By Sharon Hall
Larry Odom, Lumpkin County native and former president of United Community Bank, passed away from complications of COVID on Christmas Eve. He was 71-years-old.
Fiercely proud of his Lumpkin County heritage—his lineage goes back to Benjamin Parks on one side and the Brackett family on the other—he was a strong supporter of the community both in his role as bank president and in his personal life.
A request for donations from a local charity was rarely turned down during his 15 years at UCB. He rallied the entire workforce at the bank to participate in Relay for Life every year. A veteran himself, having served in Vietnam from 1969-1971, he was a strong supporter of veterans events.
“He was glad to be able to help people,” said his son, Matthew.
Larry was also generous with his time in service to the community he loved. He served as chair of Rainbow Children’s Home and Chestatee Regional Hospital boards of directors; chaired the Downtown Development Authority for three years; worked with United Way during the time it functioned in the county; served as vice-chair of the Lumpkin County Airport Authority; secretary of the Lion’s Club, where he was a member for over 30 years; and as a member of the flag detail of the VFW, putting out memorial markers for veterans several times each year. Most recently, Larry served on the advisory board for the Holly Theater, where he co-chaired the community theater’s fundraising efforts for the renovations currently underway.
‘NEVER MET A STRANGER’
As a tribute to Larry, the folks at The Holly have created the Larry Odom Memorial Fund with a goal of $25,000 to purchase a new main stage curtain.
“When we open the renovated space to the public next year, all eyes will be on the handsome new [curtain] we plan to install with this fund in Larry Odom’s memory. Each lift of the curtain will in perpetuity help us to remember the humble man, his great sense of humor, and his pleasure in visiting our Dahlonega historic landmark for movies, plays and concerts throughout his life,” stated an announcement from the Holly’s ELEVATE Campaign Steering Committee.
Larry also recently joined the staff as a volunteer at Anderson-Underwood Funeral Home as a family representative for friends and family who had lost a loved one.
“He loved people,” said his bereaved wife, Shirley. “He never met a stranger. He knew everybody and everybody knew him.”
He did love people, from all walks of life. Bud Stumbaugh can testify to that. He met Larry two years ago under unusual circumstances, when he first moved to Dahlonega.
Purposely “dressing down,” he went to local banks and asked to speak with the president.
Most either “said he was busy or asked what it was in reference to, trying to screen me out,” he said. “But they just called Larry and said there’s a man here asking to see you, and he came right out. He was such a prince of a person, without the prideful persona of a prince.”
The two became friends, and worked together both on the Holly Theater board and in a political campaign of a congressional candidate. He remembers, “… Larry sitting at my dinner table and saying he could not have imagined when he was a youth that he ‘would be in such tall cotton’ as to have dinner with a member of congress and the Lt. Governor, who was also with us,” Stumbaugh said. “I was the one in tall cotton, though, too have been able to engage in wonderfully worthwhile joint efforts with a fellow of Larry’s ilk. And even more special, to count such a decent, caring, down to earth gentleman as a friend.”
STILL SEEKING ADVENTURE
Larry was also an unassuming comedian.
His “crazy sense of humor” was one of his best attributes, Shirley said.
And while Larry may have appeared to be mild mannered and gentlemanly, when younger he acquired the nickname of “Killer.”
While never one to experiment with the forbidden—cigarettes, beer or any of the things “other teenagers wanted to try,” said Danny Phillips, Larry’s best friend since the 8th grade, Larry was a risk taker.
He would act as the designated driver on weekend outings for his friends, and “drive like a maniac, speeding and squealing around corners.”
Even in his 60s Larry hadn’t lost his taste for defying danger—standing at the very edge of the deep crack of a glacier in Alaska and zip lining across Niagara Falls on trips the Odom and Phillips families took together not that many years back.
The year of 2021 would have been both couple’s 50th anniversaries, and they already had a trip planned to celebrate, Phillips said.
LOVE FOR LUMPKIN
“He was a great friend, and a fine man,” said Phillips. “He always made you laugh, no matter what the situation was. We’re gonna miss him.”
Larry never accumulated plaques and certificates of appreciation. He was never one to tout his service to the county and its people—he was too modest; a humble man.
His service did not go unnoticed, however. Larry and Shirley were chosen as Gold Rush King and Queen in 2019—one of the county’s highest honors.
At the time he was interviewed for this tribute, Larry said he was shocked when he learned the news. “And it’s hard to shock me. But I love Lumpkin County. I’m honored, and proud—proud of my heritage, of being from a long line of gold miners, sawyers and moonshiners.”
Larry is survived by Shirley, his wife of 49 years; their son, Matthew and daughter, Emily Timms; his five grandchildren; and other relatives and friends.
Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. today, Wednesday, Dec. 30 at the chapel of Anderson-Underwood Funeral Home. Anyone attending the visitation or funeral service, please wear a mask and practice safe social distancing.
In lieu of flowers please make contributions to The Dahlonega Lions Club, P.O. Box 293, Dahlonega.