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Letters From The Editor: Goodbye, my friend and mentor, Larry Allison

November 03, 2011|By John Canalis
  • Larry Allison, seen here in 1996, died Sunday.
Larry Allison, seen here in 1996, died Sunday. (Courtesy Long Beach…)

A few months ago, I had lunch with my old mentor, Larry Allison, in downtown Laguna Beach.

We ate Italian sandwiches at Anastasia Café and caught up on our days together at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, where Larry spent most of his 54-year career and I spent nearly a decade of mine, part of it reporting to and learning from him. As usual, Larry gave me some solicited advice on something he knew well — running newspapers — but mostly we just talked about something he knew even more about: living life.

Then he took me for a ride in his rare 12-cylinder Mercedes, which tracked that winding canyon road like it was a racetrack. I held on tight, but Larry, as always, was in cool command of a fast European car. He took me back to the village, gave me a big hug and drove away.

I never saw Larry again. His life was cut short by pneumonia Sunday night.

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Though he was 77, I say cut short because with his Robert Redford looks, trim build and enthusiastic approach to life (and driving), he seemed 20 years younger. It's unfathomable that someone who was so alive is now gone.

Much has been written about Larry's career in the Long Beach media, but I wanted to pay tribute to him in the Coastline Pilot because he spent his later years living in Laguna and commuting to Long Beach, where he remained the Press-Telegram's editorial page editor. I know he has family here, and I am sure that he made an impression on his neighbors.

Larry was like that — a friend the moment you met him. Like most good journalists, he was curious, and he did a great job of asking questions that required you to think deeply about the answers. And he was the best listener I've ever met. He displayed little ego in conversation, waiting patiently while you spoke and not sitting on his hands to get a word in.

He had a quiet confidence and no need for praise and attention. Though he had many career successes, including cases of newspaper-industry awards, he almost never called attention to them. He wasn't in the business for the recognition that sometimes comes with it. He did it for the right reasons: to hold government accountable and tell good stories along the way.

But he also lived outside of the cloistered world of newspapers. He spoke fondly sometimes of a small group of men, corporate executives mainly, whom he met with on occasion and about the great friendships he forged with them.

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