Former professor Sharpe remembered for selflessness, integrity

February 07, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • In this 2000 file photo, Larry Sharpe plays the clarinet in The New Horizons Band.
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — For a man whose life is said to read like a spy novel, Laurence “Larry” Sharpe will be remembered less for his past and more for how he treated those in his presence.

“He was an unusual man,” his wife, Blanche Sharpe, said Monday. “He was very giving, caring ... he loved people, he was generous and considerate ... a very good man.”

Sharpe, a former professor at Hagerstown’s community college, died Friday, just days before his 89th birthday.

“He was one in a million, a rare breed and I was lucky to have known him,” former student and friend Cindy Garland said. “He had overwhelming kindness and a sense of fairness, tempered with intelligence, patience and wit.”

Mostly, he cared about people, his wife said.

“He was a selfless person who would help anyone who needed it,” she said.

Sharpe came to the Hagerstown area by way of Chicago, Pakistan, Iran, Vietnam, Burma (now Myanmar), Denmark and Washington, D.C.

“It was a funny story,” Blanche Sharpe said of how the couple chose Smithsburg as home. While driving one day, they saw a beautiful property. A few days later, they owned all 20 acres, she said.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘Why not?’”  

Sharpe was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and served in several wars, including World War II, his wife said. He also served in the U.S. diplomatic corps, working for the U.S. Information Agency, traveling overseas as press attaché.  

He often told stories from his life.

“He loved to regale people with his ‘I was there’ stories,” said former colleague Tom Clemens, a history professor at Hagerstown Community College.

Like the time he accompanied former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, or when he contracted hepatitis in Burma and spent days in a coma before his brother could bring him medicine, or when he was growing up in Chicago and had to share a pair of shoes with a sibling, said his son-in-law, Marc Rehr.

If Sharpe shared one of his stories, it was to relate a lesson he learned through experience, Garland said.  

“He was a mensch, a man of integrity” she said. “He had such a rich background that it would be easy for someone like him to feel superior, but he didn’t.”

Sharpe was a family man, an amazing grandfather and father, said his stepdaughter, Paula Rehr.

He was also outgoing, a champion for his community and a true patriot, she said.

“He touched so many lives. He will be missed in the Hagerstown community,” she said.

Garland described Sharpe as a pebble that when dropped in the water, created ripples that touched everything and every shore.

Guy Altieri, president of HCC, said Sharpe was an excellent instructor, a warm and caring teacher who engaged his students beyond the classroom.

While teaching was a second career for him, Sharpe was an example to younger professors, said Mike Harsh, professor of humanities at HCC.

Clemens said Sharpe would often end their conversations by saying to him, “You’re a good man.” Clemens said, “It was always a compliment, coming from him.”

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