Clayton Larrabee recently came to a life juncture where a person might start thinking selfishly, ticking off a list of long-deferred experiences. Instead, he seemed mildly annoyed that he couldn't do more for others.

The 72-year-old Knox native is probably best known for his appearances at the reins of his Belgian draft horses at municipal parades. He founded Knox Booster Club and has probably done more than anyone in recent memory to make sure Western Waldo County youths have decent athletic fields.

Among a number of single-word descriptions you could give of him, "generous" would be a safe bet for anyone's short list.

Recently, the tide shifted and Larrabee found himself the begrudging subject of an upcoming fundraiser, organized to help cover his medical expenses for treatment of cirrhosis of the liver.

The disease is a cruelly ironic affliction for Larrabee, who doesn't drink. The cause remains unclear. He went to Boston but was turned down for a liver transplant. Meanwhile, his health declined rapidly enough that he and his wife aren't making long-term plans.

At his home recently, he sat in a recliner and apologized for his a weak handshake. He had lost his grip, he said. The strong and ruddy teamster of countless parades and events looked diminished, but still sported his trademark Lincoln beard. He talked to The Republican Journal about his history of volunteer work in the community, and the legacy for which he doesn't particularly want credit.

For Larrabee, two things happened that arguably set him on the path of community service. When he was about 30 he signed up to help Brooks Booster Club with their Fourth of July festivities and worked through thundershowers scraping mud in preparation for a pickup pulling competition. Soon after, he got a thank-you note in the mail from the secretary of the club. Looking back, he wished he still had it.

"That little card was worth every bit in gold," he said.

It wasn't a lightning strike moment at the time, but Larrabee, who described himself as a "shy boy," said there was no question that it gave him confidence to continue working in the community.

Around the same time, his uncle Chapman Larrabee sold him 150 acres of land, adding to 98 acres he had recently bought on Abbott Road, and where many of his descendants live today. Here, Larrabee drew a straight line of cause and effect. "If he hadn't sold it to me, I wouldn't have been able to do these things," he said.

It was through his "Uncle Chap" that Larrabee met his wife Winona. She and her sister were employed picking potatoes on his farm around the same time Larrabee was doing the same.

More than 50 years later, she sat on a couch at right angles to him and shook her head as he recounted a trip to Unity Raceway in a '57 Chevy convertible and their first kiss. That's not what happened, he asked? "No, it was," she said.

They got married a year later and Winona, who goes by Noni, bore their first child. She was 15 and dropped out of high school to work at a seasonal vegetable cannery in Freedom with him — she later returned to school to take night classes and got her diploma in 1981.

After the cannery job, which often ran to 80 or 90 hours per week, she stopped working for a time to raise their children — three in all — while her husband took a succession of skilled labor jobs, eventually landing a heavy equipment gig in 1967 with George Adams of Frankfort. The work involved running bulldozers, mostly for road work, and it laid the groundwork for his own business and later volunteer efforts.

In 1973, the Larrabees bought the land where they live today. It had two chicken barns and a trailer home perched on a knoll overlooking the property on all sides. Three years later, he built the modest ranch house they live in today, and started his own business, Larrabee Construction.

He joined Brooks Booster Club, and his 20 years there provided the "training" he needed to lobby his own town for a booster club. His description of that turn started dryly, "At town meeting I opened my mouth like I usually do."

He gave the town land and built a ball field. The one field would eventually grow to a complex of five fields, for baseball, softball, soccer and field hockey. In 1995, it was christened "Larrabee Field," somewhat against his wishes — he made a point that it should only be his last name.

In the mostly unspoken politics of large community projects, the naming was a very real concession. As he explained it, if people know your name is going to be on something, they won't want to help you build it.

His other adage is: If you have to ask for money, do it on a sunny day.

When Regional School Unit 3 was having trouble raising money for a new scoreboard, Larrabee stepped in and got permission from the Milk Processor Education Program to display the “Got milk?” tagline on the scoreboard. Then he went to dairy farms and asked for a donation of $2 for every cow they had milked that morning. Flood Brothers in Clinton dutifully wrote a check for 1,675 cows, which Larrabee felt was especially generous, given that the farm is in the next county. Within three (sunny) days, he raised $10,000.

Asked why he did all of that, he gave a look, like, why wouldn't I?

"The hair curls up on the back of your neck when you look out and see 80 or 90 kids playing out there," he said. "It kind of makes you feel good."

Later in conversation he circled back to the subject of the field. "I just want to be clear," he said, pausing for dramatic effect. He gazed unblinkingly, then, as if seeing the futility of diverting attention away from himself, he smiled.

"It was the Booster Club that did the fields," he said. "It was my land, but they built the fields. I got a lot of help down there."

In 2015, Knox Boosters bought lights from a park in Swanville and installed them at the fields down the road from Larrabee's house. He recalled waking up one night at 10 p.m. and seeing two teams from Belfast playing under the lights. It made him happy.

"They give me another 20 years I could get something done," he said.

If a town wanted a horse-drawn wagon in a parade, he brought one. If the softball team had no field, he built one, and so on. Sometimes he was offered money, but he never asked for it, or expected it.

"It wouldn't be my style," he said. "I did this for the community and that's the way I kept it. Anything I've done was pretty much like that."

A benefit supper for Clayton and Noni Larrabee will take place Saturday, April 1, from 5 to 8 p.m., in the Mount View High School cafeteria with pasta dinner, pie and dessert auction, and cash raffle. Dinner $8 adults, $6 kids 10 and under.