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Monday, September 23, 2013

Larry Fournier

Mentor and Friend


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.


17 comments:

jm144 said...

Thanks for writing and posting this. I am grateful that you can express what I (and I am sure many others)felt about Larry. He was at ELS when I first came and we forged a partnership that I believed helped the firm through some tough times. He was a grounded, wonderful person. Larry and George a great couple. It also makes me think of Guillermo, Tony, Al, Barry and others we lost. Oh my....

jm144 said...

Thanks for writing and posting this. I am grateful that you can express what I (and I am sure many others)felt about Larry. He was at ELS when I first came and we forged a partnership that I believed helped the firm through some tough times. He was a grounded, wonderful person. Larry and George a great couple. It also makes me think of Guillermo, Tony, Al, Barry and others we lost. Oh my....

Bryant Rice said...

Thanks Kenny, a beautiful remembrance. We all miss him already. Bryant

David Kerr said...

What a beautiful remembrance. Much appreciated!

Linda Pearson said...

Thank you Kenny. Your writing wonderfully captures Larry's true essence and what I believe made him so dear to so many of us. From the first time I met him, Larry's passion for working, loving, living and giving 200% was an inspiration to me. I feel very grateful and blessed for having known him - and deeply saddened by our loss.

Alexander Tsai said...

I was really hoping for a miracle for Larry but after reading Kenny’s eloquent remembrance I was reminded of all the benevolent deeds Larry did for his family, friends and colleagues; the miracle is Larry himself who bestowed his professionalism, kindness, and generosity to us. Larry Fournier’s legacy has been imprinted onto us and I feel most fortunate to have been graced by his friendship.

Dai Williams said...

I met Larry while we both worked at Larry Halprin's office in the late 60's and early 70's. Larry was the first openly gay man I'd ever met (there were a few closeted types at Halprin's too) and I learned a great deal from him about what it was to be gay. He was incredibly open about his sexuality and regaled some of us with his anecdotes of the (then) wild gay San Francisco scene.
After the office broke up and both of us moved on we'd occasionally run into each other as George rented space from me for his workshop. All three of us shared a passion for the Citroen DS 21!
Yes, Larry was a loving and intelligent man who was determined to find his niche in the world. He probably succeeded more than most of us.
Dee Mullen, Larry Halprin's partner later in his career joins me in sending our condolences and best wishes to those of you who have also lost a dear friend in Larry.
Dai Williams

Daniel Carfora said...

Kenny, your observation of Larry's being "modest while confident" is spot on. He always had such poise, and while he made his contributions look effortless, you knew they never came across without great thought and care. Truly a connector and mentor to many, Larry will be sorely missed.

Michelle Gale said...

Lovely thoughts for a lovely and thoughtful person. We miss Larry very much.

erin cullerton said...

I was just thinking about Larry, and by chance happened to visit your blog today. I didn't know that he had passed, though I knew he was sick. I was really glad to know him and also spend time at his Sonoma pad, which he generously loaned to a bunch of friends one weekend a long time ago. I still remember standing on the balcony, looking over the rolling hills and thinking how generous of heart he really was. He was an amazing person and I will never forget him.

Anonymous said...

Kenny - as others have mentioned, your writing captured the essence of Larry. Thanks so much for posting. He's left a big hole in our world.
Susan Millhouse

Michael TenBrink said...

Some years back, during the worst of the downturn, I was laid off from my second job in less than two years. Larry and I had lunch, and I'll never forget one comment he made to me regarding my job search. It was such simple insight, but it was precisely applicable to my situation. I took his advice, and to this day I remain grateful that he shared his wisdom and experience with me. I know I'm just one of many who feel his loss. -Michael

EVVance said...

Thank you so much, Kenny. This is a loving tribute to Larry, and so well-deserved. He was a true pioneer in marketing, as well as an exceptionally kind and generous person. He will live on in our memories.

Marjanne Pearson said...

Thank you so much for writing this, Kenny. It is a loving tribute, and so well-deserved. Larry was not only a pioneer in marketing A/E services, but also a kind and generous person. He will live on in our memories.

herman said...

i enjoyed reading about your friendship with larry - thank you for sharing - i owe much to larry -he hired me to work for Ehrlich Rominger back in 1997. larry gave me my start. after my interview with larry i went to a happy hour with the rest of the staff at ER and thus had an incredible opportunity to meet principals and associates from the firm. larry introduced me to a lot of people that afternoon and i had some great conversations. the very next morning he called me and wanted me to start working that day. i was so excited - he told me that i made some great impressions with people during that happy hour. i will always be grateful for having met larry - his kindness, intelligence, charm and humor will be missed my many.

Anonymous said...

The world has lost a shining light now that Larry has left us. He was such a generous spirit. We will always remember him!

Julie Satterwhite said...

Kenny - your words about Larry sum it up so nicely -- "He was the thread that connected so many relationships that moved all over the continuum from professional to personal". Larry was one of my most treasured friends and mentor. I will miss him dearly.