Larence (Larry) Harley Smith was born on November 3, 1933, in Holdrege, Nebraska, in the south-central part of the state. He was christened on December 3, 1933, with his grandparents, Larence and Emma Bergstrom, acting as sponsors.
He spent his first 12 years on the 160-acre Smith ranch, three miles east of Holdrege. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing in the five-room house built by his grandfather Frank Smith for his bride Ida in the late 1890s. The house was heated by a wood-cob burner in the kitchen and a large iron coal stove in the main room. On the property was a three-hole outdoor privy, a tornado cellar, and six farm buildings, including chicken coops, a barn, a granary, and a pigpen.
When Larry was 12, the farm was sold and the family moved to Bergstrom’s farm four miles east. Due to the electrification program set up in the 1930s, the Bergstrom farm was electrified and provided with indoor plumbing. Larry attended elementary school through sixth grade in a one-room open classroom and spent seventh and eighth grades in a different one-room environment. When he was five years old, he showed an interest in music and took piano lessons, which he continued throughout elementary school.
He graduated from Holdrege High School in 1951 and attended Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where he received a Bachelor of Music. In Bethany he played clarinet in the college concert band and double bass in the Bethany College Orchestra.
After graduation, Larry joined the U.S. Army and after basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, spent eight weeks at a band training school where he befriended Herb Alpert. After graduation, he was assigned to the 30th Army Southern Area Command Band at the McGraw Kaserne in Munich. The instrumentalists of the band were housed in former Luftwaffe officer barracks. As the only US military band in Bavaria, it was responsible for conducting retreats, evening taps, official arrivals, parades, and any functions requested by the Commanding General throughout southern Germany.
During this 18-month period, Larry began his lifelong love of travel, and by the end of his union, he had visited more than a dozen locations across Europe. Signing a contract with the Pisgah, Iowa School System, he was discharged from the military several months early and arrived in the United States in late August. For the next two years, he taught vocal and instrumental music in grades 1-12, where he worked to improve the quality and variety of music throughout the system.
He was accepted as a graduate student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he graduated with a Master of Music in piano performance. As a member of the school’s choral group, he performed works by Bach, Berlioz and Mahler with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall conducted by Charles Munch. During his tenure, he worked part-time with the Homeyer Music Company, as an accompanist for the Harvard Medical Chorus, and as director of their Chamber Singers performing in the Boston area.
After graduation, he joined the faculty of Dana Hall Schools in Wellesley, teaching music to grades 1-6 at Tenacre Country Day School. He was also appointed Music Director of the Wellesley Community Chorus, and for 10 years was the Organist Choir Director of the recently completed Christ Methodist Church in Wellesley.
In 1962 Larry bought his first home in Duxbury, a former blacksmith shop, where he lived for 60 years. During this time he bought two adjacent properties, the Cottage and the Gatehouse. He gave private piano lessons at his home until his retirement in 2000 and also started experimenting with pastel painting. Over the years he made more than 100 pastel portraits and also composed 18 Christmas carols, liturgical music for the church year and several piano pieces. In 1999 he composed a 40-minute “Requiem for the New Millennium” for piano, baritone and soprano, which was performed several times in the Boston area, once in Kansas, and at a three-day festival in Cabrieres d’Avignon, France. , in a 16th century church.
A member of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Plymouth for more than 40 years, he served as organist, choir director, vice president of the church board, and was a delegate to the New England synod convention on many occasions.
When he retired, he bought a 260-pipe tracker-action, circa 1962 Fritz Noack pipe organ from Dartmouth College, which he enjoyed playing for over 15 years (particularly Bach) before donating it to the Convent of St. the Sisters of St Margaret in Duxbury of their new chapel, which the Sisters and many faithful now enjoy.
His other activities include writing and illustrating a children’s book entitled “Memoirs of a Farm Boy”. He also completed a 400-page travelogue describing 55 of the 75 countries he visited entitled “A World Beyond the Club Car”. Artifacts discovered by Larry during his travels formed the basis for his gallery of antique African masks, drums, weapons, carvings, musical instruments, and ceremonial banners and shields.
Larry leaves behind his brother Tom, sister-in-law Suzie, their two sons Gregory and Eric, their wives Terri and Amy, and five cousins.
A period of visitation will take place on Thursday, July 15 from 9-10:45 AM at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 384 Court St., Plymouth, followed by a funeral service at the church at 11 AM. The funeral will be held at Mayflower Cemetery, 774 Tremont St., Duxbury. In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the South Shore Conservatory, Attention: Larence H. Smith Solo Piano Competition Award, 64 St. George Street, Duxbury, MA 02332 or Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 384 Court Street, Plymouth, MA 02360. For more information or to sign the online guestbook, visit www.cartmelldavis.com.