Community bids farewell to Larry Hart

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
Larry Hart's Special Olympic medals drape a display table at the Cornerstone Baptist Church. Photo by D. Coffey.
Larry Hart's Special Olympic medals drape a display table at the Cornerstone Baptist Church. Photo by D. Coffey.

The Cornerstone Baptist Church in Killingly held a memorial service for Larry Edward Hart on Oct. 26. People filled the church for the 63-year-old man who died Oct. 16 when he was hit by a train near Route 101 in Dayville.

Special Olympic medals draped a framed photograph in the sanctuary. They spilled over the top of a small chest onto a cloth-covered table. Hart wore a broad smile in the picture. The medals were a treasure to him and Hart’s sister, Helen McClintock, wanted to showcase them. A slide show of pictures from his childhood up until a recent trip to New York City played during the service. There were pictures of him driving a toy car, sitting with family at Christmas, carrying a cross for Good Friday services and beaming as he rode a horse.

When Pastor Greg Thomas invited people to share their memories of the man, most recounted a thoughtful and independent neighbor, a man given to telephoning friends and family regularly, a parishioner who frequently asked his community to pray for the less fortunate, but who wasn’t above joking with them. Those recollections painted a picture of a man who embraced his community, and who was in turn embraced by them.

Hart was a fixture at Cornerstone Baptist Church on Sundays. He lit the communion candles. He assisted the elderly and disabled from their cars into the church. He turned on the lights and put out the water and set up the bells. He passed out the bulletins.

“Before my knee operation, he’d help me out of the car,” one woman said.

“Every Sunday he’d give my daughter a hug,” another said.

“He prayed with me over the phone,” a third said.

But Hart’s community extended beyond Cornerstone Baptist Church. He was a regular at the United Methodist Church on Spring Street. “He didn’t care about theology,” said Deacon Barbara Schreier. “He cared about people.”

“He’d stop by at coffee hour just to keep in touch,” the Rev. Susan Feurzieg added.

He’d do the same with many business owners along Main Street. “I can’t say enough about the community of people who cared about him, who supported him and who were wonderful to him,” Hart said. “All the downtown businesses watched out for him.”

Hart lived in the area for more than 30 years. He had his own apartment, but had help from the state with his shopping, doctor’s appointments and medications. Hart was a diabetic and McClintock often dropped off meals. She suspects that he went into diabetic shock on the night he was killed.

There were reports that he acted drunk just prior to the accident. But Hart didn’t drink, McClintock said. “He was upbeat all day, according to everyone who saw him or talked with him,” she said. “Maybe he missed a ride. Maybe he got disoriented. We’ll never know.”

Thomas called Hart’s death a mysterious, grief-filled event for everyone. “We’re tempted to ask, ‘Why?’” he said. “This tragedy doesn’t make sense. It’s locked in the mind of God and we have no access to it.”

“Despite the deficiencies or limitations in life, he had remarkable gifts,” Thomas said. “He always reminded me that God provides for our needs. He believed simply and deeply.”

His family and friends ended the service by singing the gospel favorite, “I’ll Fly Away.”

Hart will be buried next to his mother and father in a family plot in Pennsylvania.

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