Uncle Larry Kokkonen – a remembrance
Our Uncle Larry was something special. Someone special. He was truly larger than life. I first met him nearly 20 years ago at Jana’s Medical School graduation from Georgetown, and I was stunned at the silliness of Jana’s dad Matt, and his brother Larry’s horsing around. There’s really no other word for their incessant behavior with each other throughout their lives than horsing around. From that first moment at a Holiday Inn as they tried to one-up each other in height… to their silly antics aboard Larry’s latest fishing boat this past summer up on the French River trying to haul in a 3 foot pike with an inevitably broken 25 year old fishing net, such are the endless fond memories of Uncle Larry.
But more important than his unrivaled joy for life was Larry’s devotion to Jesus Christ and the Christian legacy he created. Not one to stand on street corners and bellow the Gospel message, Larry quietly spread the good news one person at a time. His joy-filled spirit radiated into one grand-daughter and then grand-niece, to one nephew brought in through marriage — that would be me — and then one business associate on the sales circuit. Larry truly left his mark – the Lord’s mark. None who knew him will doubt his place in heaven right now, and none can imagine any other reality than him goofing it up with Christ at this moment.
And so it thrills me to lay off of my self-focused ramblings to look outward to a life well-invested. Like so many of you who knew Larry personally, I dearly loved Uncle Larry — and… I want to be like Larry. Larry didn’t waste his one life. He didn’t store up treasures on earth, though he does have more than one workshop which his son Cary’s gonna have to sift through, no doubt. In fact, Larry’s life is characterized and illustrated most perfectly in his final Magnum Opus – his life’s final work: his kit airplane which he dreamed of building himself and then flying. All of us imagined that he would somehow find a way to “slip the surly bonds of earth” and soar off to his Savior when he finally solo-ed his plane. Indeed, his plane is the perfect metaphor for Larry’s life because it epitomizes how he stored up his treasures in heaven, away from earth. Not one to be tied to the earth’s silly values, Larry longed for the speed and precision of the rally cars he doted on, the fierce tug of the snow machines he cruised upon and the lift off of flight from the pull of gravity.
I want to be like Larry because I aim to leave a similar legacy to his. Not a legacy burdened by the short-sighted rafflings over inheritances; not the worrisome hand-wringing regarding the stock market’s tsunamis; not the gossip column in some empty entertainment rag; but rather the aims and purposes found in the word of God. I want to leave behind Cary’s and Laura’s – who have been imbued with an insatiable flavor for the Spirit and for all that this one life has to offer; who have been shown the beauty and elegance of art – thanks in no small part to their mother – Larry’s lifelong sweetheart and bride, Aunt Marie – a wonderful artist. Larry also inspired in his kids a mechanical love – the wonder of the diesel engine; the thrill of the torquing, arcing turn at high kph (okay, this stuff is more on the Cary side:) And, Larry also – in sync with Marie, taught his children the significance of attention to the elegant detail of a line – be it drawn on the page or cast into the lake. In fact, all one needs to see to know Larry’s imprint on this world — and therefore on the world to come — is to look at his grandkids. Lauren, Chad, Owen and Cara are imprinted with his zest for life and his wonder at the Lord’s handiwork and majesty. And so, like so many of us, they are heartbroken at the immeasurable loss of their Papa. Indeed, he is already sorely missed. Amen.