation. His wonderful heart!

He was always so attentive to my relationships and made a point to see about my well-being in them. He offered to officiate my wedding whenever the time came. When I returned from studying abroad in South Africa several years ago I did some work for LW as he was preparing to open World Wide Marine Training on Hwy 55; while I did touch-up painting and filed papers, we enjoyed debating one another for the first time as adults. Although we did not agree on several issues, I saw LW’s amazing openness to discussion and his willingness to listen and to share without harming others’ opinions.

Larry’s statuses on Facebook during the past couple of months have been without regret. I marvel at how he lived life the way it should have been lived, and he broadcast the positiveness that it should be.

Last week on my way to Oriental for Thanksgiving I passed by LW’s office on 55. The light was on and his car was outside. I should have stopped, but I did not. It will have to wait for when we meet again.

A lasting message I keep from him is this, sent April 21, 2009:

CH,

Thanks for the reply. Actually, i do not think I have you figured out, as is true with everyone else that I know. The only label that I would put on you is “Friend.” Keep the faith!

LW

Love you, LW.
CH

(Following her first message, Charis sent an email to ask for one more thing to be included.)

Please add the following to my story – a note from Larry:

CH,

Keep up the good work. I still want to see a bunch of old guys twice your age addressing you “CH “ in the Board Room while they are begging you to keep their jobs!

LW

From Lisa Clark:

My husband and I came to know Larry through my parents, James and Elizabeth Newby. What my husband and I loved about Larry was unique ability to be able to engage with just about anyone. Didn’t matter your background, experience, or reason for being, Larry could carry on a conversation and make you feel like his whole attention was on you.

In particular I remember a time when Larry visited my parents in Minneapolis, MN. At the time my husband’s parents were also visiting from Indiana. I consider my parents progressive while my husband’s parents are very conservative. I would think it’s safe to say my parents and my in-laws live and believe at complete opposite ends of the life spectrum. We all went out to dinner one night and you had my parents at one end of the table and my in laws at the other. Larry was right in the middle. He engaged my parents and my in laws like I’d never seen before. There was a lot of talk, laughter and fun. It was “classic” Larry. I had not seen my in laws in that light before and haven’t since.

Larry had so many gifts he gave to others without even trying. He taught me how to drive a boat; he always asked about my husband and my welfare when speaking to my parents and would make it a point to check in when we stayed at the house in Oriental. While this homecoming may have been too early, I rest easy knowing Heaven just got a little brighter. David and I will truly miss Captain Larry.


Cody Rifkin writes:

I was a counselor at Seafarer for many summers and the absolute highlight of the first weeks before the campers arrived was coast guard training with Captain Larry. He made the experience fun and exciting and brought a lot of joy to the classroom. All the Seagull/Seafarer staff who took his class left the week of training with a new friend in Captain Larry and I know his presence will be missed during “coast guard week” at both camps.


Leigh and Howard Longino lived in Oriental before moving to the Triangle a few years ago:

In searching my heart and trying to get my head around the loss of such a great man, it came to me just this morning. I was looking at our framed collection of Grace Frances (age 4) and her yearly picture with Santa. Larry was “her real Santa” she told her friends that all the others were just his helpers, but that she knows the Real Santa and she sees him in Oriental every year.

As I looked at the twinkle in Santa’s eys, and mine filled with tears, I had an overwhelming feeling of magic. I said out loud “I believe, I believe in Santa” I am comforted to know and believe that Larry is the REAL SANTA. He may have been a helper, or one of Santa’s elves, but I believe that yesterday morning Larry became the REAL SANTA for all of us, young and old.

He is carrying on his job and will magically come into the hearts and homes of children and adults this Christmas and forever for those that knew him. As you see some of Santa’s helpers this holiday season, know that our friend Larry has been promoted and is working hard to continue to bring joy and blessings to us all.

I hope that this magical belief that came to me this morning will bring comfort to all of you as our hearts look for answers and we go into this wondrous time of year. Say it out loud “I believe, I believe in Santa” I believe, I believe in the magic of Captain Larry”

Love to you all. We will see you next weekend.
Leigh, Howard, Grace Frances and Hollis Longino

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Posted Friday December 3, 2010 by Melinda Penkava


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