The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
The American Red Cross of Mid-South Volunteer of the Month for June is Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain Larry Bomar, who responds to home fires, does case work follow up, and contributes one day of his time each week to the Red Cross office. A three year plus Red Cross veteran, Larry chuckles as he remembers how he became a Red Cross volunteer, “I was retired,” he says. “I had been retired for a couple of months, and Bob [Wallace] was posting about the work he was doing with Hurricane Sandy in New York, and I thought that might be an opportunity for me too. Something to help people.”
Born in Memphis, Larry’s first job as a teenager was building custom picture frames for the now defunct Stebbin’s House of Art. His career, however, took him in a different direction. After earning a degree from University of Memphis, he became an audio-visual specialist for Methodist Healthcare, where he worked for twenty-eight years in nursing education, producing video to promote nursing and patient education, and staff development. When the school of nursing closed, Larry moved to clinical engineering, where he ran video conferences, and other programs for the medical staff auditorium.
A man of many interests, Larry likes music. For many years he had a Saturday radio show in Memphis playing bluegrass music, first at Rhodes College and then for twenty years at WQOX. “I’m a lifetime member of the International Bluegrass Music Association, was a professional member in the broadcast category for many years, a founding member of the Memphis Bluegrass Association, and also a lifetime member of the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky.” When asked if he plays an instrument, he quipped, “I play the radio.”
One of the first live bluegrass performances Larry saw was a band called Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver at Harvester Lane (Lucy Opry in Memphis). “He had a standing show that he did every year on a certain Sunday afternoon . . . Doyle produced a CD called School of Bluegrass because of all the people who played with him and then went on to start their own groups and did well in the music industry.”
Larry is also an actor. His last play was Holy Ghost at Circuit Playhouse, a show about a snake handling church. “There were snakes at the auditions which actors had to pass around, so that they would know we could do that during the show,” Larry says. “The snakes were kept off stage in a little box until we needed them, and before they were brought on stage, someone would shake a rattle. As soon the snakes came out, we had people getting up and leaving. It was very interesting,” Larry deadpans, takes a breath, and then he laughs out loud.
Despite his many talents, Larry is, perhaps at heart, a conservationist. A member of the Sierra Club for, “quite a long while,” Larry says, “I think conservation and green environment is something everyone should be interested in.” No surprise, then, that Larry also volunteers for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy in their visitor’s center. Our interview took place as Larry answered phones and assisted Shelby Farms visitors. Not a gardener himself, he says “I enjoy gardens; I enjoy the Botanic Garden; I love going over there, and I love Dixon Gardens too. I just enjoy being there.”
Larry and his wife Joyce like to travel, and when they do, they usually travel with a company that specializes in nature tours. They took a Rocky Mountain rail tour in Canada and have been to Patagonia to see a glacier in the mountains, where Larry took one of his favorite photographs, and yes, he is also a photographer. “We took our first cruise last year,” he says, “I liken a cruise to being invited to seven banquets, and you are shown into this fabulous place, covered with food,and you are able to take a tiny bite out of one of the appetizers.” So this year Larry and Joyce are going to Antarctica, where they plan to enjoy a full banquet of travel.
When asked why he volunteers at the Red Cross, Larry said, “I told somebody that I work at Shelby Farms for myself; I work at the Red Cross for other people, because I enjoy being able to touch someone’s life at a time when they need help. Now I’m honored that they picked me for Volunteer of the Month, but I’ll tell you frankly, all the people I see working down there, they probably could have found a better example. There are so many dedicated people that work there, and it is a pleasure to work with people who are doing what no one else is doing.”
Story by Kathleen Bradley/American Red Cross