The preacher cried as he conducted the funeral service for Larry Duncan — a Vietnam War veteran and a man of distinction and honor. The preacher, Jamie Rowan, was also Larry’s son-in-law. Jamie’s love and admiration for this man whose daughter he had married was palpable, as he would often have to stop talking to pull himself together. Though his mind told him Larry was now free of his daily suffering, his heart told him he wanted more time with the man he so admired and longed to emulate. And he said so.
Pastor Jamie Rowan admitted being in awe of his father-in-law. His message was that words like honor and integrity were not just meaningless language to Larry. He lived them without having to think about it. Because, man and boy, Larry lived by a code of honor that seemed to be stamped on his DNA.. He was loved. He was trusted. He was looked up to as a man of wisdom whose words came softly, slowly, and thoughtfully. But Larry was no stuffed shirt. He was good-natured, had a sense of humor, and loved his family and family gatherings. He also made sure his grandparents, and aunts and uncles, and all of us crazy Duncan cousins were not forgotten.
Larry and his wife Brenda were some of the rare visitors when my mom and dad were no longer able to get out and about. When my dad died, they came to our house sometimes to visit with mama (Larry’s aunt). It made her feel special, remembered, and loved. And even when Larry and Brenda were trying to cope with their own serious health problems, they took the time to visit relatives who were in the hospital for surgery — our Aunt Fay when she had heart surgery — our Aunt Frances in her struggle with cancer. Aunt Frances was my cousin Cindy’s mother. Cindy recounted to us — Joan, Chris, and me — on the way home from Larry’s funeral, how he would sit with her and her mother at the hospital, and share in sending out for food for the vigil. Frances — who was always there to sit with and care for anyone sick — died at the age of 62.
He and Brenda together often helped people who were down on their luck. I remember when my daughter lost so much in a house fire, they gave generously to help with getting her back on her feet. Another family member told me recently how Brenda and Larry invited them to their house to share Christmas with them. And now Facebook is rife with personal stories of their generosity, even though Larry, because of his health, had to take early retirement from Goodyear after many years of faithful hard work.
Larry’s love and commitment to Brenda and their children were obvious. Taking care of his family was ever his first priority. He built them a beautiful home and, later, looking ahead to retirement, he bought a camper and a boat that all of them could enjoy. They lived only a few miles from Guntersville Lake. But they were able to enjoy only a few outings before they had to give it up. Larry and Brenda both had gotten to the point where their own doctors and hospital visits took up much of their time.
Heart surgeries followed and Larry’s back got worse and worse. They sold the camper
and boat. Because of his back problems, I was always amazed that Larry, a tall man, always carried himself like a soldier even before he was a soldier — straight, tall, and with dignity, even when the pain was etched on his face. But he never came across as arrogant or proud. He always let others speak first, never monopolized a conversation, looked at a person when he or she was speaking, and made each one feel he was interested in what they had to say.
When Pastor Rowan popped the question to Kristi Duncan, he so admired her father that he decided to ask for her hand in marriage. Old-fashioned or not, Larry Duncan’s high example of a wise, responsible, and honorable man, was already working on the young man his daughter had chosen.
Larry was known as Superman among his family and friends. There was even a stand of flowers depicting the big red “S” of the Man of Steel beside his casket. He acquired the name because of his tireless commitment to holding the center in an unraveling world. A world that the younger generations are inheriting. Larry Duncan has left a legacy for all who knew him. His unwavering example of an honorable man.
“He taught me so much,” the weeping pastor said. “And I was so looking forward to learning more.”