He was tall; he was gentle; and he loved to be a part of Kodiak, especially the wilderness. Now that Larry Amox Sr. has departed this life for the Great Adventure in the Hereafter, those who loved him are left with the memories of his friendliness and the stories he told.
One day Larry showed me a Japanese sword that he found while snooping around the beaches at Chiniak. Larry had a theory. Noting that Kodiak Island was a target of the Japanese at the beginning of World War II, he surmised that the sword belonged to a soldier who had disembarked from a submarine to do some reconnaissance. After all, Cape Chiniak was a U.S. military installation. Larry theorized that the soldier drowned while trying to return to the submarine. When I brought up that there wasn’t a body to back up that theory, Larry reminded me that the strong currents and tides could have sucked the soldier back into the watery abyss. Interesting theory, but I was a little skeptical. Years later, my friend Rosabel Baldwin told me that her cousin and friend, while beach-combing, had come across the body of a Japanese soldier many years after the war. Needless to say, Larry was all ears when I told him about the incident.
Larry’s sword story was one of many he shared with me.
Larry was a gentleman who was able to appreciate his native land of Oklahoma and the island he embraced as “home” for many years.
He was 20 years old, working in a Texaco gas station in Oklahoma, making 75 cents an hour, putting in 91 hours a week, when he got word that his uncle, T.T. Jackson, was looking for a group of men to help build homes in Kodiak.Starting salary was $3.50 an hour. T.T. would pay airfare and room and board. That was a small fortune back in those days.
T.T. had the grand idea of building 55 homes, but he gave up on that and put up a trailer park instead.
One day while Larry worked on his uncle’s project, the scaffold board he was standing on broke, and he fell and broke his back. He painfully walked to Griffin Memorial Hospital. That accident cured him from wanting to make carpentry his livelihood. The call of the wild was strong.
Larry went with Roy Randall to Whale Island to hunt seal and trap for the winter. They had an 18-foot plywood skiff with an 18-horse Johnson outboard motor.
Larry hunted and trapped on the Alaska Peninsula, Shearwater, Old Harbor, Port Hobron, Big Creek, Pasagshak and Tugidak.
In the summer of 1971 Larry, his wife and six-month-old daughter, and his father-in-law stayed on Eli’s Island at Kalsin Bay to hunt seals.
“We used to wrap (the baby) up in a crate (lined with) styrofoam and a life jacket and put her in the bow of the skiff and away we’d go,” Larry recalled.
In later years Larry went fishing for salmon, king and Tanner crab. He traveled to Nome, Kotzebue and Bristol Bay, where he fished at a setnet site on the Ugashik River.
As a trapper, Larry was schooled by good teachers — Andy and Norm Nault, whom he met at Mother Goose Lake on the Alaska Peninsula. At the time, Larry was a packer for bear hunting guide Al Burnett.
Andy and Larry clashed over their ideas of hunting methods for about a week.
But the longer he and Andy were together, the closer they became. As they were getting ready to close the hunting camp down, Andy asked Larry if he needed a place to stay once they got back to Kodiak. He said he was welcome to bunk with him and Norm.
Larry took Andy up on his kind offer. Once he settled down at the Naults, he got an earful of stories night after night. But Larry had his own stories to tell.
Fortunately, he kept journals of his wilderness escapades. One of his entries was recorded on a foggy Christmas night Larry looked outside his tent at the full moon shining through the haze and felt the loneliness penetrate his inner being.“Isolated on an island with nothing but a tent for shelter and no contact with the outside world,” he wrote.
But when it came time to leave for town, Larry had mixed feelings.
“I want to leave, but I dread going back to town,” he wrote.
Larry’s hunting and trapping ventures led to other enterprises.
He made fur vests, hats and purses lined with deer hide. He also produced wood carvings, dream catchers, jewelry and spirit masks.
Larry was grateful to the many who taught him the skills that have been his livelihood here.
Once he put away his knives and archived his journals, he got a “regular” job at Walmart in the sporting goods department. There couldn’t have been a better guy for the job. He was always congenial and willing to assist customers.
Adding to Larry’s long list of positions, he was also a preacher of sorts. While he attended Frontier Baptist Church, he filled the pulpit while the congregation searched for a pastor. Later he joined the Filipino Bible Church. His wife, who is Filipino, appreciated the sermons that were delivered in Tagalog.
Pastor Jun Belen, pastor of the church, gave Larry a chance to preach too.
“I miss him,” said Belen. “He’s a good person.
Belen said that Larry had texted him shortly before he died. In the text, he talked about loving the church, his family and the people of Kodiak.
Plans are underway for a memorial service at Frontier Baptist Church.
Larry deeply loved Kodiak, and Kodiak loved him and hopes that his latest “adventure” in the Great Beyond will far exceed the joys he experienced in the Kodiak wilderness. If what Larry preached on Sundays is true ... it will.