July 5, 1943 - October 4, 2022
In memory of my "stepfather" Larry, I would like to share a little of what I have learned about this dad of mine. While many refer to him as "Larry" or "Coach," I call him "Pops."
I learned about his childhood. He was born and raised in San Bernardino. He was very proud of his heritage, "American of the Mexican descent." He talked fondly of his mother and grandmother as they both played vital roles in his upbringing. Larry wanted desperately to be loved by his father. He wanted to make him proud. Unfortunately, he never felt that kind of love from him.
I learned about his faith. Larry was Catholic. His grandmother made sure he and his siblings went to church every Sunday. He was proud to complete Catechism. He shared stories about going to the movie theater after church, watching movies and eating popcorn—all for a quarter.
I learned how hard of a worker he was. Larry worked every summer of his teenage years in the fields where he harvested grapes, apricots, and other in-season fruits. He bought his first Chevy at age 17. He was in ROTC in hopes of becoming a police officer. He graduated from San Bernardino High School and started taking classes at Valley College. He often shared stories of the police ride-alongs he went on. Unfortunately, his career plans were diverted.
I learned about his heartache. Larry married at a young age, and they had a son named Michael. Even though Larry and his wife divorced, he continued to support and father his only son. Sadly, Michael, at age 20, decided to disown him and Larry never saw or heard from him again. This was a huge defeat for Larry, as he truly loved Michael, and he desperately wanted to be a better father than what he had growing Up.
I learned about his career. Larry became an intricate member of the ground's workers at the San Bernardino City Schools, where he worked for 22-and-a-half years. This is where he met my mom, Maralene, as she, too, worked for the district. Larry loved working outdoors. (Unfortunately, this is also where he was most likely exposed to the chemicals that eventually changed his life.) Mom and Pops also worked countless hours together, doing yard work and completing outdoor projects to enhance the beauty of their home.
I learned about his love for my mom. He respected her and always spoke highly of how she had taken care of him throughout the years. How she stood by him and encouraged his diet change when he was diagnosed with diabetes. How she nursed him whenever he was not feeling well. How she had taught him about finances, as he was so proud to be debt free. He even purchased a brand-new Toyota Tacoma with cash. He always said, "I did...for Mom. "I did..for her." There wasn't anything he wouldn't do or try doing for her. They truly were partners in life for 45 years. They did everything together. I learned what commitment really looked like. I learned about his passion of being a coach. Throughout his younger years, Larry taught many boys how to play baseball. He was very patient and determined, as he refused to give up on any one of the boys. In the summer, he and my mom attended many Little League championship games in Devore, Calif. He was also an avid Giants fan. My mom rooted for the Dodgers. This created some interesting nights when their teams were playing each other. Larry also coached many
boys in Pop-Warner football, as this was his true passion. He and my mom traveled all over San Bernardino during game season. He really became the "father figure" so many of the boys longed for. He also loved the 49ers and proudly wore the team jacket and hat, even when they were not winning.
I learned about his love for Murphys. Larry and my mom retired from the school district in 1999 and moved here. Pops loved this little town. They moved onto a street where the neighbors ARE incredible! Each and every one of them, those of yesteryear and present, held a special place in Larry's heart. They represent the true meaning of "neighbors," as they not only look after one another, but never hesitate to lend a helping hand. Larry could not go anywhere in town without running into someone that he had befriended; and, boy, could he talk. I learned about his love for socialization. Soon after moving to Murphys, he quickly joined Sons In Retirement. Mom and
I loved to tease him, as we called it “The Boy Scouts." He served as the SIRS president two years in Murphys. When the Murphys chapter disbanded, he joined the Sonora branch. Pops was proud to be a member. He looked forward in taking mom and me to the different events held at the SIRS. He enjoyed being on the SlRS bowling league. In fact, he was on two leagues. He and Mom would travel to Sonora every week, shopping at Walmart, eating at Barron's before meeting up with his team at Black Oak. They met so many wonderful people, who became good friends. I learned about his life goal. Pops was most proud when he coached
football at Bret Harte High School. In 2005, his team won the championship. He had that team photo hanging on his wall until this day. He loved those boys and often said, "my biggest goal in life was to coach high school football, and I achieved it." Larry loved running into his "boys" in town, who were now grown men. He was so proud when they called him "Coach" and would catch him up on their current life path.
