Family bids fond farewell to ‘Scary Larry’

Some women wear necklaces and earrings as outfit accessories.

One look at my sister-in-law “Lala,” a.k.a. Antoinette “Toni” Kiaski Dempster, however, and I realized that’s not the case with all females, especially not her.

Instead, Lala’s outfit accessory is typically a kitchen tea towel flung over her right shoulder, conveniently there whenever the need for it arises, dish drying, as a make-do pot holder or to come to a sopping-up rescue when a drink or two spills in the midst of a table full of enthusiastic family card players celebrating a victory in a rousing game of Scat or Screw Your Neighbor.

That a tea towel is an outfit extension comes as no surprise as Lala is always in hostess mode.

She is a woman who has always epitomized hospitality, a what-can-I-get-for-you kind of person in the decades I have been privileged to know and love her and have her as a part of my family thanks to connecting with Better Half, one of her two younger brothers in addition to “Bud.”

Her hostess wiring makes her like a hummingbird as she’s not one to sit still but is more inclined to flit here and there, far more interested in doing something for someone else, in meeting someone else’s needs.

As I made these observations about her, though, the tables were turned.

Others in her kitchen in her home in Massillon were trying to be her now as a legion of family members and friends extended their condolences, embraced and offered hugs and “I’m sorry” and all the familiar expressions that come with verbalizing loss.

“What can we get for you” was the question of the moment for my sister-in-law, not the other way around.

On Sept. 22, Lala became a widow with the death of her husband of 58 years, Larry, affectionately referred to in our family circle as “Scary Larry.”

I guess we’re a family defined in part by many nicknames come to think of it given Larry called Lala “Toe.”

The loss of the Dempster family patriarch leaves a huge void for Lala as they were an inseparable, on-the-go couple who truly loved each other, evident especially when they made their way to the dance floor at weddings and such for their song, Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance.”

And a loss as well for their children — Chip, Dianne and Lisa — for 11 grandchildren and for 16 great-grandchildren, and for so many family members and many, many friends.

His celebration of life get-together at the family home came with marching orders: Bring a covered dish, a memory to share, maybe a favorite picture, too.

No need to wear something black and to be mournful.

Instead, many in attendance wore Marine Corps attire in honor of this veteran or Ohio State, Cleveland Browns or Pittsburgh Steelers apparel.

Photo boards captured the many sides of Larry, a loving family man; a guy with a sense of humor who enjoyed a good laugh; one who amusingly elevated the definition of “natural gas” to a whole new level; a Cleveland Browns fan who tolerated but chastised the Steelers fans in his midst.

We will miss you, “Scary Larry.”

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at