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Larry Thomas CarnahanAugust 19, 1942 ~ July 20, 2020 (age 77)
Difficult to insult, slow to anger, and quick to laugh, it was impossible to not have a good time when around Larry Carnahan. Unafraid to attempt things he was grossly under qualified to do, “failure is always an option”, could have been his motto. “I can’t” was not part of his vocabulary, or words he would let his children say.
Larry Carnahan, 77, of Raeford, N.C. died Monday, July 20, 2020 at Cape Fear Valley Hospital from having 3 fabulous sons.
Born in his home in Southeast Washington DC, the son of James and Juanita Carnahan, Larry has a sister, Carole (the late Malcolm) Gill, and two brothers, Ronnie (Doris) and Wayne (Rosemary). He grew up mostly in Falls Church, VA but for both of his 3rd grade years, he lived where his parents were from, on the boarder of Maryland/West Virginia (Bayard). (His mom was his teacher in the one room school house. She flunked him. She unapologetically said he wasn’t ready for 4th grade :) He graduated from Falls Church High School and was drafted by the Army in 1964. Larry served as an M.P. guarding NATO stockpiles of weapons, in the Black Forrest of Germany, to which neither government will admit existed. After returning to Virginia, he became a car mechanic, his occupation until he retired. Married to Janice Holmes Carnahan in 1968, they moved to Fayetteville and later, Raeford, NC where they raised a family together, sons Shane (Stacey) (Mooresville, NC), Chad (Tina) (Philadelphia, PA) and Scott (April) (Tacoma, WA). In Fayetteville, Larry started his own foreign car garage, Five Flags, which was locally well known for the fact that, since 1975, it had a Volkswagen Bug sitting on top of a telephone pole. In the late 70’s, a couple of guys attempted to set a Guinness Book of World Record by living in it for several months until sickness and a hurricane derailed those plans. In the last few years, he was forced to take it down over a disagreement with the city over what is and isn’t safe, and who does and doesn’t need a permit. During the 1980’s he served in the National Guard until it was mutually agreed that they were not a good fit for each other. He had a variety of hobbies including fishing and hunting. He loved to fish but was such a notorious jinx that people were hesitant to invite him. He mostly took anti-sea sickness medication, slept, and caused everyone in the entire body of water to not catch anything. His curse is legendary. He loved to hunt when he was younger but only big bucks. We’re all pretty sure that, like his father, when he was “hunting” he was mostly looking at, or feeding, the deer. He loved all of nature and everything in it. Even the pinchy, bitey, and stingy things.
In 2001, Larry lived his dream and stopped having to turn a wrench. In retirement, he didn’t tell anyone that he knew anything about cars, lest they ask him to take a look or listen to that funny sound in theirs. He took up restoring classic cars, building projects, defending woodpeckers homes, saving turtles from his dogs, peeking at wildlife, trying to keep raccoons from eating his cat food, and his favorite past time, bragging about his grandkids. On weekends he went dancing and it was a point of pride that he never left the dance floor from the time he hit the door. He claimed he could do all the dances.
