A Life Lived: Larry McKinney was a friend to many

Published 11:27 am Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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Larry McKinney was a plumber for numerous families. To others he was a public servant, who had served on the Carter County Commission and on the board of Shepherd’s Inn. To his church family, he was faithful and was always there for them. To his family, Larry was their provider, husband, father, and papaw. Larry was a veteran, a devoted son and brother, and a friend to many.
Larry “Blackeye” McKinney died November 15 at the age of 78. He was the last surviving son of Ollie and Elvina McKinney. He has a surviving sister, Phyllis Oliver.
Larry grew up in the Long Hollow community of Carter County and graduated in 1963 from Hampton High School. After high school he entered the U.S. Navy and served until 1967. “He served in Vietnam, and various other places. He was proud of his service,” said his wife, Judy.
Following military service, Larry attended Elizabethton Business College, receiving an A.S. degree in drafting. He later went to vocational school, and trained to be a plumber, which became his life’s work, and was a means of making many friends.
Larry enjoyed talking and was a storyteller. “He enjoyed making people laugh. He never met a stranger. He would go to someone’s home to do a 30-minute job, and end up staying for an hour or longer. He would get to talking, telling a story, and time would get away from him,” said Judy.
Larry was a hard worker and was a compassionate person, who enjoyed helping people. “He helped a lot of people. Oftentimes, he would do a small job for an elderly person or someone less fortunate, and never charge them,” shared his wife.
Larry was close to his brothers – Arvel, Pink, Roy, and Terry. He and Terry served in Vietnam at the same time and he, Terry, and Arvel were neighbors in Long Hollow. “He was lost when Arvel and his wife Floss died. They had always been there for one another,” shared Judy. “Every night they talked after the news.”
Earlier, his long-time co-worker, Bob Bice, had died. Bob was not only his helper, but he and Larry had grown up together. “Bob was more like a son to Larry than a friend,” said Judy.
While in the Navy, Larry served aboard the USS Constellation CV-64 and became very close to two of his sailor-comrades, both of whom he visited after service and both of whom preceded him in death. “He attended their memorial services in Clinton, Tn., and Lynchburg, Va.,” Judy shared.
Larry enjoyed people and being with them. “He never missed a high school class reunion, and almost daily he visited Big John’s, where he bought a lot of his plumbing supplies. Sometimes he went four or five times a day to get an item for a job, and of course it presented an opportunity to talk,” his wife joked.
He occasionally would stop in at McDonald’s and have coffee and breakfast, but most of the time he would go to the shop for early morning coffee and usually a friend would drop by and chat and drink coffee with him.
Larry’s favorite foods to eat were lasagna and steak and he enjoyed visits to Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse. However, his favorite times were with family, which include two daughters. Melissa and Melanie and their families.
“He enjoyed holidays because they were spent with family…and others. If there was someone who didn’t have a place to eat, they knew they were welcome at our house. And, it was someone else for Larry to talk to,” said Judy.
Larry had four grandchildren, two stepgrandchildren, and the light of his life was his great-grandson, Dalson Arnett. “He loved him dearly and they both were always so happy to see each other,” shared Judy.
Personally, Larry was not only my friend – we attended elementary and high school together, but he was my plumber. He had a sense of humor, which he often said made the challenging jobs and times a little less brutal to handle. He was light-hearted and always had a story to share. One of his favorite sayings was: “If you take things too seriously and never laugh about the hard stuff, you might find yourself ready to burst like a backed-up toilet.”
For the past year or so, Larry had been unable to work or drive because of his vision. His nephew, Jeff, often drove him to church at Valley Forge Christian. “Until then, he was at church every time the doors were open,” said Judy.
“He put his heart into everything he did. He took his work on the county commission very seriously. He put long days in on the job. You never knew when he would be home at the end of the day until you saw him pull in the driveway, and sometimes he would go back out at night on calls. Larry gave his all to all that he did,” said Judy.
Today, Larry is at peace, and just by chance he might be sharing one of his stories in Heaven.
We were blessed to have known him and to call him friend.

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