I learned about his excitement and pure joy of life. Sure, things got him down, but he really had the joy of a child. He loved every holiday and loved decorating the yard. He always said, "God willing....next year, I am going to decorate. …." He was always looking forward to the next outing the three of us would take, as we are the last of our family tree. He loved eating at La Hacienda in Angels Camp, as everyone there felt like family. He adored traveling to Apple Hill and Amador Flower Farm in the fall. Even though he lived "above the snow line," he loved competing with me about the amount of snowfall he had on his deck. He couldn't wait to open his Christmas gifts, and he was often found peeking at name cards and shaking boxes under the tree. He loved to count how many tomatoes he had on his little bush in the summer.
I learned about his trust in God's plan. In 2017, Pops had a testicular tumor, which was diagnosed as non-Hodgkin's, large B cell lymphoma, Stage 2, as a spot had also shown up in his abdomen. Pops did not seem afraid: "It is, what it is." The tumor was removed. He had rounds of chemo and radiation to kill any wandering cancer cells. Mom and I drove him to each, and every cancer visit and treatment. We were a solid team. Pops always had a positive attitude: "l just got to do whatever the doctors tell me to do." He trusted Dr. Tipton at Sonora
Regional Cancer Center. When Sonora's Diana J. White Cancer Center opened, Larry was asked to speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pops stood in front of all those "big wigs" and spoke from his heart. He wasn't even scared. He was so thankful for ALL God, Dr. Tipton, and his team had done for him. We all were.
I learned about his determination. For four-and-a-half years, we celebrated hearing Pops was cancer-free. No sign of recurrence. Things were looking good, until they weren't. In the middle of May, Pops was suddenly unable to recall recent events, and his balance was off. It seemed as quick as night and day. A tumor was detected deep in his brain. Lymphoma was back and with a vengeance. He understood the need for removal and the need to go to UCSF, where specialists were knowledgeable. He was awaiting an accepting physician. However, on his 79 birthday, July 5, he became very swollen and short of breath. We took him to Sonora Adventist Health Hospital, and they transferred him to UCSF. He only returned home for two short visits after that. Pops just couldn't remember to wait for help, and he was very unsteady on his feet. He was a huge fall risk, and we were afraid he would end up breaking his hip. For safety, Larry stayed at San Francisco Rehab Centers in between cancer treatments to receive physical therapy.
I learned about his tenacity. Larry never gave up. UCSF could not remove the tumor, due to the location. Pops received chemo and radiation, which caused brain swelling and more memory loss. He began talking a lot about his childhood family and how they "visited" him daily. Sadly, he did not remember that these loved ones had already passed on. More chemo was scheduled when one thing after the next began to happen. He developed blood clots after a PICC was placed, which led to a filter being placed in his groin to collect them. He then had a port placed in his chest. Through it all, Pops never became angry, irritated, mean, or demanding. The nurses loved caring for him.
I learned about his frailty, as in September, he was hospitalized at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, where he spent three-and-a-half weeks receiving care for septic shock, Covid, MRSA at the port site, uncontrollable pain, and necrotic bed sores. He even went on life support for a short time. At our last visit, Pops clearly mouthed, " Love you both." At this time, Mom and I both believed he was preparing to leave us. He was going to join his family members who he had been talking about for weeks. We knew he was done with all the poking and prodding. On Oct. 4, he was placed on comfort care. As the receiver of the phone was held up to his ear, Mom whispered, " I love you. Rest now." Pops passed away that night.
Through it all, the biggest thing | learned about my Pops is that he was a steadfast soldier. He fought the fight to the end. He believed in God's will and trusted in the outcome. Although our family has lost a vital member, I hold onto the understanding that Pops is not suffering, nor is he in pain anymore. He is home, in God’s care now. May he finally hear the words he always wanted to hear, "Well done, My good and faithful servant."
We, too, are PROUD of you POPS. We will miss you today, tomorrow, and all the days, until we see you again. Thank you for ALL you have given to this family and the community. You will never be forgotten. Until we see you again, never forget...WE LOVE YOU!!