A Texan living in any other part of the country is still a Texan. I now reside in Oregon.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012
Larry Perry from Granbury
Early last year I sent out an email recruitment message, hoping to find volunteers in specific areas where I work. Volunteers are at the heart and soul of AARP, so I'm always recruiting.
This one particular time, I got an email from a fellow in Granbury. I grabbed my handy Texas map and found it - just a little southeast of Fort Worth in a congressional district where I had no volunteers. I called, got an answering machine and left a message.
A few days later my phone rang at the office, "Hel-lo, Car-mel" a very friendly male voice drawled. "This is Lar-ry Per-ry. Larry Perry from Granbury."
We talked for a while. I explained that there were no other volunteers out there with him, but he was fine with that. He said he was going to be in Fort Worth for another meeting later that week. We set up a meeting.
Out of that meeting, I gained a friend and a dedicated volunteer. Larry was a quick study. I soon learned that he was passionate about issues such as cuts to Social Security, gaining regulations on payday lenders in Texas or ensuring that we worked in community issues such as Complete Streets. He embraced the Protect Seniors campaign last year and lobbied his member of Congress. He gave presentations and quick speeches to whomever would have him.
I'd occasionally have to call Larry and tell him to slow down. We didn't have the budget for all the mileage -- he was fine with that. He wanted to make a difference.
I soon learned a lot about Larry. He loved his two sons and his daughter more than anyone and loved to talk about their lives. We shared a hug when his long-time partner died and I let him share stories of their travels and adventures in the community.
He told me about the jobs he had held and I learned quickly how much he loved central Fort Worth and its eclectic communities.
I met him in Granbury once for a meeting with a state official and we followed up with lunch. It was hard to get through lunch because so many people stopped by to say hello. Everyone knew Larry. He was a community supporter and activist. He served on boards and knew all the elected officials on a first-name basis.
He shared with me that he always felt it was important to make a difference in whatever way you could. "Don't wait for someone else to do it, if you can do it," he said. "Make a difference."
As we gear up our efforts for You've Earned A Say on Social Security and Medicare, I know Larry will be with us every step of the way. He was excited about hitting the road for presentations because he knew how critical those two earned benefits are to millions of Americans.
Larry Perry of Granbury died Feb. 22.
I'll miss my volunteer. I'll miss those regular phone calls that always started with, "Hel-lo Car-mel. This is Lar-ry Per-ry." But most of all I'll miss my friend.