My uncle, Larry Byer was a really good musician, but that was not something I recall from years of hearing him play. It is something I’ve been told over the years. I never occurred to me that so many people in my family were talented musicians, but apparently there were a number of them. Uncle Larry played the guitar, the mandolin, and the piano. My grandfather, his dad, George Byer played the mandolin and the violin. My dad, Al Spencer and my Uncle George both played guitars. They had a regular band, and their jam sessions were like a big party at the Byer house. I knew that my dad, Al Spencer and his siblings were talented musicians, because I was told that over the years, but Uncle Larry is on my mom, Collene Spencer’s side of the family, and somehow, I just didn’t know. It’s possibly because by the time I was born, Uncle Larry was married, and starting a family of his own with his wife, Jeanette Morton. In fact, their son, Larry is just nine months younger than I am. These days, most of these band members are playing in Heaven, and I would sure love to hear that music.
Uncle Larry was always a guy with a great sense of humor. He loved a good joke, and maybe that was what my Aunt Jeanette first saw in her husband of 55 years, before he went home to be with the Lord. Uncle Larry loved a good joke and wasn’t above pulling pranks either. I suppose he came by it honestly. I think just about everyone in my family…from both sides are tricksters and pranksters, and it had to come from somewhere, so I think there are a number of the aunts and uncles who had a hand in it. My mom was born between the two brothers in the family, and so she got a double portion of the pranks boys tend to play. Personally, I think she totally loved being the girl between the boys, because they included her in all the mischief.
Like all of my veteran loved ones, I am very proud that my Uncle Larry served in the Korean War. He didn’t talk much about his time in the service, but like most of the men of the war eras, he was proud to serve his country. Uncle Larry was an honorable man and an honorable soldier. After that he came home and started a family with his best friend and wife, Jeanette Morton. They married on February 11, 1956, and their first child, Larry was born on February 9, 1957. Tina followed on November 12, 1958. Uncle Larry worked for many years at Texaco Refinery, and when they closed down there, he transferred to Louisiana, until his retirement. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.
There is an old song, that Willie Nelson wrote in 1980, called On The Road Again, and one part of the lyrics goes like this, “The life I love is makin’ music with my friends.” That line reminds me of a story I heard about my Uncle Larry Byer. My Grandma Byer’s house was the place to be when all the kids were home. There were always kids hanging out there, and because of the varied ages of the siblings, the ages of the visiting children varied quite a bit too. The family had always loved to sing, and several among the family members played an instrument. Grandpa Byer played the mandolin and the violin. Uncle Larry played the guitar and the mandolin, as well as the piano. My dad, Allen Spencer, and Uncle George Hushman also joined in with guitar and singing. It was like a big jam session. For the kids, like my Aunt Sandy Pattan, those jam sessions were like a big party.
Uncle Larry always had a group of friends who loved to hang out at the house…among them Bobby Boatman, Caryl Sparger, and Gene Tholl. They and the rest of the gang played music and just had a good time in general. Aunt Sandy even told me that they had a machine that recorded the songs and put them on a record. They would hang blankets to make a sound room and record their own songs. I sure wish some of those old records were still around. I would love to hear my dad, grandpa, uncles, and their friends singing and making music with their friends. One of the songs that Uncle Larry used to play for Grandma…his mom…was her favorite, “Springtime in the Rockies.” Grandma loved that song, loved hearing him play and sing it. It was a song Grandpa always sang to her, so it had a very special meaning. I’m sure it was a sweet love song to her from Grandpa.
Aunt Sandy told me that when Uncle Larry went into the Army, she really missed him, like most little sisters would. She missed his joking ways, all the friends who came over, and especially, she missed those jam sessions. Nevertheless, when he came home, it wasn’t those things that Aunt Sandy was thinking about. Her big brother was home and all she could think of was to run into his arms for a great big hug. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. I can’t wait to see you again, and get one of those great big hugs too. We love and miss you very much.