2019 Fraternalist of the Year
It all started with a letter. Well, this story did.
Larry Galles of Iowa, who is Catholic Order of Foresters 2019 Fraternalist of the Year, has been a member of the organization his whole life. His parents, children and siblings are all members. His brothers have attended Conventions with him. Larry served as a High Court Trustee (board member) for eight years.
That letter was followed by a knowing email from Assistant Vice President of Fraternal Judy James who reached out to Larry after he received the letter from High Chief Ranger (Chairman of the Board) Dave Huber. “I didn’t respond,” Larry explains regarding what he did when he received the email. He wasn’t ignoring the communication. “I guess I was just in awe to be chosen,” Larry says. “I’m extremely honored to be the Fraternalist of the Year.”
Yes, that letter informed Larry he had earned one of Catholic Order of Foresters’ (COF) highest honors.
“He is a quality individual, most deserving of this honor,” Dave Huber, who worked on the High Court High Court with Larry, explains. “Larry’s critical thinking skills, along with his ability to make decisions, made him a valuable member of the High Court.” And the list of his positive attributes doesn’t end there.
His humble, friendly personality is hard to miss – as is his large heart and warm smile, both of which are likely to move you. “I get involved in everything COF does,” Larry explains. “I just came back from a project we’ve been working on for the last three weeks. We put blue streaks in the local Catholic cemetery,” he adds. Of the $80,000 project cost, $55,000 has been raised, collected or donated. “After the initial work is done, I’ll be busy trying to make the rest of the money.” Larry says, explaining how people have been extremely generous, and Catholic Order of Foresters’ High Court has assisted through Matching Funds events. In fact, through these Matching Funds events, St. Mary 996 of Remsen, Iowa, (Larry’s local court) has raised more than $63,000 for local causes including the cemetery. “We have a beautiful cemetery and people want to keep it that way,” he says of his Catholic community. “We work together as a group, as an organization, and everyone’s very good about it. It’s a community effort.”
The fundraising, landscaping and various other plans are a labor of love for Larry, who – along with his wife, Ann – holds this project close to his heart. “My wife and I have two children buried there, so we make it a very special and personal thing to work at the cemetery,” he says.
Larry pokes fun at himself as he lists his favorite places to volunteer. “The golf course and the cemetery,” he says. “Sounds kind of morbid, doesn’t it? That I like to volunteer in the cemetery. But it’s important.” Important and significant. After this project is complete, St. Mary 996 will have donated more than $100,000 to cemetery projects since 2014.
Judy James said, “I was very excited to see that the committee chose Larry as the Fraternalist of the Year. He has been very dedicated to COF and a strong advocate of community service.” She has seen the fruits of Larry’s and others’ labor first-hand. “He took me to see the cemetery where he, along with other COF members, have put a lot of energy into making it a very beautiful, peaceful place to not only think about your loved ones, but to be able to enjoy nature and contemplate life.”
Among all the outreach efforts Larry is involved in, there’s a common theme. He tries to – and enjoys – collaborating with younger generations, though he admits it can be difficult. “They’re willing to help; they’re not willing to come to meetings or take offices,” he says. “But,” he emphasizes, “they’re willing to help.” Seeing the impact in the community and accomplishing goals by collaborating with younger generations are two aspects Larry finds extremely rewarding when it comes to outreach. “We have a great group of youth at our Catholic grade school and high school,” Larry continues. “They come back time after time and are very willing to help.”
Speaking of collaborating, Larry and Ann usually partner with each other for projects. Larry explains that she is as involved as he is.
During each Christmas season, Larry and his wife enjoy brightening children’s days by gifting presents to them! These gifts – both items the children want and items they need – come from many people in the community. “We’re not alone,” Larry says, quick to point out how a team of people in his community join him and Ann in this effort. “We don’t need anything, and we’d rather see some children [benefit].”
As an advocate of helping others, trying new things and supporting his community, don’t mistake Larry for cliché. He’s genuine, humble, hardworking, and he cares more than you might ever know. He’s passionate, too, about partnering with people who are new to outreach. “We don’t ask them to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves,” Larry says. “We do things side by side,” he explains, admitting he and Ann have met so many people simply because they’ve been involved with outreach. “It’s important for generations to mix,” he adds. “There’s an old rule that you’re supposed to respect your elders, but we respect our youth as well.”
Catholic Order of Foresters has impacted Larry in a huge way. “I’m just proud to be a member for the simple fact that we are a family organization through and through,” he says. “I guess COF teaches you to volunteer,” he continues. “Well, I don’t know if ‘teach’ is the right word, but it’s the examples you see from other members or the Home Office or the organization as a whole.” It’s prevalent on a local level, too. Larry continues, “It’s obvious in our community; we see a lot of people more than willing to help with the project because it’s for the good of the Church, the members, and the community.”
Though you might consider it old fashioned, the letter Larry received in the mail meant the opposite to him. It gave his cemetery projects, outreach ideas, and Matching Funds events a whole new meaning. This new meaning will carry Larry as he hopes in and guides the next generation of COF to continue to leave a legacy of service.
Article by Katlyn Gerken.