01/08/2007 09:19 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Honor Thy Father - While He's Still Around

Silver Tongue--Secrets of Mr. Santa Barbara is a feel-good book for family-oriented people. The project began with the Devereux Foundation, which has served people with developmental disabilities at its Santa Barbara centre for more than 60 years. Devereux's then executive director, David Dennis, asked me to write a book about my father. David's idea was that Devereux could contribute something to everyone involved with nonprofits - those who give to them, those who work for them, and those who are helped by them -- by making sure Larry's story was accessible to all. That was in June 2005. I jumped at the chance, though I found the idea daunting. I quickly abandoned any attempt at a true biography and instead tried to give people an insight into my father's insouciant and generous spirit.. The book was released, appropriately, on Thanksgiving weekend 2006. So far 500 copies have been sold and $6,750 from book sales been donated to ten charities. (Yes, including Devereux. -- call it the benevolent circle - one kindness often inspires another. In fact, all profit from book sales will go to charity for the life of the book.)
As the appellation "Mr. Santa Barbara" suggests, my father Larry has achieved quite a lot in his life - mostly by helping nonprofits for more than 40 years with leadership, fundraising and especially humor. He is a funny and compassionate guy. Having spent 10 years producing the national news for Television New Zealand, I didn't want to write a book-length puff piece. I wanted to convey the essence of a man who has managed to balance pleasure with responsibility so well that it's hard to tell when he's just having fun and when he's hard at work. I wanted the book to be as engaging to read as it is to talk to Larry -- a man who insults as elegantly as he appreciates, a man will say almost anything at anytime, as long as he can get you to laugh. I also wanted to write his story in such a way that someone with no knowledge of him (nor even of Santa Barbara for that matter) could feel like they knew him. He is a unique guy -- a man who has served the serious world of nonprofits by being irreverent, sassy and playful.

But writing has a way of surprising you, and I discovered that this book is also a father and son book. It's my attempt to understand my father in a loving, but not uncritical way. As such, it invites others to think about their own parents and their own relationships. When Larry and I talk about the book - we have done a number of events around the Santa Barbara area --, I find our experience kindles a re-evaluation of the listeners' experience, both as sons and daughters and as parents. Many people were touched when my father said at one of these events - "There is now no need to hold a wake for me."

We are used to honoring our loved ones after they have died. This book attempts to beat death to the punch. Larry has heart disease and diabetes. He's not on his deathbed, but he is 83. So far the health is holding and we each are having a fantastic time. To be honest, it's been one big celebration. What if we all celebrated our parents before they passed away?

"More secrets of the Silver Tongue revealed at