Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project lost a dear colleague and friend with the passing of Larry Wallace on Thanksgiving.
Larry was SERCAP’s Virginia State Program Manager, directing a staff of technical specialists and managing programs and services for water and sewer projects throughout the state. Prior to his tenure at SERCAP, Larry worked as a senior civil engineering principal and manager and had over 40 years of experience in project management, facilities engineering and construction, public works and municipal engineering, environmental and water resources engineering, and development engineering services. He had been a registered Professional Engineer for over twenty-five years. A 1976 graduate of Virginia Tech, Larry held a BS in Engineering Technology and was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Affectionately nicknamed “the Sheriff” by our CEO Hope Cupit, Larry was the genial but firm enforcer of all things to be done properly around the office. Having too boisterous a meeting? Larry’s sharp baritone command, “Let’s tone it down people!” would bring the discussion volume under control. Did somebody use up all the creamer and sugar in the break room? An e-mail addressed to “Lovers of the Bean” would issue forth.
Larry took delight in his pretend-curmudgeonly persona, but it did not mask his gentleness. Larry was sure to inquire about the well being of each SERCAP employee’s family. He had a great memory for children’s birthdays and school progress, who had made the team, and who had made the crucial score. Larry also had special insight for those of us raising “rascals” just like him. There was a special grin and chuckle reserved for those bits of advice.
He and his wife Lari rescued shelter pets and Larry made special trips to provide food and supplies to local animal shelters. All around SERCAP’s downtown Roanoke office, critters of various sizes benefitted from Larry’s kindness. An improvised birdfeeder faithfully stocked by Larry had purple finches, cardinals and sparrows as regular visitors. A family of rabbits even showed up for what the birds dropped. He was the one who confidently guided a stray black snake out of our parking lot. Larry sometimes spoke of his unfulfilled boyhood desire to be a marine biologist, but his love of flora and fauna was clearly fulfilled by his constant pursuit of knowledge as a naturalist. Larry regularly shared with us treats from the books and articles he was reading on zoology, astronomy or geology. He knew the back roads of Virginia as if he had grown up in each tiny town or hollow. And when he returned from site visits, he would recount the history of the places he had been to as if he had lived each of the stories on the road side historical markers. Once he held up an arrowhead he had found on his mountain-side home and described how the discovery had stirred his passion to know more about the Sioux ancestry he had back in his family tree.
Larry’s humility was also revealed in his service with the National Guard. “Serving is just what you should do,” he would say. But his humility was never more apparent than when he advocated for the communities he served as SERCAP’s Virginia State Manager. The prospects of bringing safe water and sanitary waste disposal to the low income and sometimes unjustly treated residents of Virginia’s poorer communities could bring a tear to the eye of this John Wayne-sized man. He would often say, “We need to keep working to make it right.” We will miss you Larry, and yes, we will keep working to make it right.
Larry’s obituary in the Roanoke Times may be found at: http://m.roanoke.com/obituaries/wallace-larry-wayne/article_adb157ad-f985-5244-ab00-48f630dc3ebd.html?mode=jqm
Photo caption: Larry Wallace, (l), receives the SERCAP 2014 Employee of the Year Award from President & CEO Hope Cupit and Board of Directors Chairman Terry Lewis.