Lawrence Dorey died December 2, 2012, in Northborough. He was 79 years old.
As a science teacher, he was full of expertise, but it wasn’t limited to science. Larry knew how to use a bread maker to teach kids about fractions, or how to fit animal teeth and bones into skeletons. But he also knew how to throw knives and swallow flames. Before he was a teacher, growing up as an altar boy, he knew how to electrify priests by rubbing his shoes across the church carpet and then handing them their communion wafers.
The man who shone light on a hundred topics was illuminated most steadily by his wife. For 40 years, they lived above a preschool they had founded. Mostly they were inseparable, though now and then they arrived at family events in different cars (she was always on time, he was always late). Together, they raised four children, who believed their father could master any topic in the universe, and nine grandchildren who felt similarly. They also raised a menagerie: Lulu the ferret, Pretzel the boa constrictor, a musky-smelling ant-eater, and two iguanas, whose cage was so enormous that when company came they tossed a tablecloth over it for serving hors d'oeuvres. Larry’s wife had promised him a horse if he quit smoking, and the day after he went cold turkey, Chief joined the family in the back yard.
When he needed privacy, Larry retreated to a shed he’d built. The TV was there, his potting table, good light. The family would find him smoking a cigar, doing a crossword puzzle, and wearing a construction worker’s hardhat, because the nearby hickory trees dropped their nuts dangerously.
After his wife’s death, a granddaughter moved in with him. When she came home late at night, he was waiting up for her with Harry Potter wineglasses and a cheese plate. They talked about questions he’d been pondering over, questions he might once have pondered over with his wife — about Pilates (what was that, anyway?) or the recipe for Shrimp Athena (were the tomatoes stewed, crushed, or diced?).
Along with hand-carved ladles and silver dollars, Larry liked to give advice to his students and family. Some of it was practical, some of it more elevated. Caramelize the onions. Use a serrated blade for tomatoes. If you can’t change a problem, find a way to let it go. And always, in difficult moments, always breathe in. That was just science.
Did you know Lawrence Dorey? Share your memories in the comments section.