Besides being entertained when around him, you were likely to be pulled into situations you had not expected, prepared for, or agreed to. Sometimes you had to quickly come up with a philosophy or theory such as, “How do I safely release the raccoon he has trapped in his trunk?” Not too long ago, he accidentally set one of his feral cats on fire. It lives and was outside at the time. He was inside. He said he was trying to cook French toast. Sometimes you weren’t sure if you should start with “Why?” or “How?” with him. He would tell you to jump on a tractor while he pulls it really fast with a truck and when he says “now”, you should “pop the clutch”. This would lead to you getting ejected from the tractor and almost killed as your brother looks on in horror. He would be slightly annoyed that you seemed hesitant to get back on the tractor to try again. He was the type of dad that would ask, after you cut your finger to the bone with electric hedge clippers, if you wanted to go to the hospital? As a kid you of course said “no” and he would honor your request, put some tape on it and go about the day. He definitely practiced “rub some dirt on that” type of medicine and pain management. When he taught you how to drive a stick shift, he would only tell you to “Put the car in 2nd gear. Floor the gas. Dump the clutch.” Years later, when you realize he never got in the car and instead sent you off on your own and you asked him about it, he would say, “I’m not stupid. I wasn’t getting in the car with you. You couldn’t drive!” He would tell you, “If you get arrested, don’t call me. I’m not going to be mad but you shouldn’t waste your one phone call.” He taught you that you were responsible for you. Once while demonstrating to his grandsons, the danger of circular saws, the lesson went on to include how to go get stitched up because, “that was a deep one”. He would gladly hand you a chainsaw and tell you to “chop down that huge tree and try to keep it from hitting the shed.” He was happy to live with the best you could do, without complaint. Never one to call the fire department, Larry was always surprised, and a little annoyed, when they showed up. Uninvited. Because of frequent visits to our property, our local volunteer fire department said they were going to charge us a fee the next time they came out. He kindly pointed out he never called them in the first place. Things were always under control, even when they obviously were not. As a kid, he didn’t like the way his front teeth looked so he was known to pick a fight and stand there, smiling, letting the person throw the first punch, or two, in the hopes he could get his teeth knocked out. He seemed annoyed that no one was able to accomplish it. He once threatened two people who ambushed, robbed, and assaulted him with a gun saying, “If you kick me once more, I’m getting up off this ground and we’re doing this again.” He boxed while in the Army and didn’t look to fight but sure didn’t mind one either, if it came to him.
At his garage, life lessons were taught to his children. He would tell you to pull a car around and then watch, laughing, as you realized a little late, in total horror, that the car was there because it had no brakes. He taught you to check things out before you assumed they functioned. If he seemed especially interested in what you were doing, with a mischievous grin, you knew you were about to figure something out, that he already knew. You would never forget what you were about to learn. Incredibly kind, he never lectured. He would only give one warning saying, “I wouldn’t do that.” That was the hint that you were about to be permanently injured by what you were doing. He didn’t give warnings for pain. You learned those lessons on your own. He could take it as good as he could dish it out. If, without telling him, you put a car into gear that had not previously been in gear and he reached into the car, turned it over and it actually started, driving itself across the garage to crash into another car. He wouldn’t get mad when you then made the comment, “You should always make sure it’s not in gear”. When he showed up one morning to discover smashed windows at his garage and you got angry, looking for justice against the kids who threw the rocks. You say, “Aren’t you going to call the police?” He would ask you if you had ever smashed a window. The answer was “yes” for him (and you) so he taught you about karma and was at complete ease with kids being kids. He almost never involved the authorities. He was known to chop a fingertip, or two, off and act like nothing just happened. Sincere apologies to his customers, but he would let you pick the best car and take it for a spin with only 1 rule. “Don’t spin out in front of the garage.” When the cops show up because you were 12 years old and doing 80 through a neighborhood in a Porsche 911, he would tell them he had no idea what they were talking about, while he stood right next to the very car. He ALWAYS had your back. He fully supported his kids in their pursuit of anything except being a mechanic. He worked them hard so they knew what hard work was and what awaited them if they didn’t pursue education. He never took a day off. He could fix anything. Or at least he thought he could and was definitely going to try.
Having not been born in hospital, he was quite proud of the fact that he had never been to one until a little while ago. He would definitely say “I told you so” about the whole situation.
Larry is survived by his three sons and was a proud grandfather to Brett, Dylan, Tyler, Amelia, Danica and Madeline. Willing to submit to any of their requests, we have the photos to prove he was quite a good sport.
As Larry was known to join whatever religion would feed him, no formal service will be held. If you didn’t know him, you missed your chance. His family plans to hold a private memorial service at a later date, at which loved ones and friends will be expected to eat and drink prodigiously as well as light a bonfire large enough to call the local fire department’s bluff. In his honor, we will turn them away and tell them we’ve got this.
Larry would think flowers are a waste of time and would rather they stay on the plants. He would not want any memorial donations. He would want you to go about your life, stop to take in nature, and be as happy as possible.