Lawrence "Larry" Schmidt
Lawrence “Larry” Schmidt came to stay with us at Caring House, and we were honored to welcome him and his family.
Larry was born in Northern California to Herman and Adele Schmidt, Mennonites of German extraction. The city where he was born – Port Chicago – no longer exists following a devastating explosion during World War II. These are the kind of facts Larry liked to share.
They later moved to Concord, California, where he and his sister Shirley grew up. He also worked at his uncle’s drug store, and in his spare time, he bought and restored a 1932 Ford. Then, in 1959, he joined the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army, where he worked with helicopters, learned mechanics, and even jumped out of planes on occasion over the next four years!
After graduating from Berkeley and USC, Larry worked as a civil engineer and then moved into real estate development. He was instrumental in the protection of the Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance, just down the street from Caring House. Coincidentally, a rendering of the Madrona Marsh also hangs in Larry’s room at Caring House – a gift from the family of former Torrance Mayor Dee Hardison, who also stayed in that room.
When the real estate business faltered, he found himself having to reinvent himself and his career. That’s when Larry was drawn towards his true passion – books – and enrolled in a college course on how to sell them. Within time, his small house was filled with 40,000 books on math, science and technology. He became known as “the book man” and would consume one after the other. He eventually ended up with his own ‘”Larry Library” and was thrilled to hand the knowledge down to the next generation, including his daughters, Alison and Hilary.
Fast forward to one afternoon in Redondo Beach when Larry met a woman named Christine on a blind date. Christine cooked dinner for them for their second date, and that was the start of their 22 years together! They later became husband and wife – both their second marriages – and what followed was years of deep conversation while strolling the same beach, where they would discuss the world and everything in it. They also enjoyed hiking and traveling together. One time, they traveled to New England to see the trees change, taking photo after photo as the leaves transformed and fell around them. Christine said she would worry if he was in pain and ask him, “How are your hips?” Larry would just smile at her and say, “Well… they’re there.”
The measure of a man like Larry is seen in his deeds and his actions. He lived his values, and he demonstrated his love. It wasn’t about grand dramatic gestures, but instead a multitude of little things. The important things. Like when Larry and Christine went on vacation to Zion National Park, and it was only weeks later that Larry admitted to Christine his terrible fear of heights. But he had muscled through scaling Angel’s Landing with a smile, because he knew she wanted to see the view. Or when he researched his family tree stretching back hundreds of years – over 64 generations – writing a historical family history, and binding it all together in a leather book as a gift for his darling daughters, Alison and Hilary.
Alison and Hilary also gave Larry a gift – his four grandchildren – Miles, Gaby, Lou and Finlee. The kids would come over and pull weeds out of the garden or learn how to hammer a nail into wood… life skills they will remember forever. In addition, Miles, Gaby and Lou each visited “Poppa” daily at his home in Torrance before they were in school during the day. On those visits, they would eat lunch together, and in his patient way, Larry would teach each of them how to write, how to use tools, how to hit a ball, and all three of them credit Poppa with their love of reading. When Finlee visited from San Diego, they spent time reading and exploring together, and Larry would hide thoughtful treasures in their sunroom for her to find.
He nurtured curiosity and interests in all of his grandchildren, and he and Christine attended games, performances and graduations – even when it became very hard for him. Family dinners with Poppa and Christine were also a highlight of each “birthday season!” The most fun of all was when they would climb in and out of the area they dubbed “Box Mountain,” a playground of the cardboard boxes that Larry used to ship his books. As they would tear through the house, he would give them the freedom to do it all. His philosophy was, “You can’t hurt anything.”
Above all else, Larry always showed his love for his grandchildren – and for others – in his actions, and you can see evidence of this love in his relationship with each of his beloved grandchildren.
Larry was also a man who always said yes. Yes to his wife, yes to his grandkids, yes to life. He gave his time to those who asked for it. He gave his love to those who needed it. He gave of himself with the deepest generosity of spirit.
We were lucky to be able to surround Larry and his family with loving kindness for months, and his family said he was appreciative of every single day, every single deed, and every kind word. We in turn were grateful to know such a smart man with a knack for clever remarks and well-timed responses, often with a smirk or knowing smile.
We were also grateful that Larry was the first constant-companion to our volunteer dog, Gigi. Every time Gigi came to the house, she went right to Larry’s room, where she would jump up on his bed and lay with him for hours. The two were inseparable… and quite adorable. Larry would voice his concern that Gigi was hungry, so she got plenty of treats and so much love. We all did, and we are all better for it.
Larry passed away on December 5, 2022. Honor him. Remember him.