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Larry Leonard, the ‘Quintessential Bard of Oregon,’ Has Passed

By Art Hyland – BarbWire guest contributor

Editors note: I received the sad news of the passing of my friend and pen pal Larry Leonord in the following note from Oregon Magazine editor Art Hyland: “Matt – You and Larry connected long ago and of course remained so as he truly appreciated your thoughts and the ways in which you expressed them through your welcome contributions to our little magazine.  Larry passed away in December and I thought you would want to know.  He had been in a failing state for about 6 months and for the past year had had to move out of his little place in a remote location to a convalescent home in a nearby city, something that he viewed with uneasy premonition.”

Larry always made me laugh and I loved his folksy and inspiring gifts as a wordsmith. He was an honorable man and I believe he’s now with our Lord Jesus. – Matt Barber 

Larry Leonard passed away in December 15, 2015.  He had been in a failing state for about 6 months and for the past year had had to move out of his little place in a remote location in the hills between Portland and the Pacific Ocean to a convalescent home in a nearby city, something that he viewed with uneasy premonition.  He preferred to fly fish over almost everything, except he discovered that he could write about fly fishing or anything in ways no one else could, so he became a man of written words like no other.

Alaska Air tailHe became an advertising executive in Seattle, working on, among many clients, Alaska Air, where he inspired the depiction of the Alaskan native on the tails of their aircraft, something that has been continued to this day.  He was very proud of that work, and kept a large photo of it on his wall.

Ultimately he wrote for the Oregonian, and was instrumental for promoting their color insert called Oregon Magazine, but as the print media began its still-continuing decline, they dropped it from its Sunday edition in the 80s.  Larry brought it back to life in virtual form.  Here’s Larry writing about it upon the transition to a new century.

Larry with ever-present cigar

Larry Leonard

Larry Leonard, the quintessential bard of Oregon.  He knew things before anyone else and knew the world locally and nationally was spinning out of control.  But he also knew the ways of the world when it wasn’t that way, so he wrote about how the current wave of American/Oregon humanity was messing up the nation he loved.  He felt disappearing the notion so wonderfully lived by the founding fathers who truly had future generations of Americans in mind as they went about their dangerous business of revolution and nation-building, with God as their guide.  In America today, both God and our nation’s future is lost to a culture of secularism and instant gratification.  Larry knew what our founders accomplished was the greatest gift men could bestow upon others unborn:  freedom, and that blueprint to keep men free, the U.S Constitution.

He was looking forward to Oregon Magazine getting back to writing about local personalities, places and events rather than politics and government meddling.  He knew that until or unless the political culture re-respected the independence of its citizens and states once again, that all the pleasurable topics of life as he once experienced them had to be put aside for a while.  But how he looked forward to covering those fly-fishing days once again.  We must assume that’s precisely what he’s up to now.

Leonard was a gradual believer in Christianity, and became convinced that because there are people he admired who believed in Christ, there had to be a connection he needed to pay attention to, and so he did.  Not sure it can be said he believed Jesus was the son of God, but he would never have said it wasn’t so.

Ever the critic, but also ever the sage, Larry was able to distill the essence of a subject in such a way that the reader suddenly knew things he thought he knew but didn’t because Larry explained it better than ever before.

Leonard’s wit and wisdom (see his own “biography”) will remain with us all, but be sorely missed for he was too unique to be seen again in our lifetimes.  We were blessed by him, and we’ll have to be somehow satisfied to have been given the time we had to share our times with him.  At least his writing will endure, and to whatever extent we can, we will keep his thoughts published for generations yet born to discover.

This will not be the last tribute or commentary about Larry Leonard, for there ‘s so much more that can and will be said about him; he made us think and made us laugh too much to not wish to add to our memories of him from time to time.

Art Hyland is editor of Oregon Magazine.


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