After a full life of 90 years, on April 19, 2020 Lawrence Newlin Landers passed away in Fremont, MI with his family by his side.
Affectionately known as Papa Bear, peeds, grandpa, papa, or as he joked with his business named JPL - Just Plain Larry… Larry was a man of many talents, with a throughline of consistency and honor.
Born to Newlin Jewel Landers and Margaret Ellen Richhart on June 30 1929 in Indianapolis Indiana, he had a younger brother named Marlin. He began his life at a time - similar to now - when most American’s were all but certain about their future. Despite the meager and challenging world he knew, for 90 years he never let changing economic times, wars, or health issues stop him from accepting a challenge or seizing an opportunity.
As a young man he served in the Army as a veteran of the Korean War - quickly being recognized for his intellect and elevated to instructor in the area of mechanics to keep critical military vehicles operating. He then graduated UCLA with a degree in Engineering and focused on safety and reliability concerns in the American Aerospace industry - including his work on the Apollo Moon Landing Project in the mid to late 1960s.
After years of efforts to bring more than asked of him to his work, he decided he needed to be his own man and left aerospace - ultimately taking the risk of expanding his own machine shop from the garage of his California home by joining 2 people he worked with in a larger entity and facility as JPL Industries - which He operated for 40+ years - well past the time when most would retire because quitting was not in his nature.
Larry was an engineer and problem solver to his core. In addition to the time and effort providing a stable life for his family, he worked with friends and fellow engineers to solve some of the pressing problems of society. These included large scale desalination, so more people could enjoy fresh clean safe water - and designing a cleaner burning fuel to replace gasoline, to minimize or eliminate the (then) critical smog problem (before the mandate of unleaded fuel). It was during this fuel project he suffered life threatening burns - one of the many setbacks he did not let stop him.
Despite his seemingly focused nature, his talents spanned well beyond engineering. He enjoyed outdoor activities including riding and working on motorcycles. Music was an area where he particularly appreciated high quality. He played fiddle and mandolin, and had a good ear for vocal harmony, although was shy about singing in public.
Although the world at large may best know him for his tooling innovations and nearly 60 years of manufacturing connected to the world famous Bigsby vibrato for guitars, or for his marriage to famous Country Music Steel Guitar player Marian Hall, his family best knew him for his love to share his knowledge, generosity in every sense of the word, silly jokes and the quiet pride he had for his children and grandchildren.
His grandchildren best remember him for the cards stuffed with a $20 bill each birthday, the phone calls of encouragement with every new undertaking, the breakfasts at the diner every visit, and the sharing of his life and love of his machine shop with them.
His children surely knew him for his drive to always do what was right, no matter the effect on him personally and for his gentleness and compassion in all things. As his daughter Shirley says, “my father was a gentle man”.
Although Larry will be missed and forever loved by all those he left behind, his legacy will live on through his 2 children, 4 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and all those whose life he touched.
A man with the extremes of considered thought, and silly humor… The world is lesser for his loss, but much the better for all that he brought to it in his life.
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