larry heady in his element on prince of wales island
(featured photo: Larry Heady at mouth of mine)
As I have been writing blogs on the mines of Kasaan Peninsula, I was thinking about some of my field trips to mines and outcrops on the Island. As I wrote, I could not help thinking of an old friend, Larry Heady. By the time I arrived in late 2001, Larry had lived here several years. Larry was an interesting combination of rock hound and artist; he also was something of a holdover from the Island’s logging heyday. He and his friend Sherri introduced my wife and me to many of the Prince of Wales’ “treasures”, i.e., treasures to a rockbound.
When I first arrived in Thorne Bay, Larry and I became friends. He was interested in my thoughts on his creations, rock spheres, and in plumbing my general knowledge of geology. (I hold a doctorate in geosciences from the University of Texas at Austin.) We
spent quite a bit of time together in the field those first years after my arrival on the island. He, his friend Sherri, my wife, and I visited many outcrops, borrow pits, and old mine tailings across the northern part of the Island. Often we picked up hand samples that Larry would painstakingly craft into near perfect spheres (see photo – spheres (2) and shop pics) using rather old and worn lathes. As the U.S. Forest Service’s project manager for the Island (and surrounding islands), I would often visit remote sites. I would occasionally return with unusual or simply striking hand samples on which Larry could tediously work his magic and craft a polished sphere – a window on the Island’s geologic history. His studio was a simple Alaskan wannigan (see outside photo). We accumulated 20, or so, of Larry’s creations over time.
A number of years ago, Larry quietly left the Island to return home to be with his children and grandchildren in the Midwest. The Island lost a bit of its color when Larry left. I always will remember him to be a unique fellow of modest means. He was simple in his needs and kind of heart, toward people and critters. Neither my wife, Lavenia, nor I will forget that late 60ish, smiling, ball of energy who scrambled up tailing piles at the It and Salt Chuck mines and hunted for encrinitic limestone exposed in outcrops across the Island in his singular pursuit of sphere making material.
Larry had a significant impact on my wife and me, two Texas transplants. He helped us understand the people and the place we now consider home. Larry epitomizes the spirit of the Island – a spirit not unlike that of the early miners about whom I recently have written.