Around the Friendly City, Laramie Hargrave always had a sunny smile
BRADENTON -- Laramie Hargrave was quite a familiar sight in the community, buzzing along Riverwalk or across the Green Bridge or along Manatee Avenue in his motorized wheelchair.
Cerebral palsy didn't slow him down.
"You'd see him almost any place," said Mary Kleshinski, a Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle volunteer.
"Day, night, rain or shine," said Johnette Isham, Realize Bradenton's executive director.
"He was always around, a smile on his face regardless of his situation," said Bradenton Police Capt. Darrell Akemon.
Alas, Mr. Hargrave's sunny presence and resilient spirit are going to be missed. He died Thursday morning of leukemia.
Mr. Hargrave was 36.
Funeral services are 4 p.m. Saturday at Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle, 1218 Seventh Ave. E., Bradenton.
Born near Santa Fe, N.M., Mr. Hargrave moved here in 2008 and came to truly enjoy his new surroundings. The warm weather was good for his disability.
So was the disposition of the folks he met around the Friendly City.
"I fell in love with the people down here," Mr. Hargrave said in 2009.
That affection was mutual.
"He was a positive presence on all the streets," said Isham, for whom Mr. Hargrave was a volunteer.
"An inspiration," Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle Pastor John Paul Marlow said of his congregant.
"An amazing young man. Tough, too," said DJ Dean Andree.
Mr. Hargrave was a regular at Joyland and Evie's Tavern in Ellenton, getting a lift or taking a cab to enjoy country music and karaoke.
His first song was always "The Chair," by George Strait.
"He was an absolute delight," Andree said. "He was a hit with the crowd and touched so many people."
People he may not have even known, either.
Every Friday when Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle distributed food to the needy, Mr. Hargrave would stack several boxes in his lap and bring them to homeless by the Manatee River.
"He never quit making friends, never quit caring for anyone he met in any station in life," Marlow said. "This man couldn't run and couldn't jump, yet he traveled farther in that little motorized scooter than anyone I know with two good legs. He was determined to live life to the fullest."
Take it from Zack Perrin, who works out at Palmetto's Electra Health Club & Spa and recalled Mr. Hargrave training there until he took ill.
"If I was in his position, I don't think I'd have had the same attitude as he did. He was always trying to do his best," Perrin said. "If my mindset wasn't there, he always brought it back for me."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter:cface fontname="Regular" naxe="0" iaxis="0"/>