LAWRENCE CHARLES COE
There are many ways to measure the success of a man in his life and the richest of men are measured in the ways they have touched the lives of their fellow man.
It is difficult to find an exact date or season when Larry Coe joined False Bay RFC. His many friends and clubmates are hardpressed to pinpoint the year he arrived at the club. Indeed there appears to be a discrepancy of a number of years. It was 1978, or was it 1980, no perhaps 1982. Whatever the date, the impact this compassionate man who lived life to the fullest had on his team mates is undeniable. Everyone has a special story to tell of how he always had time to listen, was the life of a party, was close to the Earth, loved his family completely and was the determined organiser of the False Bay Crocks.
Yet in the same breath they mention his incredible will to live, his stubborn denial of an illness which fells the toughest of its victims. His resolve and determination to not only stave off the ravages of the illness but triumph over it saw him extend a six month survival window to almost twenty years. Capitulation was not a part of his vocabulary, nor was the concept of taking it easy.
Larry arrived at the Bay in the early 1980s. He was a lock ahead of his time, the perfect weight and build for a modern day second-rower but unfortunately a good 30 kilograms too light for that of the average lock of the time. True to form, he never took heed of that ‘job description’ and threw himself about the pitch with abandon, his wiry frame naturally bouncing off the tackles of his larger opponents, his bones more often than not causing greater pain to the tackler. His lanky, almost gangly running style further belied his tenacity and sheer toughness and his lighter frame was most useful come lineout time.
Larry played until around the mid-eighties when he moved to Johannesburg for a short while and then resurfaced at False Bay a few years later as a member of the False Bay Crocks and it is here that he truly made his mark. After a while he took over the organisation of the squad, his fastidious approach, zest for life and sheer love for the game of rugby infectiously inspired those around him and the team burgeoned.
In 1998 the Crocks undertook a tour to Canada. Barely a few months before then Larry had been diagnosed with a severe form of cancer and the survival prognosis was not particularly encouraging, six months in fact. He decided that he was going to live life to the fullest and scraped together the money to join the tour. John Henry tells how as a post-tour trip, a group of players did a road trip in a Thunderbird through parts of the United States of America and it was one night near Santa Barbara that the group were sitting outside when a beautiful full moon rose, illuminating the night sky in the most majestic way imaginable. Larry was sitting on a rock, sipping his wine and suddenly let out a wolf-howl which emanated from the bottom of his stomach and echoed for what seemed like minutes. It was such a poignant moment which everyone present remembers clearly.
“Upon his return Larry’s oncologist declared Larry in remission. Not a sign of the cancer that was prevalent a few months earlier”, says John.
Larry’s love for rugby was legendary. He developed a byline which became his moniker in rugby and was every bit as true about his commitment to the game, his love of rugby and his sheer resilience in the face of pain and indeed death. Most other men would have embarked upon a more conservative lifestyle, undoubtedly leaving a contact sport upon such a diagnosis. Not LC Coe. His determination to partake in as much of the game grew and “Have Boots Will Play” not only became his motto but inspired so many others to continue in this wonderful sport which delivers so much to those involved.
“I remember having a chat to Larry after one of his typical games where he threw everything at the opposition and had been through a steamroller somewhat, resulting in a few broken ribs”, says Mike Punt. “Hey @#$%^, you owe me a beer”, he called to the opponent responsible for the broken ribs as the final whistle sounded”, continued Punt. They don’t come tougher than Larry, as we all found out as the years past by and he shut the door on his disease whenever it came knocking.
Larry loved rugby tours and the stories abound of his fun loving participation, one such being a Crocks tour to Argentina. “I remember Larry and his moonbag which carried his cigarettes”, says Mike Kros. “He was always willing to listen, share a few stories over a smoke and a beer”.
Larry was a dedicated man in all spheres. He was a loving husband and father and some of his proudest rugby moments were sharing the pitch for the Crocks with his son Lance, Michelle proudly watching from the stands.
Glancing through some of the comments on various Facebook postings, the common thread of kindness, love, happiness, caring for others and sheer single-minded toughness abounds. He was a keen surfer and he and Michelle loved motorcycling and were popular members of a group in Bothasig.
Larry Coe was the quintessential tough man. If ever there was a Poster Boy for the “Let’s Live Life to the Fullest Brigade”, it was Larry. He never stood back on a rugby pitch, he never froze in the headlights of a disease that frightens most and his sheer doggedness and unwillingness to give in continues to inspire those who knew him.
Larry was awarded an Honorary Life Membership at False Bay RFC in June, and it was only on the insistence of the oncologist that he was prevented from collecting the award personally. When most expected that he would not be seen on the side of a rugby pitch too soon, Larry made the remarkable effort to watch his beloved False Bay face Durbell in Durbanville.
Larry Coe, an inspiration to so many, gentility and toughness combined.
Have Boots Will Play. Rest in Peace Larry Coe, you took your game to extra time and almost won.