Larry Leslie's 'Divine Order'
by Dorothy Brower
Special to The Pilot
It's not often we look at our lives and understand our assignments here on Earth. Many of us spend our time wondering if we should be somewhere else, with other people, doing other things.
But God has a way of reminding us - especially on a day like Easter Sunday, when the air is so full of promise - that every single moment is purposed. God did that for us in the person of Larry Leslie Sr., whom we lost March 19.
Larry Leslie was one of those fixtures who kept generations of the citizens of West Southern Pines linked. Early in his career he worked with horses, traveling with them and at times being a jockey. He was very good at that work, but he grew tired of the elements and decided to enter barber school, a perfect career for him.
His barbershop served as a gathering place for the guys. It was a "gossip center of the town," and Larry was the presiding officer. If he wanted to know something, he would pepper you incessantly with questions. If you did not relent, he would get the information he needed from others. And upon your next visit, you found yourself the center of some good-natured ribbing!
For many families, Larry was the rite of passage for their sons' very first haircuts. He heard the stories of their first day at school, their first spark of love, their first heartbreak. He knew of their graduations, their first jobs and their marriages.
Many generations sat in his chair, came by to "chew the fat," stopped in for a friendly game of dominoes, or went there to catch up on the local happenings when they came home to visit. They often brought their own sons so Larry could cut their hair and get to know them.
Larry captured moments in time with pictures and hung them on his "Wall of Fame," giving us memories and stories to treasure of our grandfathers, fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers and sons. His "divine order," he said, was God, family, work and friends.
He gave many new barbers their first opportunity to hone their skills when others would not. Many of them went on to establish their own businesses, while others remained with him, positioning themselves as legacies in their own right.
In recent years, he expanded his business, providing women and men space to become entrepreneurs in varied fields. After all, Joe Waddell had done the same for him years ago.
Larry spent 47 years shaping our faces, heads and lives. On Feb. 18, God petitioned Kim Wade and members of her Innervisions Theater Production Company to bring the current and former residents of West Southern Pines together in Larry's honor in recognition of the oldest black-owned business in Southern Pines, his Pine City Barber Shop.
In "divine order," folks traveled from the North, South, East and West, and congregated in standing room only, inside and out. They came to let Larry know how much he meant in their lives and to thank him for being their teacher, therapist, confidant, mentor and friend, who listened, guided and helped us to love one another. Little did we know that in just over a month he would be gone.
Larry was eulogized on Saturday afternoon, March 24, in a packed H.A. Wilson Auditorium at Southern Pines Primary School (formerly West Southern Pines High School). "Larry Leslie Faithfuls" traveled from far and near to support his wife of 44 years, Doris, and their family.
Larry was remembered as a devoted husband, a nurturing father, a proud grand-father, a gardener, a bird-keeper, a loyal Carolina fan and a friend to all. Formally and informally, one by one shared "divine" stories of their best times with Larry and spoke of how the corner of West Pennsylvania Avenue and Gaines Street would never be the same. Everyone whose lives Larry touched described their friendship with him as "close."
In his last days, he expressed confidence that he would be OK in his heavenly transition. His faith was strong. He knew Doris would be fine, with their eternal love keeping her strong. He saw their children become confident and strong adults.
However, he worried about his grandchildren, whom he spent every possible moment with. He wanted to make sure their guidance and training would continue in the manner in which he had prescribed. He was assured that his will would be done.
Larry was a good and faithful servant whose job was well done. Our lives are richer for having known him, and we thank the Leslie family for sharing him with us. The world needs more people like Larry F. Leslie Sr.
Dorothy Brower is a retired educator who lives in Southern Pines. Kim Wade, on the faculty at Sandhills Community College, contributed to this column, as did Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones, a Southern Pines native.
More like this story