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Veteran learned hard work, gardening and golf growing up on Somerset farm

April 29, 2018 GMT

Growing up on a farm in Somerset County had a lasting effect on Larry Houston, in his tireless work ethic, his love of dogs and the thriving garden he’d keep to feed his family in Trafford.

“He and his twin brother always had to get up early and milk the cows; we heard stories about that right up until the end. That was something he’d never forget,” said Mr. Houston’s daughter, Terra Scharritter of North Huntingdon. “That transpired into him being a hard worker ... and always wanting to have the best garden in Trafford.”

Larry L. Houston of North Huntingdon died Thursday, April 26, 2018, at his daughter’s North Huntingdon home from complications of Alzheimer’s. He was 74.

Mr. Houston and his twin brother, Garry, were born April 17, 1944, less than a year after their older brother, Stanley, was born to the late Grinnell and Iona Houston. In addition to their farm work, the twins learned to golf by hitting balls around the family’s fields, his daughter said. Her brother, Brian Houston of Clarksville, Tenn., said their father even won some amateur tournaments as a teenager.

Both Larry and Garry enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and Brian Houston said his father was trained as a Seabee. But the brothers ended up missing any combat deployments when the Navy decided they worked better as recruitment tools: the identical twins were put to work by golfing alongside pros and officers, his daughter said.

Mr. Houston came home after his service and began dating a girl he knew from high school, Terri, who had grown up in an orphanage. Because she was 18 but still living there, Mr. Houston had to get permission from the orphanage’s head before he could start dating the woman who would eventually become his wife, his daughter said.

The couple moved to Trafford to start a family, and Mr. Houston went to work as a welder, first for Westinghouse and then for LA Fab of Lawrenceville. His home’s garden was a great source of pride, feeding his family and the neighbors with the excess.

“He grew anything that would grow,” Brian Houston said. “He basically fed the neighborhood; we had more than we could eat.”

He also was a longtime member of Christian Life Church in Trafford, leading a Cub Scout group there, and offering his welding skills to the construction of the new sanctuary. He sang in the church choir and, even after macular degeneration left him blind about 18 years ago, he’d listen to tapes of the music to memorize his parts.

“Most people complain about the stupidest things, but this guy would be cracking jokes right up until the end,” his daughter said. “He didn’t want other people to be burdened; didn’t want other people to feel bad for him.”

In addition to his wife, Terri, and two children, Mr. Houston is survived by his brothers Garry and Stanley, both of Trafford, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Larissa Houston, and a brother, Bob Houston.

Friends will be received from 1 to 4 p.m. today at William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main Street, Irwin, with a funeral service to follow at 4 p.m.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.