County Face: Larry Harrison of Washburn
For Washburn native Larry Harrison, all his career and volunteer endeavors have focused on making the local community a better place for everyone.
Harrison has been a member of the Washburn Rotary Club for 38 years, a member of the American Legion for 27 years and scoutmaster for Washburn’s Boy Scout Troop 177 for 40 years, all while using his professional career to serve the people of Aroostook County.
Harrison had an extensive 20-year career with the United States Air Force, initially serving on Travis Air Force Base in California and Anderson Air Force Base in Guam in the mid-1970s. He returned to Aroostook County and spent the remaining 16 years at Loring Air Force Base until his retirement from the military in 1992. He still remembers vividly how he stepped off the plane in Guam and felt the intense humidity that his northern Maine blood never got used to.
“I think I was tired of school at that point and so I thought I would go into the military. After the first four years, I decided to make it into a career,” Harrison said.
Throughout his time at Loring, Harrison was in charge of the Honor Guard, which participated in military funerals, parades and other ceremonies across northern Maine and New Brunswick. The Honor Guard often performed over 100 funerals, sometimes three to four a day, in early spring because the frozen ground made it impossible for family members to bury their loved ones during the winter.
Harrison considered his work with the Air Force an honor because he served military members, veterans and their families. He remembers Loring as a large, extended family and said that he would feel sad when colleagues transferred to other military bases. He has kept in touch with many of those former colleagues to this day.
“Driving onto that base was like being in a different world. It’s so sad to go back now and see all the buildings that have deteriorated or been torn down,” said Harrison, who lives in Crouseville with his wife, Rinette, and their dog, Nikita.
More recently, Harrison has maintained some of his Air Force connections through his position as accounting technician at Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Limestone. He is responsible for paying bills for the Air Force and regularly sees many former military service members who began working at DFAS after Loring closed.
Before Harrison came to DFAS, his career took a different turn when he became the branch manager for the Aroostook County chapter of the American Red Cross. When he first came to the Red Cross, the organization had only five volunteers, conducted few fundraisers and had little opportunities to provide trainings such as CPR/First Aid. Over 14 years, he increased the number of volunteers to 100 and helped develop resources for more training sessions and fundraisers in Aroostook County.
Harrison said the most rewarding part of the Red Cross was helping families rebuild their lives in times of crisis, which included members of military families.
“I remember there was a military member who was shipped out on the Mediterranean and we notified him that his mother was dying in a hospital up here. Within 24 hours he was in Presque Isle to see his mother before she passed,” Harrison said. “He came by the Red Cross office and thanked us for what we had done.”
During the many changes in his career, Harrison still considers Troop 177 to be his number-one commitment. Under his leadership, the Boy Scouts have travelled to numerous regional and national jamborees and maintained their own campsite, Camp Harrison, near Washburn. He has had them participate in community projects such as putting up the first “Welcome to Washburn” signs, cleaning up the town park and placing new American flags and flag holders on Main Street.
Harrison hopes that through wilderness survival lessons, he can teach the Scouts about leadership, teamwork and the importance of being active community members.
“When you’re in a community it’s essential to be part of that place instead of sitting around and complaining about things that aren’t getting done,” Harrison said. “The more effort people put into something, the easier it is for everybody else.”