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August 14, 1931 - January 22, 2020
Service Date August 14, 2020
Chris and I would like to plan some kind of get-together around August 14th, 2020 as a celebration of Larry’s birthday, and his long and busy and happy life. We thank all the kind people who have helped and expressed their condolences. If you would like to donate to Hope West in Larry’s memory, that would be appreciated.
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Larry Dean Estes, born in Eckert, Colorado to Thomas and Gladys [Jarvis] Estes, was their third child — arriving August 1931, two years into the Great Depression in the United States. That was nine years after the birth of his brother, Marvin and eleven years after his sister Marge. Larry’s grandfather, Charles Estes had a small farm on Surface Creek, near Eckert, where Larry enjoyed climbing the fruit trees and sitting there eating ripe apricots. There were aunts, uncles and cousins in the area, and enough Presbyterians to build the stone church that is still a landmark in Eckert. Larry’s grandfather hauled the heavy wood beams that support the church roof. Larry was blessed with his family’s energy and desire to do good, and when he joined the Boy Scouts of America, he practiced the values of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. He earned his lifesaving badge in swimming by rescuing a large scoutmaster (who was “making it real” by making it hard) in the pool at Ouray, Colorado, in the valley below the Boy Scout camping area. Eventually Larry earned full Eagle Scout rank. Larry excelled in music. Like his brother and sister, he played several instruments: for Larry it was trumpet and sousaphone in the marching band. Mr. Hilliard, the Montrose High School music teacher, encouraged Larry to join with three other boys in a gospel quartet that the Methodist minister called “The Sunshine Boys” when they sang on the Montrose radio station Sunday nights. Larry always had a job while growing up in Montrose: selling the weekly magazine, Saturday Evening Post, and delivering the Montrose Press by bicycle, in all weather. In the summer he topped onions, watered and mowed neighbors’ lawns, and chipped dried mortar off used bricks for a penny a brick. He and his friend, John Chavez, swept out the large, local movie theater in the morning and were paid with free movies. After graduation, Larry joined the peacetime U.S. Air Force, and studied electronics until he was able to begin teaching it to other recruits. After the Korean War broke out, while Larry was on a parked airplane fixing a gunsight, someone in the cockpit turned on the power to the gunsight. The shock knocked Larry off the plane and onto the tarmac, damaging his knee. They put him in the base hospital, wrapped his knee, and gave him a broom and a mop to clean with because nobody else in the orthopedic ward was well enough to clean. Since it was time for his four-year enlistment to be up, Larry went to the Inspector General and asked to be released. He was honorably discharged into civilian life, and later had two surgeries in V.A. hospitals before knee ligaments could be replaced with ligaments from cadavers. Larry found that just wrapping his knee with a 6-inch-wide Ace bandage was enough to stabilize his leg enough to work in grocery stores while he went to college. Larry used his G.I. Bill of Rights money to begin an engineering course at University of Colorado, Boulder. He met his future wife, Charmaine, an 18-year-old freshman from Trinidad, Colorado, the second year he was at the University. Larry was coming out of the the Memorial Union bowling alley as she was touring the M.U. with her roommate, Deanna Dilworth, daughter of the owner of Dilworth Market in Montrose, Colorado, Larry thought “Wow, what a pretty blonde girl in that white car coat with the blue lining.” Charmaine thought, “What a cute boy, wearing a brown leather jacket and carrying a bowling bag.” Larry was 24 years old, but always looked younger than his age. Larry and Charmaine dated, but since Larry didn’t have much money, they spent most of the time riding around in his old brown Ford automobile. They had one special date: to the Viking Club dance. The Viking Club was made up of Veterans who were going to school on the G.I. Bill. Larry bought Charmaine a white orchid, and they tried dancing. But Charmaine couldn’t follow his steps and kept stepping on his feet. He liked to do exuberant, swooping moves when the music inspired him. Years later, back in Montrose, Donna Chapman would teach Larry how to lead, and Charmaine how to shift her body to proper dance position. That Spring, a friend of Larry’s told him about a job working on airplanes in Southern California. Charmaine told Larry she was going to transfer to Colorado State College of Education in Greeley and asked if he’d ever thought about teaching. They transferred to Greeley that summer — Charmaine living in a dorm and Larry living in a rented room, earning money working as a helper for a moving van company. He had a brief job at Safeway, too, and had grown more muscle by “throwing 100-pound sacks of potatoes around.” They were married at the end of summer school, 1956, in the Presbyterian Church in Greeley. Larry earned enough money above his G.I. Bill stipend by working as clerk and checker at Gordon’s Foodliner in the mornings before class, and being night manager after class, so that they could move out of a $50 dollar a month basement apartment in an old house to a half basement apartment in a new fourplex for $80 a month. After graduation, Larry couldn’t find a job as a history teacher unless he could also coach a sport, so he used the rest of his G.I. Bill money to go back to school and get a Master’s in History. A friend on Larry’s bowling team called him at work to say a school superintendent from Vacaville, California was interviewing teachers and had just finished, so was gassing up his car