ASHEBORO — “Asheboro has lost an incredible friend, a community icon. Larry Reid was truly one of a kind.”
Those words by Asheboro Mayor David Smith encapsulated what many were thinking after the untimely death on Saturday, Sept. 16, of Larry Reid — radio station manager, on-air personality, emcee of multiple local events, and a friend of everyone he met.
Just before his death, Smith presented Reid with a proclamation naming him the honorary mayor for Sept. 15. That was significant since many called Reid the “mayor of Asheboro” due to his presence at so many fund-raisers and other happenings around town.
“It was my honor to know Larry, to work with him occasionally,” Smith said Saturday afternoon after Reid passed that morning. “It was my honor to name him the Honorary Mayor for Sept. 15.”
Smith had visited Reid at his home for the presentation, knowing that the end was near. Smith said Reid “was always positive, ‘Don’t cry for me.’ He was a friend to everybody. Up to the end, he had a super-positive attitude and was still concerned about other people.”
Gene Woodle, who was especially close to Reid, said, “I’m broken-hearted. He found out two weeks ago (of his incurable illness), now he’s gone. It hurts like crazy. Nobody can replace Larry Reid. He meant so much to the whole community.”
Woodle, who is director of Our Daily Bread Kitchen and also works with school students, credits Reid with being a positive influence in his day-to-day life. “Larry was my guy,” Woodle said. “He would encourage me when I was stressed. He would tell me to come over and relax. He’d grill out, offer his hot tub. He was there to talk to anytime.”
Woodle said Reid was never sick so when he confided recently that he wasn’t feeling well, Woodle thought, “You must be sick.”
“Boy, it hurts,” Woodle said. “But at least he didn’t have to suffer.”
Reynolds Lisk said Saturday that he had “been in shock, totally stunned.”
Lisk is chair of the Randolph Community College Board of Trustees, of which Reid was a member. But the two had known each other and worked together for decades.
“He was a light in my life,” Lisk said. “He was always positive. When I would feel down, I could get around him and it would change my mood. I never saw him in a bad mood.
“I never heard anyone say a bad word about Larry Reid. He was highly respected by everyone, all walks of life. He treated everyone the same and was nice to everyone. He was a friend to all and made you feel good.”
Lisk noted that Reid gave to so many organizations that “it seemed like every event or fund-raiser in town, he was there. He had a natural talent (for giving).”
Once when Reid invited Lisk on his radio show to talk about an upcoming event, Lisk said he was nervous, having never been on the air. Upon entering the radio studio, he watched Reid flipping switches and turning dials while carrying on small talk. “Within two minutes, he made me feel comfortable.”
Eddie Burks has probably known Reid longer than just about anyone else in Randolph County. They met as freshmen at Western Carolina University more than 40 years ago. They lived in the same dormitory on the same hall.
“He was as good a young man as he was in his 50s and early 60s,” Burks said. “He had the same positive personality. He wore his Christianity on his sleeve, often saying, ‘Thank you Jesus.’
“He was always very humble, didn’t do (charitable) things for accolades, he just wanted to help people. He could find something good in you to love.”
Burks and Reid’s roommate spent time together as interns at WLOS, an Asheville TV station. Since they rode together to the station, Burks would go to their room, where Reid was still sleeping at 3 a.m. “That would change,” Burks quipped, noting that Reid was the morning host for decades at WKXR in Asheboro.
At Western Carolina, Reid kept busy, participating in the marching band and on campus radio, among other activities, Burks said. “He took great pride in the university and loved being a Catamount. He was constantly promoting Western Carolina,” and even kept up with WCU alumni in the area.
Oddly enough, Burks recalled that initially in Reid, “There was a certain shyness. But getting to know him, he worked his way out of it. By the time he left school, he was out of his shell.
“He was enjoyable to be around and had a great sense of humor. He was just a terrific fellow and very amiable.
“It just doesn’t seem real (that Reid is gone).”
Dorothy Keith, owner of WKXR and WZOO, said Saturday that “everyone is stunned” about Reid’s passing. She said the station had been getting calls all day with people telling stories that Reid “did something nice and never asked for a return. He did amazing things every day that were impactful to Randolph County. But he didn’t know the impact he made."
“He was very unique and just loved doing community outreach,” she said. “He was a connector and that was natural for him. I’m just heart-broken that it’s not going to be the same.”
Keith said she and Reid had mapped out plans for the stations into next year. Those plans were slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic but they were looking to continue in the coming months.
One of those plans was to have more remote broadcasts, such as the one being held at a furniture store on Saturday morning. Reid was to have been the remote announcer but “Uncle Milty” McDowell took his place with a sad heart.
“It’s very difficult for the announcers to mention him,” Keith said.
She said McDowell will take Reid’s morning slot at WKXR temporarily until a replacement is found.
“We just want our listeners to hang in there,” she said. “Their support has been great.
“We’ll take it slow,” Keith said of finding Reid’s successor. “There’s no replacing Larry Reid.”
But she’s looking for “someone who knows Randolph County and can help the community.”
Unfortunately, legends and icons are in short supply.
Larry Reid set a high bar and Asheboro is better for it.
Reid will lie in repose on Thursday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m.-noon at Pugh Funeral Home, 437 Sunset Ave., Asheboro, and from 4-5:45 p.m. at Sunset Avenue Church of God, 900 Sunset Ave., Asheboro.
Funeral services will follow at 6 p.m. with Pastor Matt Higgs officiating. A private burial will be held at Oaklawn Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to:
— The Larry D. Reid Minority Scholarship Fund at Randolph Community College.
— The United Way of Randolph County, PO Box 597 Asheboro, NC 27204.