Luther Dorr: Larson’s legacy matched by few

Luther's col

Luther’s Dorr step

“See you on Monday,” Gary Larson said to me last Friday after one of our usual Friday conversations at the office in Princeton.
Gary talked about one of the questions for the next Sportswriters feature being about the contract extension of Gopher football coach Jerry Kill. (I think he was opposed.) And he said there would probably be a question about the Minnesota Twins because spring training had started.
Our Friday afternoon conversations often branched out into slow-pitch softball stories from Gary (he managed teams for a long time), town team baseball stories from me, and high school sports stories from both of us.
I was lucky enough to cover sports for 46 years in Princeton, and Gary, after a number of years as the sports editor for the St. Cloud Daily Times, had been with the Milaca paper for almost 30 years.
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Sadly, those conversations have come to an end, with the news coming Monday morning that Gary died of a heart attack on Sunday.
Those talked-about dreams we had of using our extensive knowledge to put together a book about sports in this area – primarily high school sports – is no longer a possibility.
Elmer Andersen, the former governor of Minnesota who combined the Princeton Union and Princeton Eagle in 1976, bought the Milaca paper in 1981 and a couple years later asked if I thought applicant Gary Larson could do the job as editor in Milaca. I said that I had known Gary during his years at the St. Cloud paper and that I thought he would fit in well, being from the area and all.
Gary got the job and the rest is history.
He chronicled the happenings of sports in Milaca for the next 30 years and had an immense amount of knowledge about Milaca and the Rum River Conference. Many, many nights and days we would converse while covering a Milaca-Princeton event.
Although he had knowledge about all sports, and had even hit me up for some of the finer points of hockey when some Milaca athletes played with the Princeton team a few years back, rasslin’ seemed to be his favorite.
The first time I heard Gary, a Foley graduate who grew up around a great wrestling program, say the word “rasslin’” (instead of “wrestling”), I did a bit of a double take, thinking he was talking about professional wrestling. But I quickly figured out he was talking about the high school sport.
And in this week’s Times, there are pictures Gary took at last week’s state wrestling tournament. Those pictures will stand as his final contribution to the coverage of Milaca High School athletics.
His Milaca office, like mine in Princeton, was cluttered with old papers, new papers, pictures, statistical readouts and notes to himself. He took some heat about that, as I did, but he always knew where to find something, although he told me last week he was still looking for something he had written about Herb Claffy.
What a double whammy for those who enjoy and follow Milaca sports: the recent death of beloved coach and athletic and activities director Claffy, and Gary. Those two, in different ways, gave so much to Milaca High School sports.
Those of us who have spent the better part of our lives covering high school sports know the criticism that comes with that endeavor. But, as Gary and I talked through the years, we told each other that we just had to let it go in one ear and out the other. Gary enjoyed covering high school sports and getting to know the coaches, the athletes and the officials. You don’t get rich doing it – you do it because it’s enjoyable.
I drove him to a Gopher football game last fall, and as we sat in the press box, he grudgingly spoke highly of Jerry Kill and his football team as they beat Penn State that day. As we rode back to Princeton, he still expressed reservations about Kill but said things seemed headed the right way. We didn’t always agree on the Gophers, the Twins (he liked indoor baseball, I didn’t) and the Vikings, but we had some lively discussions. He wrote last week that the NIT is where the Gopher men’s basketball team will land. I guess that will he his final prediction.
We talked so much about high school sports, a lot of it about the changes that find long-time rivals Milaca and Princeton in different conferences. In all our talks, his love for high school athletics shown through.
How fitting, then, that last week he again put together a special section for the state wrestling tournament. For him it was a labor of love. That section is a sample of the good work done by Gary Larson and part of a legacy matched by a very few.
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It’s Monday night, and I’ve just come from his office. There are notes, there are papers, there’s a Milaca winter sports schedule, there are bowling scores, some pictures and piles of results.
As I turned out the light in his office, I realized that the light of Gary Larson’s good work on this Earth has also dimmed and been extinguished forever.
We’ll miss you, man. You were outstanding.

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