By Mary O’KEEFE
“The sun breaks forth this day overtaking darkness. Why have I fled peace for so long?” ~ Larry B. Stammers via Twitter, July 14, 2013
On Thursday, Aug. 6 Larry Stammers lost his long battle with cancer. He died at his home in La Crescenta. He was a father and husband, a member of the St. Luke’s of the Mountains congregation, a major Dodger fan (just look at his Tweets and Facebook) and a journalist.
Larry was born on Sept. 6, 1941 in Springfield, Missouri. His career in journalism really began in junior high when he started his own paper, the Scuttlebutt. He attended Cal State Sacramento and Cal State Los Angeles. His first paying job as a journalist was for the Sunnyvale Daily Standard in 1959. He then worked for the San Jose Mercury News and then on to the Los Angeles Times, where he worked until his retirement.
Although retired he still would write op-ed pieces for the Times and continued to follow the world and local news, particularly where it concerned the environment and religion.
He was a devout Episcopalian and became a leader at St. Luke’s.
“Larry was always supportive of [St. Luke’s],” said Rev. Fr. Kirby Smith, vicar of St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church. “He loved life … and sought periods of rest at his cabin.”
His cabin was his solace. Years ago Larry was given the opportunity to buy back and restore a cabin that had originally been built by his great grandfather on about 100 acres in Fulton, Missouri. He and his family vacationed there and it was his writer’s retreat.
“When he went to the cabin he wrote whatever his inspiration was,” said Cheryl Stammers, Larry’s daughter. “It was a very peaceful place for him.”
He was able to vacation there with the family in June, although fatigued by recent treatments of radiation. He was still able to enjoy his cabin.
When he was in La Crescenta, though, there was a lot of time spent at St. Luke’s. He would be there for services but also for Taco Tuesday, an event supporting local Boy Scout Troop 288.
The cancer however continued to take its toll.
“He had been sick for so long,” Smith said.
Weeks before his death, Larry was invited to preach a sermon at St. Luke’s. He told Smith that he was more of a writer than a speaker, but would do his best. At that time he was in a wheelchair.
“He preached from the altar. It felt like it was his way of saying goodbye,” Smith said. “It was lovely.”
Smith added the congregation was so thankful for the support of Larry and his wife Sera.
“Knowing he loved my family made me feel very special, while I knew he had that effect on everyone around him,” said Vanessa Ynda, a St. Luke’s member.
Larry was godfather to Eli Locke, who was baptized as an adult at St. Luke’s. Locke was new to the congregation – new to any church – but Larry made him feel at home.
“Larry was one of the nicest and most caring people I’ve ever met,” Locke said. “He welcomed me with open arms to the St. Luke’s family the fist time I ever attended service there. I’ll miss getting to talk to him about life, religion and baseball –among other things.”
Smith had been at the church working with former vicar Rev. Bryan Jones when the church returned to the Episcopal diocese. Larry was there to help Jones and Smith as they rebuilt the congregation.
“He had a great sensibility of liturgy,” he said. “He was a devout Christian.”
Larry leaves a legacy of stories.
Cheryl said two stories that stand out for her was an article on the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska that her father wrote in 1991, revisiting the issue two years after the spill, and an article on former Soviet Jewish immigrants recognizing Passover in 1997.
“He painted pictures with words,” she said of her father.
Larry is survived by his wife Sera, daughters Cheryl and her longtime partner Christopher Hollingshead and Julie Black, grandchildren Taylor and Michael Black, and sisters Kathy Chole from Cupertino, California and Kandi Gallant-Walden from Reno, Nevada.
Services will be held on Saturday, Aug. 29, at
2 p.m. at St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church, 2563 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta.
His Words Remain
“The greening of faith is not about turning churches into branches of the Sierra Club or about requiring people of faith to be partisan. It is about applying religious beliefs in a world confronted by unprecedented threats to the created order. Phony theology has nothing to do with it.”
That was Larry B. Stammer’s “The greening of faith” op-ed he wrote for the Los Angeles Times in February 2012. He was referencing comments made by then-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum concerning President Obama’s worldview of accelerated climate change. Santorum was speaking of the efforts to battle climate change through the development of renewable energy. He called it a “phony ideal” and “phony theology.”
Larry disagreed but did so in such an articulate fashion as to not insult or call-out Santorum, but to simply disagree and state why.
I was fortunate to know Larry. He was a member of St. Luke’s of the Mountains for years and was there prior to the legal battle over the property from Episcopal to Anglican and back to the Episcopal diocese. This was a difficult time; it was as if a family had been torn apart. Larry came back to St. Luke’s after it was turned back over to the Episcopal diocese and he began to help rebuild the congregation.
He was always positive and always found the good in all. He was faithful not only towards His Creator but towards those in the church. He had faith that St. Luke’s would regain its congregation and would be the better for the experience.
But for me, he was the quintessential writer. He wrote on many subjects but the environment and religion were his specialties. Larry battled cancer for about five years. Using the term “battle” is common when referencing this horrific disease but in Larry’s case it was truly a battle. He would get healthier, then get knocked down, would come back and fight and then get hit again. But through it all he never stopped asking how “you” were and how he could help.
When I would ask him how he felt he would answer me in what I call “journalist speak.” He would talk about the recent treatment or what was recently told to him using direct language, as if this was the lead. He then would explain a little more but then end with “the fight continues.”
Over the years Larry would call me and give me ideas for stories or we would talk about an article I had written for the CVW. At a retirement party for Bryan Jones, former St. Luke’s vicar, I had the chance to sit and really talk to Larry about journalism. He felt well that day so we sat on the sofa while others ate their desserts and we talked about what it was like when he was writing and how things have changed since the Internet. We spoke about great leads and how to work a source … It was perfect.
I so appreciate the chance I had to know this incredible man. He not only was someone who in his heart had this great belief in God, in his fellow man and a sense of responsibility for the environment but he was able to articulate all of those feelings in a way that was straightforward, intelligent and meaningful.
– Mary O’KEEFE