“I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. I treat people like I like to be treated, and this has never failed me.” ~ Larry Sovay
Larry Sovay, resident in Meadowbrook’s Birch Lane neighborhood is a true North Country gem, folks. And it’s not just because he always has a smile on his face, or because of his easy going nature….it’s that twinkle in his eyes.
Born in 1927 and raised in St. Regis Falls, he was the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher. His mom taught all grades in a one room schoolhouse while his father ran the family farm. Larry had one older sister Oleta, who was six years his senior.
When Larry was 10 years old, their family home burned down. “I remember I was with my parents out in the hayfield and my sister came running out to us yelling ‘smoke!’” His family lived on two farms, which had been confined into one, but there were two homes and he and his family lived in one of the homes. He still remembers his father handing him the horses reins to keep them away from the burning building. He stood there with the horses on the porch of the other house watching his childhood home burn down.
When World War II started, Larry’s father approached him at the age of 14 and asked him to run the family farm in his place. “My father came to me and said that the aluminum mill needed workers and were paying a good wage.” He gladly took on the responsibility and his payment was the sizeable milk check that they would get at the end of each month.
In 1944, with a signed permission from his parents, Larry enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Reserve Corp at the ripe young age of 17. “At 17, nothing scares you.” Larry was a Battery Clerk and worked with the clean up crew following the war’s end. He had to keep track of troops, morning reports and all field operations.
“I remember one assignment where me and my outfit had to dismantle Hitler’s torture chambers.” He said. “I remember a clip that would hook to a person’s fingernail, and then be attached to a 10 pound iron ball that would not reach the floor, but just hang from the fingernail until the fingernail fell off.”
The Nuremberg Trials took place while Larry was in the Army, and for one week, his Captain asked him to sit in as the Recorder on one of the trials. He recalled that a man was asked up to the stand to testify against his father. Larry had felt sad for the man, who was being asked to recall memories of his father from years ago that would implicate him with war-related crimes.
Despite the devastation left behind after the war was over, Larry said he enjoyed his experience in Germany very much. In fact his two best friends were the Commanding Officer and his 1st Sergeant of his outfit. “I love to dance! We would go out dancing. The Jitterbug!” he exclaimed!
But Larry took his time in Germany very seriously and was recognized for his work with the Presidential Unit Citation, which is an award presented for gallantry and determination in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions. And Larry and his unit earned the highly esteemed Belgium Croix de Guerre award for their bravery during the war.
After two and a half years, Larry returned home to St. Regis Falls and started working at the A&P Grocery store in Malone where he worked as the Produce Manager. He loved his job and the people he worked with. His relationship status at the time was with a woman named Rhoda, who was a twin to her brother Roger. “She was bossy, just like her mother.” Larry said. Turns out, that twin Roger dated the woman that would one day become Larry’s wife.
“My buddy and I went to a dance one night, and there were two women dancing, so we broke them up.” At the end of the evening, Larry asked the woman, Beatrice, if he could take her home. “She said I could, but I had to bring her friend home too. Which I did.” He went on to say that after that, they just started ‘going together’. “She was a good dancer. A girl that didn’t dance or didn’t want to dance were history immediately.”
Beatrice and Larry were married November 10, 1948. Larry’s position with the A & P Grocery store had been transferred to the Schenectady store, so he and Beatrices moved south and once settled, they became the proud parents of two kids, Linda and Gary who were born in 1951 & 1956, respectively.
“Linda was a daddy’s girl.” Larry said fondly. “ My boss at the A&P loved kids. On my day off I’d always take her with me to do the grocery shopping and my boss would always tease her and try to get her to say bad things about her dad. She wouldn’t. She’d just yell ‘my daddy!’”
Gary and Beatrice had a special bond as well.Even after his kids had grown and started their own families, they remained very close. When Beatrice was admitted into the hospital with a terrible flu. “The minute her son came in the door, she raised her arms to him and said ‘Oh Gary!’ and she snapped right out of her illness.
After 66 years of wedded bliss, Larry lost his life-long partner on November 16, 2014. “She had a stomach hernia for years and ended up having to be on a feeding tube for 10 years.” But Larry said she never once complained. The love he shared with his wife made it possible to create a family that carried on loving and supporting each other, even after she had passed.
Shortly after her passing, Larry had a small setback that occurred while he was mowing his lawn. A lilac branch got caught in the mower and punctured into his shin. The doctor had prescribed him with antibiotics, but the wound increased in severity. “My granddaughters were working at Ruthie’s Run in Lake Placid, and the owner’s husband was a doctor at the wound center.” Larry explained. “My granddaughter’s begged the doctor to see me and look at my leg.”
After the doctor examined his leg, there was no choice but to amputate. “I still feel imaginary pain in my leg, but my doctor said that is normal.”
Post-surgery, Larry’s granddaughter had once worked at Meadowbrook as a physical therapist, and she recommended this as the place for Larry to be cared for. “The help is good.” Larry said, chuckling with one of the CNA’s, Anthony, who had just entered the room as he and Larry exchanged witty remarks.
To end Larry’s story, one last anecdote which truly demonstrates the type of happy-go-lucky type of guy Mr. Sovay is. The day we returned to his room to share the first draft of his story, he declared “I forgot to tell you something!” He then went on to share that in his twenties, he and a friend were in Pittsburgh visiting and they attended a dance event. When they arrived, they were told that there was a dance contest taking place. The contestants were tasked with inventing a new dance, which they did. He along with his friend and the daughter of the club owner invented the ‘Jitterbug Polka’! “And we won the contest!” Larry said. “The prize was a horse drawn carriage ride through Pittsburgh and a free brunch!”
Cheers to you, Larry. It was a supreme pleasure.