Opinion Columns & Blogs - INACTIVE

The losses come in threes - John McCain, Aretha Franklin and this Fort Worth treasure

Larry Schuessler was a Fort Worth original, his friend and neighbor writes.
Larry Schuessler was a Fort Worth original, his friend and neighbor writes. Courtesy photo

The old adage that the greats go in threes proved true in August.

The news has been awash in tributes to Sen. John McCain and Aretha Franklin, great Americans who set the standard in their fields. They aimed high, carved their own paths, and went for broke. And, somehow, they ennobled the rest of us along the way.

The third hero in this pantheon walked among us for 68 years right here in Fort Worth. If you didn’t have the privilege of knowing Larry Schuessler personally, you may have caught his obituary in last Sunday’s Star-Telegram. At 1,200 words and covering the better part of a full page, the tribute befit the man. It was hard to miss, and like Larry himself, harder to forget.

In her paean to Larry, local historian and neighbor Carol Roark captured the life of a Fort Worth original. Our public school system, specifically Lily B Clayton, Paschal, Texas Tech, and UTA, provided Larry with a strong start. Ever faithful, he maintained schoolyard friendships (and lots of swag) for all the decades that followed.

But Larry didn’t leave it at that. He worked hard to make sure all Fort Worthians had access to the excellent public education he enjoyed, using every resource at his disposal. He advocated tirelessly for equitable school board representation - and camped out on a boiling August night to secure two seats at Lily B Clayton for his 6-year-old twin neighbors. Larry gave it all he had.

He loved this town beyond measure – and showed it not in words but in actions, dedicating his professional life to public and nonprofit service, and his private life to his family, friends and neighbors. He was the guy trailing the neighborhood parade to make sure all signs and stray children were returned to their respective bases; sharing his pristine collection of Fort Worth postcards and memorabilia with anyone who needed material for a book or talk; gathering his four sisters for periodic lunches on Magnolia; tallying the bill for Friday night gatherings at Benitos; planting trees, mowing lawns and putting up neighbors’ recycling bins. The “Red Raider” even good naturedly let long-time TCU swim coach Richard Sybesma “cover him in purple.”

“Mr. Larry” lived next door to my family. He was a fixture at our dinner table and the kids’ go-to for toy repair and dispute resolution. It was thanks to Mr. Larry that my girls got into Lily B, and that on a certain winter night, sleigh bells jingled outside their bedroom window. He was our Fort Worth historian, encyclopedia, and problem-solver. But most of all, Larry Schuessler was a “doer.” What a difference he made in our lives.

Larry Schuessler put his shoulder to the wheel for this town. Now, it’s our turn.

Rose Bradshaw is president and chief executive officer of the North Texas Community Foundation.
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