I miss Larry Rivera. He and Gloria, and his entire family hold a special place in my heart. I was traveling and off island during his recent celebration of life, but was there in spirit and share here today my own memories and deep love for this very special man.
Fortunately, I was able to visit with him briefly a week or so before he passed. He was lying in bed and softly smiled up at me when I sang to him the refrain from a campaign jingle he’d written for me over 20 years ago: “Gary Hoooooser, Gary Hooooser and you …”
In the old days, when I first ran for election to the Kaua‘i County Council, and then for the Senate, Larry would go with me often to campaign and hold signs along the highway. He’d bring his ‘ukulele, and sometimes a boombox, and sit in a chair serenading the passing cars. Often Gloria would accompany him, and sometimes he would bring his children and his grandchildren. He would sing from his extensive repertoire of Larry Rivera classics, interspersed occasionally with the “Hooser jingle.”
During both the wins and the losses, Larry would be with me, sitting there in the hot sun strumming on that ‘ukulele, always smiling, telling jokes, and singing those beautiful songs.
He never asked me for anything. He never lobbied me, never asked me to vote yes or no on an issue, and never tried to influence me one way or another. He was just Larry, and we were just friends, like family, really.
I’ll never forget the one time Larry did bring up an issue. He didn’t ask me to do anything, he just told me the story. I could feel his pain and his sadness, and it has stuck with me now for decades.
We were meeting along the highway to hold signs, and Larry came up to me and said, “Gary, I can’t go fishing anymore. They took away my fishing spot.”
As we talked more, I learned that a favorite fishing spot of Larry’s childhood had become a subdivision for rich people. It seems that Larry had gone there recently to fish or perhaps just to revisit old memories, and it was gone. He could no longer walk onto the beach and cast into the ocean where for years he had previously done so.
There was a required “beach access easement” but it was far away from that favorite fishing spot, requiring walking over slippery rocks, and impractical for Larry and for most people to actually use.
That memory of Larry Rivera saying “he couldn’t go fishing anymore” has never left me.
In recent years, the Coco Palms Hotel was something we did not talk about. Larry cherished the idea of a new Coco Palms Hotel being developed that recreated the grandeur of the past. He was, after all, “Mr. Coco Palms.” He knew, I’m sure, and was no doubt extremely disappointed, that his friend Hooser had lost faith in that ever happening, and held an alternative vision.
But Larry and I never talked about it. Never.
I will never forget Larry Rivera. He befriended me. He motivated and inspired me to do more and be better. He stood alongside the road in the hot sun with me. He knocked on doors with me. He made me and so many others smile, and laugh, and sing. The songs that he wrote and sang for us are a gift that will live on forever.
Sending you my love and aloha today, Larry. Mahalo for being you.
A very nice heartwarming story, thanks for sharing it with us! He was a very special person gone too soon.