before heading off with his wife on vacation. Larry got there in time to interview and was told he had the job at the new junior high school, Willis Jepson. Because Larry had a Master’s Degree as well as his Bachelor’s degree, he was named head of the Social Studies Dept. Larry was an innovative and popular teacher, teaching 80 students in a large room by placing them at “stations” in small groups with projects to do in Social Studies. He also had a class of learning disabled students who couldn’t read, so he read the U.S. Constitution to them, and made it so interesting that they were able to pass an oral exam in order to graduate, as was the rule in California at the time. Representatives from the University of California at Davis’ Education Department placed student teachers with him for a year or two and then recruited him to be a Lecturer and Supervisor of Student Teachers at the University. By that time, Charmaine and Larry had two children, seven-year-old Tom and three-year-old Lisa, who moved with them to Davis from Vacaville, California from a duplex apartment into a new tract home. Northern California was being deluged by rain, and flooding, but when the family moved into their new home, the rain stopped long enough that they didn’t get wet. Larry and Charmaine lived in that house for 39 years. After fourteen years in the Ed. Dept., Larry switched jobs to Admissions – Relations With Schools. At first the job mostly involved traveling throughout the state in the spring and fall in a university car, carrying box loads of printed materials to give to parents and graduating high school students as they crowded around the table with the UC Davis felt banner in the crowded high school gymnasiums. Each of the eight campuses of the UC system had a representative and a table and banner. The U.S. Armed Forces were also represented. With people crowded around the tables asking questions, and more people sitting and talking in the bleachers, these were busy and noisy events. Later, at the time of the implementation of a new computer program designed by a young programmer in Southern California, Larry was sent to discuss the program with him. While flying to the meeting, the flight attendant accidentally dislodged a heavy briefcase out of the overhead storage bin. It fell and hit Larry on the head and back of the neck. Larry was returned to Davis on the next flight, and he drove himself home from the airport in spite of the aftereffects of the accident. The doctor who examined him thought he’d be ok if he stayed home and didn’t drive until he felt like himself again. He was off work for a month. When Larry resumed speed, he visited the community colleges in northern and southern California to gather information about their courses that students hoped would transfer to the University with full credit. At UC Davis, Larry visited all the professors who had to approve transfer student credits and gave them full descriptions of the courses that helped convince the professors to sign off on each “transfer credit agreement.” These were promises that the successfully completed courses would be accepted for full credit at the University. Larry, with the help of one clerical worker, digitized the agreements that for the first time, allowed Community College students to be secure in their choice of courses — knowing they would transfer. Because of Larry’s enthusiasm for the project, UC Davis was up and running before the other campuses, and became the “beta test site” for Project Assist. Larry also worked on teleconferencing for students who needed face-to-face meetings but were unable to go to a meeting with a counselor at UC Davis. Larry organized two summer programs for Barbershop singers on the campus at UC Davis. They were called “mini Harmony Colleges,” and featured music teachers from the big choruses and from the Barbershop Harmony Society (at the time called SPEBSQSA —Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America) headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In the 1960s Larry joined a Barbershop chorus in Vallejo, California with three other men from the Vacaville Presbyterian Church as a quartet called The Goldtones. One of the men was a milkman, one was business manager of the school district, and one was a teacher with a talent for sewing. He made the quartet’s vests out of gold satin brocade with buttons set with rhinestones. Larry had many years of fun with Barbershoppers and quartet singing after that. His last quartet in California auditioned for the Davis Players production of Meredith Wilson’s musical comedy, “The Music Man” and performed as River City’s quarrelsome school board. Son, Tom, singing bass, George Telles singing lead, Don Stephenson singing tenor and Larry filling in the chord with baritone. The Barbershop Harmony Society was one of the great blessings of his life, as were his children and two grandchildren: Kevin and Lauren. Larry retired, but returned for special projects. He was Coordinator for the High School Counselors’ Conference on the UC Davis campus Sept. 11, 2001. That was his final major project, and he and Charmaine moved back to Colorado, where he enjoyed golf and singing with the Barbershoppers in Olathe until he began to have trouble and major surgeries to control his cancer. Larry transitioned from earthly life to “go home to Jesus” on January 22, 2020, with the help of Hope West Hospice and Charmaine and her brother, Chris, as personal care nurses. Larry requested before we moved to Montrose in 2003 to be cremated if he died, and his ashes spread on Mt. Sneffles. Cremation has taken place at Crippin Funeral Home. Chris and I would like to plan some kind of get-together around August 14th, 2020 as a celebration of Larry’s birthday, and his long and busy and happy life. We thank all the kind people who have helped and expressed their condolences. If you would like to donate to Hope West in Larry’s memory, that would be appreciated.