Nothing could make Harry Larned happier than to be skiing on some snow-covered mountain – which he did into his 80s – with family and friends.
“He didn’t like turning, just going fast,” said his son Russ.
Skiing was the product of his Spokane Valley outdoor sports business and shared with his dedication to community service and family.
Active until nearly the end, Larned died of a heart attack Oct. 19, falling off a ladder at home while pruning a cherry tree a week short of his 92nd birthday.
“What is a 91-year-old doing on a ladder trimming a tree?” wrote Russ, the fifth of Harry and Liz Larned’s seven children, in a poignant email to friends and family. “That was my dad. He never hesitated to do something that needed doing.”
Like so many of those dubbed “The Greatest Generation,” he understood the fragility of life through war, did not take it for granted and worked hard. Jobs were numerous, from long-haul trucker to milk carrier for the Valley’s Early Dawn Dairy until this entrepreneur with a high school education co-founded the Sports Creel with Logan Jorgens in 1954.
“This generation doesn’t know what a creel (a wicker basket for holding fish) is,” said son-in-law Herb Genteman, of the early logo for the business. Genteman, with his wife, Larned’s oldest daughter Lin, took over operation of the business, on Sprague near Pines, in the early 1970s.
It has evolved from mainly a hunting and fishing outlet into snow and water sports.
“He’s still an inspiration to us all,” Genteman said, “to have had the foresight in the 1950s to start this business.”
Larned, a World War II bomber pilot, was active in Spokane’s Civil Air Patrol. He was appointed a Spokane County commissioner, a position he held for eight years. He served on the Airport Board and as a Spokane Valley Fire Department commissioner.
But the soft-spoken man was never far removed from his family, whether it was teaching or influencing by example, following their sports in high school, or delivering “horse bites,” those friendly, unsuspecting pinches.
“He didn’t raise his voice, but his voice was heard,” said fellow fire board commissioner Joe Dawson.
Larned was a lifelong resident of Spokane Valley who, as a youngster, shuttled from house to house with his parents before graduating from Central Valley High in 1939. His children – Rick, Lin, Tom, Kate, Russ, John and Allen – all are CV grads.
During the war, he flew 36 bombing missions over Japan and imparted a love of flying and sense of duty to country to three sons. Rick rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Air Force after attending Officer Candidate School.
Tom and Russ – Air Force Academy graduates – made the military their careers and have gone on to fly commercially.
“I was always headed in that direction,” Tom said of his military career, whose introduction to flying was by his dad in the Civil Air Patrol. “I certainly wasn’t pushed.”
Russ recalled his dad coming up to him one day and asking, “Got your papers in to the academy yet? That’s how it happened. He put a bug in my ear.”
Kate and John are teachers in town, Allen is with the Washington State Patrol.
Russ wrote a great anecdote in his email about how his dad met his mother in Portland, while he was on leave from pilot training. That one blind date led to marriage six months later.
On his way to the wedding, Russ wrote, “He has a train ticket in his hand for Portland. He’s late enough (that the train) is leaving as he arrives and he goes running after it. The conductor is literally kicking him away from the door. Just like in old movies, some other soldiers lean out the window yelling for him to throw his B-4 bag to them. They then latch onto his shoulders and hoist him through the window.”
The marriage endured until his death 67 years later.
With the Sports Creel in good hands, Larned was appointed to replace longtime County Commissioner Bill Allen, who had died. He had to declare as a Democrat in order to do so, even though he wasn’t, and was swept out of office by the Reagan Republican revolution.
Then it was on to the Spokane Airport and Valley Fire Department commissions.
When rookie Dawson questioned a motion on the table, Larned asked, “Where did you get your law degree?” Dawson answered, “at the school of hard knocks.”
“Harry said, ‘I’m going to like you.’ He took me under his wing and mentored me.”
Larned affectionately nicknamed the lanky educator “Bones.” He was the only one Dawson would allow to call him that. By way of retort, he got away with calling Larned “irascible.”
Larned was acknowledged this past week during a Fire Commissioners Conference memorial service that recognizes in a slide show those commissioners who have died during the year.
“He was a remarkable person,” Dawson said. “We had a special relationship of which I’ll forever be grateful.”