From the late 1980s to the early 2010s, those who walked through the spotless hallways of Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta were strolling through the work of Lawrence “Larry” Gross, a custodian at the school for nearly 30 years and a beloved school community member.
“Everyone loved him, the community will be missing a great person for sure,” said Mark Hagar, the facilities manager at GSB.
Gross, of Waldoboro, recently died on Dec. 16 at the age of 72 in the Sussman Home in Rockport.
Gross, who grew up in Waldoboro, attended Medomak Valley High School. During the summers Gross worked for DePatsy’s Lanes in Waldoboro, now Sammi’s Entertainment Center, and Masters Machine Co. in Round Pond.
As an adult, Gross, was a popular figure in the GSB community.
Hagar worked with Gross for seven years at GSB. They weren’t just coworkers, Hagar said; they were also friends.
“Before I started working there, Larry said ‘If you take on that job, I’ll help you with anything you need to know,’” Hagar said.
Gross’ custodial duties may have earned him a place in the halls of GSB, but it was the way he cared about the students that may have earned him a place in the hearts of those who knew him, according to Hagar.
“He really mentored some kids,” Hagar said. “Kids wanted to work with Larry.”
GSB Principal Kim Schaff, who has worked at the school since 1994 when she was an education technician, said she remembers Gross fondly as an integral part of the school community who prioritized his relationship with the students.
“One of the things that stand out about Larry was his love and dedication to school community,” Schaff said. “Given the importance of adult relationships with kids, it meant a lot: kids liked Larry, and Larry liked the kids.”
Even when Gross retired in 2015, Schaff said he still helped out with school events like the bike rodeo, an event put on by the bus drivers at GSB to help kids learn about bike safety, and the school’s fall festival, Harvest Fest.
“He did many things just because he enjoyed them,” Schaff said. “His dedication to the community was incredible, to the school community and the wider community.”
Debby Newell, head bus driver at GSB, said that Gross viewed the GSB community as his family.
“He was friends with all the kids,” Newell said. “He took time to acknowledge them all and made them feel good because he cared.”
Gross, who, according to Newell, was an avid bowler, also helped raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters in bowling events at DePatsy’s Lanes, now known as Sammi’s Family Entertainment Center.
Gross took home top honors as best bowler at a bowling competition held at DePatsy’s Lanes in 2004. The competition itself was a fundraising event he helped put together for Big Brothers Big Sisters. In addition to winning the event, Gross also earned the honor of raising the most money, bringing in more than $1,500 for the event.
Outside of his job, or perhaps in tandem, Gross was a devoted New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox fan who liked to place an occasional wager or two on the games, but, according to Schaff, it was his multiple winnings with the Maine State Lottery that earned him the nickname “Lucky Larry.”
Among Gross’ winnings was a John Deere tractor he won in June 2006 in a “Backyard Bonanza” lottery giveaway in which 350,000 people played for the tractor.
Gross was also a lover of NASCAR and baseball, and was frequent attendee at the Wiscasset Speedway.
Will Waldron, funeral service apprentice at Hall’s Funeral Home in Waldoboro, said Gross’ service, held on Saturday, Jan. 6, was one full of laughter and smiles.
“It was evident he touched people’s lives,” Waldron said. “The memorial service felt more like a celebration.”