Family remembers Clayton Larrabee Sr.

'If anybody had a problem, Gramps had the answer'

By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 05, 2019
Courtesy of: Noni Larrabee Clayton Larrabee Sr. with one of his beloved horses. Larrabee, who died March 26, had "a huge heart for the community and give you all he had if you were in need."

Knox — Rodney Larrabee said he did not sleep at all the night before, thinking of things he might have said at his father's funeral the previous day.

"I didn't have the strength to stand up and talk yesterday," he said. "He groomed us boys to be who we are today."

His father, Clayton L. Larrabee Sr., was 73 when he died March 26 at Maine General Medical Center, succumbing to a non-alcoholic form of cirrhosis.

His funeral service took place at Brooks Pentecostal Church on Saturday, March 30. The church seated 300, and according to his son, "they had to bring in extra chairs."

Rodney, along with his brother Clayton Jr., his mother Winona, and his son Derek and wife Jen and their two young children, talked with The Republican Journal March 31 about the elder Larrabee's passions and huge heart for the community.

Winona, who goes by Noni, said when he was first diagnosed with the disease, they gave him three months to live and that was three years ago. At the time, she said, the community rallied around the family and put on a "huge" benefit with over 1,000 people attending to help with medical expenses.

She said her grandson Josh Larrabee summed it up well the day before at the funeral.

"'If I only knew what he had forgotten, I'd be good. And he didn't forget much,'" Noni repeated.

Josh's comment went on to say that Clayton was a "gifted operator" with much wisdom. He was someone who would help unconditionally: "If anybody had a problem, Gramps had the answer."

"He had a huge heart for the community and give you all he had if you were in need," he said.

Clayton had many passions. The one for which he was best known was his love of draft horses. "You would not have known the man owned anything but horses," Josh said. "That was his passion, his pride and his joy.

According to Jen Larrabee, he had 11 horses at one time. He would put his draft horses, Ben and Buster, in every parade he could and was elated to haul Santa in the Bangor Festival of Lights for many years.

He was also passionate about the horse pulls in the Brooks Fourth of July festivities. He joined the Brooks Boosters Club and was an active member for 20 years, at one point becoming president of the club.

Clayton Jr. said, "He took his whole crew down there for a whole week before the Fourth of July," to get the field ready.

Another passion of Clayton's was plowing roads.

Clayton Jr. said his father was road commissioner for several years in Brooks and was considered the "head honcho" for all things associated with plowing.

Rodney said, "He loved it. He loved to plow snow."

Rodney said his father's ultimate passion, when having fun, was his love of snowmobiles.

"He used to race snowmobiles," Rodney said. "I remember him and the Doughty boys, come off Frye Mountain. They were all good friends but it was a rivalry.

"The Doughtys always had Polarises and the Larrabees had Arctic Cats. They'd fire them up and the race was on. He loved it."

After he went into business for himself, Rodney said, the bulldozer was "his thing."

He "could fly by the seat of his pants. If it was level, it was good."

Noni said he didn't always have a picture in his mind how a job would turn out, but it "always came out good."

Another passion of Clayton's was his love of numbers and math.

Rodney said, "He could do it in his head faster than you could punch it out on the calculator. It didn't matter whether it was addition, subtraction, multiplication or fractions.

"I asked him one day how he got so good at it.? His comment to me was when they used to go up north to go fishing in Portage," as a way to pass the time on the road, he would add or subtract the license plates he would see on the road "in the truck with gram and gramps. He was a math whiz."

Jen Larrabee recalled, at 14, meeting her future husband Derek at the Brooks Fourth of July. "Clayton would be there for weeks prepping everything," she said.

"He would do everything from cutting weeds, stumps and mowing, to getting the horse ring, tractor pulling and the horse pull areas ready," she said.

If the chicken barbecue pit area needed repair or a little bit of gravel to even things out, Clayton would be right there.

Jen said after meeting Clayton and Noni through Derek, she asked them for a job. Clayton asked if she could paint and put her to work painting a rake (tractor implement).

"I don't think he cared if it was painted or not," she said. "I worked in the barn, and washed horses, mended fences for a seven years or more. Even if they didn't need it, they always gave me a job and a place to be, and I think I am one of many that can say that."

Derek said he was 16 and got his license worked nights and weekends with (his grandfather) Clayton on all different kinds of projects.

"He always had a reason for the way he did something," he said.

He was a good teacher though couldn't explain himself very well, Derek said. "In the middle of a project he would just spit out numbers.

"It took a while to figure him out. After a while, I knew I was doing a good job if he didn't stop to tell me to do something different.

"If we were both working, I'd say to myself you better keep this up because he ain't stopping.

"Best thing I got I got from him was his teaching," Derek said.

Jen  said Ben and Buster would be tended to by members of the family, as well as by volunteers making sure their needs are met. One local volunteer, she said, has mentioned his interest in working with them to help keep them in shape.

Noni said, "They will probably have a life of leisure."

According to his family, Clayton had his characteristic beard only for the past 25 years. The beard, which resembled part Abe Lincoln and part sea captain, was shaved off during summers. Before that, Derek said, he had Elvis Presley "chops."

Rodney recalled hearing a memorable quote his father had said, "It's been a long hard winter, it's about time to see some short skirts and some legs."

Surprised, Jen said, "I can't even imagine him saying that."

Loni said, "Well I can. Oh yeah."

Another memorable quote mentioned at the funeral service, Clayton Jr. recalled, "He worked two-thirds for free and a third he got paid."

The family has set up a scholarship fund in his honor, The Clayton Larrabee Mount View Fund for Further Education. Noni hopes to provide a student enrolled at Waldo County Technical Center an opportunity to further their education in the trades. Donations to the fund can be sent to: Clayton Larrabee Mount View Fund for Further Education, 577 Mt. View Road, Thorndike, ME 04986.

The family would like to thank Liz Sullivan for conducting the service, the Riposta Funeral Home for doing a "fantastic job," all the volunteers who helped with the reception, and Pastor Matt Shaw of Brooks Pentecostal Church.

In mid- to late-May the family will have a graveside service at Knox Ridge Cemetery. Details will be forthcoming.

"And he will be coming by horse," Rodney said.

 

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