There have been waves of loss in my life. In young adulthood, many people were taken by AIDS and related disorders. This slackened somewhat when protease inhibitors were introduced. Shorty thereafter, my parents and my friends’ parents began to pass away. And now, when I’m in my 50s, friends from my age onwards are getting sick and dying. On Friday, my good friend and mentor Larry Fournier passed away when his kidney failed. He was the thread that connected so many relationships that moved all over the continuum from professional to personal.
I met Larry in 1983 when he moved from ELS to Whisler-Patri to become marketing director. He found ways to stretch his budget to hire my sister for a stint when she was between semesters in medical school, and he hired a good pal of mine to take over the slide library when she needed a new job. There are hundreds of these stories. He was always willing to help, but he also expected you to help yourself. If you did, he would be loyal and available forever. We both held degrees in library science but somehow ended up helping architects get work. This is because we loved design, but we also loved those who found it their calling. Larry started out organizing Lawrence Halprin’s slides and became the leader of our profession in the Bay Area. He was not a salesman. He was a connector. One by one, he linked people to each other.
|Larry and George at Larry's retirement party.|
Many years ago, he knew that his kidney was failing and that he would need a transplant. I was amazed by his calm and courage. His brother came out from Louisiana and bravely donated one of his kidneys. This gave Larry several more years of a good life. He worked hard but made it look easy. He entertained brilliantly in his home in the Berkeley hills and later in Sonoma. After he returned from a trip to Japan, I remember him making the most meticulously prepared Japanese meals. They must have taken him days. He often invited people to stay in Sonoma when they were troubled or lost or just wanting a few days off. He knew what people needed. He didn’t judge much unless you deceived him. He connected me to ELS, where I worked for seven years as marketing director in the 1990s and made many friends. He would drop by the office on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley to be sure he had left his role in good hands. From him, I learned how valuable it is to make a gracious exit. Not only was he my friend, he was one of my key mentors. I also learned that one can be both modest and confident.
George was his partner the entire time I knew Larry. Over the years, as gay couples became part of the cultural milieu, they were both present at many industry events. The two firms where Larry worked the last three decades were relatively conservative, but he taught them that gay people are like anybody else. He just did it by being present and authentic. George was the quiet half, but he always saw the humor that was part of what made the connecting work. I remember seeing in their home a framed check that George wrote Larry when they moved in together in North Beach. They were not embarrassed to say they met at Buzzby’s, an (in)famous Polk Street disco in the 1970s. George makes things, beautiful things from wood. When George needed his own shop, they moved from their Berkeley hills home to a then-rough area of Dogpatch in San Francisco, living in the apartment over the shop. Several months ago, their regular dinner group invited Paul and me to join them there for one of their gourmet meals. It was raucous, delicious, and funny. Towards the end of the evening, Jane Glickman’s husband, John, decided to take a formal group portrait. It was the last time I saw Larry.