“Not good news ... but that's life. We all end up dead in the end ... it's what we do between birth and death that counts.”
Those were the words of our friend, Larry Toelle, just days after receiving the news that he had only a short time to live. Having battled cancer for several years and thinking he’d conquered the beast, this came as a shock to all of us who knew and loved this fine American gentleman.
We thought he had more time, that we would get to see him again, but when I got the email from a mutual friend this morning, “This breaks my heart”, I knew what the message was before opening it. Still, it doesn’t seem real. Larry was the one we ALL counted on. His was the voice of wise leadership and compassion and action when it was called for.
On a spring morning in 2001, I had the local radio station tuned in. A deep voiced, articulate, intelligent man from Fort Jones, California was organizing a ‘rally’ to protest the governments taking of farmer’s water in the Klamath Basin of Southern Oregon. He made me believe we could make a difference. That day I phoned “Mr. Toelle” (pronounced Tow-lee) and told him that I felt I could get some friends and property rights activisits from the internet to help out the effort.
Nearly 20,000 people showed up for the ‘Bucket Brigade’
the following May of 2001, in a town of only 14,000 people. The entire world now knew of the plight of those American farmers. As my friends and I stood, passing buckets of water to symbolically fill the empty canal, a graceful, well over six foot tall gentleman in a western suit and hat greeted me with tears of gratitude and pride in his eyes.
This was the first time I met Larry. It wouldn’t be the last. Months and years passed as many of us worked to bring attention to Western property rights and the use of them we were losing daily because of government’s overreach. And always, there was Larry. From the top of the Soda Mountain where the government was taking private property for a ‘national monument’ to the day in August of 200l when Larry and dozens of his friends defied the government’s armed guards who were keeping the water turned off from a dying Klamath Basin.
When he wasn’t with his neighbors or organizing the 'Restore the Spirit of America‘ concert, he was in Washington DC lobbying or in Florida
leading a caravan of patriots or observing the incursion of illegal aliens on U.S. Citizen land along the Mexican border, warning this too, was a property rights issue.
In an article titled, “Orick CA: The Rural Cleansing of America”, Larry
“Larry Toelle, a field director for the People for the USA, was the last speaker and he explained about how rural communities have been confronted with an agonizing barrage of county, state, and federal regulations the are quite literally strangling the life out of ranchers, farmers, and other multiple-use interests.
Toelle urged everyone to become S.O.B.s. After telling folks that most people thought he was one, he said that those of us fighting back against the socialization of our natural resources by the radical environmental movement have to become tough and take on the persona of a S.O.B.
Toelle said, "Our enemies in the Green Party who are seeking to destroy this country are tough customers and we have to become even tougher...become one mean and tough S.O.B."
A few years ago, when I made Larry’s beloved Siskiyou County, California my new home, he was there with his grandson in tow within a few days to welcome me to ‘the hood’, though our homes in this rural community were 40 miles apart. When Larry Toelle was your friend, you knew you always had a friend.
When he told me he was dying, I don’t know what I said. What does one say that makes any sense? But Larry didn’t just preach it, he LIVED what he said.
“ .....it's what we do between birth and death that counts.”
Well done, friend.
Larry M. Toelle passed Dec. 13, 2009
Larry Toelle is survived by his long time companion, Tess, his mother, a daughter and grandchildren he cherished. He was a veteran, serving his country in Viet Nam. The cancer he incurred was a direct result of the use of agent orange
during that war.
Remembrances may be sent in care of:
Tess at 14517 Quartz Valley Drive, Ft. Jones, CA 96032
There will be a memorial service at Greenview Grange,
A little town 6 miles past Fort Jones on highway 3. between Fort Jones and Etna.California
Sat.Jan. 30th 2pm