The promise of America
By Hank Lohmeyer
Published Wednesday, July 22, 2015 9:44 am
Larry and Dawn White took America at its promise and proved to themselves that the promise of America is good.
Starting out as high school students studying geometry together in rural Wisconsin, they took America at its word. They supplied the dedication and hard work that was required, seized the opportunities that arose, and struggled to overcome the obstacles and setbacks through their years together. And they've found that America has come through and met its part of the bargain by supplying the success, and now other elements of a fulfilling life.
"We're having fun now," Dawn says of their life in a very active retirement north of Cedaredge. Larry expresses contentment with their location since 2005 where the climate is mild, neighbors are good, and some longtime friends live nearby.
"Here it's like the way all the rest of America used to be," he said.
And having worked for and achieved a life they dreamed of, Larry and Dawn haven't forgotten their roots. When they saw the opportunity to give something back, they responded as they have to other opportunities and didn't hesitate. So on May 14 -- the couple's 55th wedding anniversary -- their life together completed a full circle as they were honored by their alma mater, Spooner High School where both had graduated in 1959. The school was dedicating its new vocational education metals lab: The Larry and Dawn White Metals Fabrication Lab. They had stepped up to provide the equipment needed to outfit the new vocational center which had been built but left without equipment due to a budget shortage.
Metals working and welding have been the keystone to Larry's career. Looking back to his high school shop class Larry explains how "from the very first time I struck an arc in welding class I knew that working with metals would be my career in life."
His talent for metalworking and passion for perfection were the basis of a successful 20-year Navy career where Larry attained E9 and the rank of Master Chief. His skills provided the technical expertise that carried Larry and Dawn through the lean years as they built an oil field services manufacturing and fabrication business in east Texas. And those skills are still part of the couple's life today. The metals work that Larry produces from his well-equipped 3,600-square feet shop are on display throughout the tastefully appointed and comfortable home they have built.
Dawn's talents are no less a part of the couple's lifestyle -- from her admiration for native Southwest culture and kachina dolls to the exquisitely precise and detailed quilts she creates in her own workshop space. Working with the large-frame quilting machine in her workroom, Dawn's talent shows creativity along with the attention to detail she applied in her years of work in bookkeeping and accounting.
Dawn has traveled to Japan to attend quilt shows. On the wall of her workroom hangs an oriental style 4-foot by 5-foot quilt she handmade that has the authentic look of an original masterpiece from centuries ago.
For the past two years, Larry has pretty much "cleared the decks" of numerous other interests to master a new challenge -- competitive bench rest rifle shooting. The couple traveled over 40,000 miles last year across the country, from Virginia to Washington state, competing in shooting events. Larry has collected a big stack of championship awards that currently lay on a table waiting for a chance to hang them on the wall.
A target from one of his 6mm (.243 caliber) competitions looks unimpressive with one little bullet hole located slightly off center -- that is until he explains that the one little hole represents a group of ten shots from 100 yards.
After graduating from high school, Larry saw the Navy as the best choice for advancing his career in welding and master metals work. His career would advance with technology. "In those days, 'titanium' was a top secret word," Larry said.
During his 20 years, he served at sea and he also had shore duty, as Dawn recalls happily. There was a tour during the Vietnam War in 1964-66. He ran an airframe shop for Naval aviation and later served as a recruiter, a posting where he won a recruiter of the year honor.
He saw opportunity and earned a college degree while in the Navy. "You have to seize opportunity when you have the chance," Larry says. The couple took another opportunity and found a way to build their first house, and then built and sold other houses, too.
Larry wanted to make the Navy a 30-year career. Instead he retired and found the opportunity to earn a master's degree before he and Dawn saw yet another opportunity to begin an oil field services business. This would not be the military; there would be no more assigned job duties, no predictable rank advances, and no regular pay checks. This was a different world of American free enterprise and the couple struggled through some lean years "before we were able to start eating again," Larry recalls good naturedly. It was several years before the first real payoff came along, and it must have been a reminder of growing up on his dad's dairy farm where work ethic was a way of life.
In the end, though, "We did really, really well, and that was thanks to some good employees who worked for me," Larry said.
He and Dawn began noticing "that the sands were running through the hourglass rather quickly." After selling the business, they began another new life together, at last free from the shackles of milking cows, geometry homework, military superiors and demanding customers.
They had been to Colorado on vacation and there were now some new hobbies including mountain climbing. Larry has climbed the highest peaks in North and South America; Mt. McKinley in Alaska and Cerro Aconcagua in Argentina. There was volunteer work to help build the Colorado Trail and then hiking it. Ultra marathons including the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim run were another challenge successfully met.
Larry and Dawn have taken advantage of the opportunities that hard work opened up for them, and in both business and leisure life they have seen some of the best life experiences that the freedom of America has to offer people with the faith and willingness to take up the promise of America.