This is the obituary sent to Larry’s friends. Please read it and try to imagine the heart and mind of this man: a true artist, a true friend, one of the few ever who embodied the true spirit of dance.
Larry Lynch …he “believed in life before death. He loved Shaina beyond measure.”
June 12, 1941 – October 29, 2021
(80 years old)
FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO BRAZIL
Larry Lynch, whose father was from Caherciveen, Co. Kerry and maternal grandparents from Eyeries, Co. Cork was born in San Francisco. He loved the city and literally walked nearly every street, marking each one off on a carefully preserved map. He often drove by his childhood home on 22nd Avenue sharing details of the bygone ice cream shop, the houses where his neighborhood pals lived, the store front where he got his first hair cut, St Monica’s and Saturdays spent at the Bal Theatre.
Larry spent his tween and teen years in the East Bay. He began dance lessons at the age of 5 and at age 10 he began to study with the late Annie Tully. In his step dance competition career, Larry won over fifty first prize medals and trophies. He was undefeated in California, winning the state championship five years in a row. He also won the Chicago Mid-West championship five years in a row and in Philadelphia he won the championship of the United Sates for Irish Step Dancing.
The dominant influence in LL’s love of dancing was his grandfather John D. O’Sullivan, “Johnny Uochirre”, a step dancer from Ireland who had migrated to Butte, Montana in the 1890s and then moved to San Francisco in 1935. His grandfather played the fiddle and taught step dancing. His mother played Irish dance music on the piano. LL often spoke of his enjoyment watching and participating in the dances that took place in his home when he was young.
Larry graduated from Bishop O’Dowd High School and went off to South Bend, Indiana to attend The University of Notre Dame. After graduating from Notre Dame, Larry joined the Peace Corps. He often mused at the fact that he asked to be sent to any Spanish speaking country, yet he was assigned to Brazil. He never, ever regretted that oversight. He went first as a volunteer, then came home for two years to pursue a graduate degree in Latin American studies. He returned to Brazil as an Area Director to lead the Peace Corps Program in the State of Mato Grosso where he had been a volunteer. For many years, he managed Peace Corps volunteers assigned to roles in Brazilian agencies in the areas of health care and agricultural extension. His experience of Brazilian people, their music, food and culture, made him a fan for life.
When he left Brazil, Larry returned to San Francisco. For four years he read books, ran in Golden Gate Park and along Ocean Beach and made a life changing decision to make Irish music and dance part of his life.
IRISH DANCE & MUSIC
Larry taught set dancing and ceili dancing for many years at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco and at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Berkeley. Over the years, hundreds of students delighted in learning the steps, style and figures of Irish country dances. Each series of dance lessons ended with a pot luck ceili with live music, followed by a night cap at Mulcrevy’s Irish Pub in the Marina, often punctuated with songs from Arhie, a Scottish accordion player who often topped off the night with “Roamin in the Gloamin”. (If you missed LL’s imitation of Archie, you missed something special.)
Larry also taught dance workshops in cities across the US as well as in Canada, England and Ireland. He taught set dancing for many years at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. In addition, every summer for 20 years, Larry took small groups of dancers on tour to towns, villages and rural communities throughout Ireland, meeting local people, dancing with them and sharing their music and song. Needless to say, everyone who joined in had fun. Fourteen marriages (including his own to Shaina) are attributed to Larry Lynch’s dance classes, workshops, ceilis and tours.
Larry’s extensive research, appreciation of and respect for local tradition and the old style set dances are apparent in his book, Set Dances of Ireland, Tradition and Evolution, along with the companion music recordings that feature some of Ireland’s best traditional musicians. So many people over the years got to know Larry’s humor, joyful spirit and personal love of dance as well as his knowledge, love, and preservation of Irish history, music, song and dance. Every chance he got, LL delighted in telling stories of the old timers he met over the years and the life long friendships he made.
In addition to what Larry referred to as his “Performing Arts Business”, he was involved in the non-emergency medical transportation industry for many years. He co-owned a company that provided wheel chair van services to people with disabilities. He served as the Executive director of both the California Medical Transportation Association, and the National Medical Transportation Association, whose members were business owners providing similar services.
In his later years, Larry — quite by accident and thanks to his brother-in-law Bill — began an all-encompassing interest in Bourbon. Over time, LL and his bourbon buddy, Mikey, collected over 200 bourbons. In true Larry fashion, Larry generously shared his collection in his very own “local” basement bourbon bar. Quoting Johnny Uochirre, shot glasses clinking, he’d toast, “Drink up, you’ll be a long time dead.” Or just as often, “Many more together!”
LL loved family. He embraced and created family traditions. He nurtured a loving connection to his and Shaina’s family here in America as well as his family in Ireland. Holidays, weekly Friday or Sunday night dinners, monthly get-togethers, Christmas outings, annual picnics, tailgates, Russian River trips, Yosemite weekends, family reunions, birthdays, baptisms, graduations, weddings and funerals — he was there, always there…bourbon in one hand, a bag of Lay’s potato chips in the other.
Larry had a multitude of fine friends, who are probably thinking by the end of this long summary, “What am I, chopped liver?” Not at all! He treasured a long list of friends with whom he shared many and various aspects of his life. Friendships characterized with reciprocated affection, respect, trust and good times. Some were based on books, music, dancing, shared experiences or patronage of a favorite local. Some were his godchildren. Some were members of the coveted FUNClub.
Larry was a lovely dancer. He was a story teller. He was uncommonly interesting. His combination of intellect, curiosity and experience was rare. He loved bright colors, loved to have his elbows up on the bar, loved to dance, teach life lessons, loved to read and share books and believed in life before death. He loved Shaina beyond measure. He lives in our hearts always.
To honor Larry’s memory, please consider making a difference in the life of a person in need.