Monday, December 18, 2006

Remembering My Friend, Larry Moore

A few weeks ago Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke wrote a very moving account of the friendship between former USC basketball player Jim Sterkel and a man who celebrated their friendship by anonymously donating $5 million to the university with the proviso that the new basketball court would be called "Jim Sterkel Court" in perpetuity. Sterkel passed away several years ago following a career which included what might be called journeyman duty as a basketballer for the Trojans and a brief stint in the NBA. He went on to raise a wonderful family - including Olympic swimmer Jill Sterkel - and led an exemplary life.

I was so moved by Plaschke's story that I wrote to him to thank him for it because it reminded me of the value of true friendship. It also reminded me of my best friend, Larry Moore, who passed away three years ago, on December 19, 2003.

Some of you might recall the story of my friend - he died after spending six weeks in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit in a hospital in Las Vegas following a motorcycle accident on a lonely desert road. Only the fortuitous arrival of lost foreign tourists kept him from dying on the spot. Those strangers in a strange land alerted a nearby railroad work crew, who had the wisdom and training to call the Life Flight helicopter to take him to the hospital in Las Vegas.

Through his long ordeal in the hospital I was at his side. I held his power of attorney for health care, so worked with the staff making decisions to, hopefully, bring him back. Over that time he repeatedly rallied, then retreated and finally reached the point in his recovery where we began making plans for rehabilitation back in California. Sadly, before we could make that move a blood clot finally took him from us for good.

Over those many weeks in Las Vegas I sat at his bedside and recalled our lives together. We had been best friends since we were five years old. He was two weeks older than me, so we celebrated our birthdays together every year that we could throughout our lifetimes. We were closer than most brothers. My wife and I are godparents to his youngest daughter.

As teenagers Larry and I dated many of the same girls and I would sit in his room for hours as he composed songs about some of them. He recorded a few songs back in the 1960s and performed as an opening act on local television for a couple of young guys you may have heard of who were just launching their careers at that time - The Righteous Brothers.

Larry had a long and illustrious career with the Los Angeles Police Department. Most of the first half was spent, ironically, as a motorcycle officer. For the last half of that 31 year career he was the Athletic Director at the Police Academy, near Dodger Stadium. In that role he created and managed programs designed to keep the officers fit and ready for duty. He coached and participated on their water polo and swim teams for many years and played on their football team. He was on the Board of Directors of the California Police Athletic Foundation, which conducts what is now known as the Western States Police and Fire Games and also the World Police and Fire Games - second in size only to the Olympic Games as a gathering of international athletes.

He created an event he originally called the Toughest Cop Alive competition. Today, in a bow to political correctness, it is called the Toughest Competitor Alive. It is a one-day event in which competitors run, jump, swim, climb, lift weights and run an obstacle course in a pure test of speed, agility and endurance. This event is part of the national and international competitions mentioned above.

One of his crowning achievements was, with his partner, Chuck Foote, the creation of the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay - the premier event of it's kind in the world. Annually, thousands of public safety officers participate in the event - a challenge of speed and endurance. His passing preceded the 20th anniversary of the event at which an award for the most dedicated volunteer was named for him.

Larry affected many lives as he traveled the world representing the LAPD. During my vigil at his bedside I sent nightly email reports of his progress to a few friends who, as many will do, forwarded them on to others. Eventually hundreds of his friends and associates read those messages each day. Following his passing I heard from an associate of Larry's from Belgium who had been monitoring his condition through my emails while on a trip to Antarctica.

When Larry retired I attended his celebration and watched man after man stand and announce that Larry had been their best friend and share stories of their affection for him. Such was his capacity for love that many people in his life considered him their best friend.

On an overcast day at the end of 2003 I sat in a church packed to overflowing near where we grew up and heard him eulogized. The hundreds of friends, co-workers and family members heard his eldest daughter, who followed him into the Los Angeles Police Department, talk in loving terms about her father. Chuck Foote spoke of the man who was his partner for two decades with humor and love. I was asked to compress more than a half century of our lives together into a five minute speech - I failed. It's not possible to do a short-hand version of the life of such an outstanding man, so I didn't. The crowd understood. We adjourned to the cemetery where an honor guard attended him. We heard Taps played as he was laid to rest at a site adjacent to his parents, in the shade of a lovely tree. I remember that day, and the outpouring of respect and affection for him, as though it was yesterday.

I write this message today to help you remember the value of true friendship. Larry and I were best friends for 57 years and, three years after his passing, there is not a day that I don't think about him and our years together - and miss him.

We all lead busy lives, especially this time of the year. I encourage each of you to pause for a moment and think of those friends who mean so much to you. Take a moment to pick up the telephone and call to tell them how you feel. Don't reserve your expressions of friendship and love for that once-a-year holiday card.

Tell those you love how you feel. Do it now. It will be the best Christmas present they could possibly receive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article and very touching.

12/21/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, that was a beautiful tribute to obviously a very dear friend. I only knew Larry as the Athletic Director during my 34 years on the Department. He was a man that would always take the time to help. May God Bless

Paul Anderson 15680

12/21/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Wow, you really know how to reach out and touch somebody...I've got this absolutely huge knot in my throat.

Some 25 years ago, I, too, sat for hours in the emergency ward of the main Las Vegas hospital next to my son, Todd, who had suffered a compression fracture of several vertebrae in his back in a motorcycle accident. I had visions of this young teen never walking again.

Thank God, the diagnosis was that he was able to walk out of the hospital, with a brace.

Now, after all these years and two back surgeries, Todd is still in pain, 24/7.

12/23/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Thanks very much to each of you who have commented on this particular posting, and for those of you who sent separate emails about it. I do appreciate your kind thoughts and, where this posting evoked similar memories of your own, I'm pleased to have been a part of that.

There is no way, in my view, to place an adequate value on friendship. Larry was my best friend and many others considered him their best friend. He will never be forgotten by those of us who knew him.

So, reach over and pick up the telephone and call that guy who taught you how to pitch a baseball, or the girl that was your first girlfriend. Call that teacher who changed your life or the coach who taught you more than a game. Do It Now!

12/23/2006 03:12:00 PM  

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