After basic training, Larry went to Eufaula, Alabama, where he spent his spare time working in the machine shop of Frank McKee, a man who would become a very important figure in Larry’s life. From him, Larry learned about the gasoline engine— its manufacturing and repair. He acted as a mentor to Larry, and the two remained close his whole life; to this day, Frank is a key part of Azure’s and Ryan’s life.
When the Air Force transferred him to Miami, he met another mentor at a mechanical shop, a race expert who took him under his wing and taught him how to work with motors.
“Everywhere he went, he garnered life-long friends,” Ryan says. “Our childhood was spent taking road trips visiting people.”
“We’ve been in the car with mom and dad everywhere from here to Colorado and all over the East Coast,” Azure adds.
Larry met his future wife, Shari, when he was stationed in Denver, Colorado. They met at a bowling alley where he worked.
The bowling alley was closing and they were selling all the equipment. Larry put in a bid for the job to disassemble, package and ship all the bowling pin machines and equipment overseas. In those days, the machines were very complicated and technical, but Larry understood it all. He won the bid along with another enlisted friend, as well as Shari’s heart.
Larry was then stationed on Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island in the South Atlantic, about 1,000 miles off the coast of Africa. There, he became a DJ for the local radio station that entertained the servicemen on base. Larry had a side passion for music; and during the year that he was DJ, spent time dubbing some of his favorite songs onto more than 75 cassette tapes that he hand catalogued by song title and artist. These catalogued songs are among Azure’s most treasured possessions.
“One of the most profound memories of my childhood was pouring over this music collection he amassed over the years,” Azure says. “That became something we really bonded over. And it speaks to his meticulous nature that showed in all of the mechanical things he did. He wanted everything done right. He used to say, ‘If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right the first time.’”
Larry and Shari married in 1972 in Denver. Azure was born four years later while Larry was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in Miami. In 1977, he was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast, at Keesler Air Force Base. It was an unusually long assignment that lasted for seven years, and during this time, Larry became an instructor with the Air Force.
He had become a master radar and electronics technician, and was a decorated instructor— tagged as one of the most skilled in the entire Air Force.