Standing-room only for his last hurrah in green and gold.
How fitting, coach.
Unanimously lauded as unselfish, Richard Lary would have likely been uncomfortable being the center of attention, but the presence of a couple thousand friends, fans and family members at Wednesday’s funeral at Calvary Baptist Church proved he deserved the spotlight.
Captain Shreve’s athletic director and head football coach died at 49 from an apparent heart attack suffered Saturday while watching a Gators baseball game on campus.
Wednesday’s massive crowd came in support of Lary’s family – wife, Becky, and daughters Ally (15) and Camryn (11) – and as part of their own grieving process.
The gathering shed light on Lary’s place in the community. His six years at Captain Shreve capped nearly three decades as a coach and administrator in Caddo Parish.
Raw emotion enveloped the hour-long service. Quips, jokes and light-hearted jabs – those in attendance laughed one minute and cried the next.
Loved ones described Lary as “awesome,” a “leader” and “ornery.”
More than 100 members of Captain Shreve’s football team were honorary pallbearers and paid tribute to the man born in Alexandria and raised in Montgomery. As they paid their final respects, two players placed a football autographed by the team and a white No. 1 Gators jersey in the casket.
The stats say Lary recorded 25 victories at Captain Shreve.
Wednesday’s turnout — a sanctuary packed 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the service — tells a different story.
“Every coach wants to be a winner,” Lary’s mother, Joann, said at the service. “They always want to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see their team have more points than their opponent. But it’s not nearly as important as the score of your life.”
Lary made stops at Southwood, Woodlawn, Huntington, Byrd and Shreve and also coached softball (perhaps his first love), golf, tennis and swimming.
“He coached anything we lacked,” Shreve basketball head coach Todd Martinez said. “For all of what he had to do, he didn’t have to do baseball and where was he? He died at a baseball game.”
Lary’s mother stood strong and delivered powerful words about her “country boy that took Shreveport by storm.”
She joked about the unusual number of address changes Lary experienced during his pursuit to become a coach and mentor.
“People are going to think you’re running from the law,” Mrs. Lary said.
There were a number of stops during Lary’s career, but a constant theme remained.
“He was someone to everyone,” Lesley Amos, Lary’s sister-in-law, told the packed house.
And everyone was someone to coach Lary.
“He was more than my coach,” said Tamika Pouncy, a 1995 graduate of Woodlawn who played for Lary during the Lady Knights’ first softball season. “He is the reason I attended college to play softball. Outside of coaching he took me to apply for my first job. If you did not get a chance to meet him you missed a treat. The city has truly lost an angel.”
Brother Mike Stowell officiated Wednesday’s service.
“A lot of people don’t jack with preachers,” said Stowell, a close friend of the fallen coach. “But he did.
“He’s the only man I’ve heard call God ‘Coach’ before. If you’re that close to God, I guess you can call him Coach.”
Mitch Fant, a football and baseball assistant at Shreve, served as a pallbearer. The local coaching fraternity was well represented.
“There was never a day without him making a joke,” Fant said. “It was fun to be around him. He loved his kids, he loved his profession – that was him. He wanted to do what was right for the kids. It was never about Richard Lary.”
Except for Wednesday.
“He made an impact like very few do in this world,” Stowell said.
Prior to interment at Centuries Memorial Park, the service at Calvary ended with a gutting slideshow of Lary.
Through images it was easy to grasp his love for his family and his fun-loving demeanor.
The song “I Lived” played as pictures of Lary the coach, Lary the father, Lary the friend and Lary the prankster flashed on the large screens.
There were fishing trips, youth softball games and journeys to Wrigley Field and the White House on display. Many of the images showed Lary providing bunny ears behind unsuspecting victims or making silly faces.
“I owned every second that this world could give,” the lyrics said. “I saw so many places, the things that I did. With every broken bone, I swear I lived.
“I did it all.”
Even though he fell two weeks shy of his 50th birthday, the man who began his adult life living in a trailer in Keithville eventually accomplished a lifelong goal — head coach. He has a loving wife and two daughters. And as Wednesday proved, his effect on this community is comprehensive and will be everlasting.
Coach Lary may have indeed accomplished it all.