ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Echo volunteer, mentor, remembers former Echo sports writer

I can’t recall the first time I saw or met Larry Cathey. But I can say one thing … I’d bet the ranch he had his Tigers hat on. Backward, as always.

Larry, 34 and an Eastern Michigan grad and former Echo staffer, died Saturday in Oregon after a fight with colon cancer. He was the sports editor of the local paper, and wife Linsay was a reporter.

This summer, they welcomed Samantha Rose Cathey into the world. The proud papa quickly decked out the little one in Tigers gear and flooded Facebook with her pictures — the whole time hanging in there with all the heart and courage any person could muster, and then some.

When Larry’s struggle ended, sorrow tied you in knots. It was like taking a thousand punches to the gut all at once. Your heart ached badly. Your emotions became a blur, memories and questions, more memories and more questions…

Why did this happen? How could it?

No one knows, of course. But the end for Larry, and even a few days before his death when friends unleashed their pictures and heartfelt thoughts on the Internet, have brought to all a torrent of recollections more than sufficient to fill the lifetime he was denied.

For instance…

At The Detroit News, he started by answering phones and taking high school scores, which, as fate would have it, Linsay did, too.

Initially really respectful (like calling the bosses “Mr.”), Larry soon realized he was surrounded by immature, crude, loud, rowdy desk guys you would never, ever see at Princeton or any Mensa meeting. He soon became one of the boys, goofing on things and totally irreverent.

Soon he headed out into the real world of newspapers, landing in Hugo, Okla., and Paris, Texas. I had no trouble conjuring up images of LC … maybe shooting the breeze with the good, old boys in tobacco-splattered bib overalls at the local fill-em’-up station, as they discussed barbeque, pork futures/rinds and oil prices, with cold Dr Peppers in hand on a 120-degree day. Hot dang!

Eventually, he married Linsay, and they settled down in Grants Pass.

Larry quickly showed an intensity at a job he loved, a fact appreciated in the newsroom. His video of working out with a local women’s roller ball team never got its due as a comedic classic.

In short, Larry personified “good people.” A better buddy you couldn’t have, someone who’d be as at home in Snellville, Ga., as midtown Manhattan. One truly cool dude. Meet him once, and it was as if you’d been friends forever.

The last time I saw Larry and Linsay was when they were visiting the Detroit area. We met for breakfast in St. Clair Shores. Linsay, I recognized right off the bat.

But who was the other character? Larry, complete with a beard any Red Sox player would envy madly. The Great Outdoorsman from Oregon had cometh east!

Now, he’s inexplicably gone; he’s likely hamming it up with some new pals, maybe with a brew or two. Spinning some yarns in his folksy, almost aw-shucks manner. The Tigers cap remains on backward, of course, and if he’s observed anyone with Boston apparel, that scoundrel was in for some severe Dee-roit style trash talk. Heck, I bet LC even would go to bat for The Punchless Prince, Mr. Fielder.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Larry’s spirit will live forever, and that’s reason to smile, not be sorrowful, despite the hurt that consumes all who loved him.

Keep that hat right where it is, LC. God bless you, and your family. You’re a Hall of Famer in our eyes and always will be.

Art Brooks is a retired newspaperman who works with students at the Echo.

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