These friends of Chuck Larkin wrote longer thoughts. Click on the name to read their reminiscences.
Chuck Larkin's Obit
by MIKE MORRIS The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kathy Pierce pierckat@HOTMAIL.COM
Yvonne Young yey@EFN.ORG
Steve Otto

Marilyn Kinsella

Sandy Pomerantz sandytelling@EARTHLINK.NET Mary Lee Sweetwater
Lois Sprengnether
Fred Davidow Karen    
Robert Seutter truethomas@USA.NET Melanie D. Pratt
Elizabeth Gibson   Gene Gryniewicz

Chuck's Song

When I die I may not go to heaven;
I don't know if they let liberals in.
If they don't, then let me go to Radford (SUUSI).
Radford is as close as I've been.

I've eaten all alone at Baptist suppers;
'piscapalian collars fit too tight.
Well I've argued with the doctors at the temple
That it's good when it's feeling right.

I'd drive through all of Hell or half of Georgia
Just to hear Chuck Larkin sing his song.
I'm a test for any congregation
But you're home when you're feeling you belong.

When I die I may not go to heaven;
I don't know if they let liberals in.
If they don't, then let me go to Radford (SUUSI).
Radford is as close as I've been.

Vince Meade
aka Boomslang

Chuck Larkin, 71, storyteller, TV host

By MIKE MORRIS The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With a look as unique as the yarns he spun, Chuck Larkin was one of Atlanta's most recognizable storytellers for more than 30 years.

Mr. Larkin, the mustachioed host of the 1980s WPBA-TV variety show "Tonight at Ferlinghetti's," died Friday of a heart attack. He was 71.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta on Cliff Valley Way.

A charter member of the Southern Order of Storytellers, Mr. Larkin was a regular at the National Storytelling Festival held each year in Jonesborough, Tenn., relaying his tall tales in a style akin to the late Justin Wilson, the popular Cajun TV chef and raconteur.

"The history of stories fascinates me," Mr. Larkin said in a 1991 interview. "I've been telling a tale for years about it being so hot that the shade moved into the middle of a tree to get out of the sun.

"Then one day, not long ago, I was reading in the ancient Upanishads tales from India, which are at least 3,000 years old. And lo and behold, there was the same story."

Mr. Larkin said he got a lot of his stories from his job with the federal government.

"Needless to say, I hear plenty of 'tall tales' every day," he said. "In fact, I add to them by greeting every applicant with two of the greatest lies in U.S. officialdom: 'We're glad you're here,' and 'I'm here to help you.' "

"Ferlinghetti's," which began on the Atlanta public television station during the 1982-83 season, followed a format similar to public radio's popular "Prairie Home Companion." The show, which also featured local musical acts, ran through August 1987.

Born Nov. 17, 1931, in New York City, Mr. Larkin was a "Navy brat" whose family moved several times before settling in St. Petersburg, Fla., said his daughter Karen Larkin Rehm of Marietta.

Mr. Larkin graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville and earned a master's degree in sociology from the school.** He was a hospital corpsman in the Navy during the Korean War, and worked for 28 years with the Florida Council for the Blind, helping the visually impaired find jobs.

In 1969, he moved to Atlanta and began working as a training and employment specialist with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Labor Department job took him to the hills of Tennessee and Kentucky, "and that's where he picked up his storytelling," his daughter said.

In addition to storytelling, Mr. Larkin played several traditional musical instruments such as the banjo, musical saw, jaw harp and spoons. He built his own zither, and in recent years had learned to play the American Indian flute, according to his daughter.

Mr. Larkin had appeared in 26 states, and was active in storytelling up until his death while sitting at his computer in his Midtown home. His last appearance was earlier this month at a festival in Ocala, Fla.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Larkin is survived by two other daughters, Kathryn Larkin of St. Petersburg and Karla Roberts of Alpharetta, and three granddaughters.

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Elizabeth Gibson

Chuck has left this earth, but he is not gone. The Legend of Larkin remains.

His friendship, kindness, generousity, mentoring, coaching, teaching, helping hands and welcoming arms. His limitless stories and jokes which he encouraged everyone to use and tell. His array of unique instruments that really did make music - and made baggage inspection interesting. His love of humor and just plain folks. He was larger than life - a legend in his time.

In fact I figure his legend is continuing.

Right now Chuck is probably sitting on God's knee (I picture him about the size of a mouse on your knee) asking Her hundreds of questions that he's always tried to figure out. "What is the significance of numbers? Nine? Three? Thirteen?" With a twinkle in his eye, he will even slip into a few stories to get an Almighty laugh. Even if God has heard the tales before, which I'm sure She has, She will laugh again when Chuck tells them. Chuck reveled in making everyone laugh, this will be his best performance.

After his personal audience with God an angel will take him on a guided tour of the place to answer the rest of his questions. He'll see the gated communities for those who thing they have the only way to get into heaven, and all kinds of other places.

Yes, he will even ask to see that other place. The angel will wait by the gates and won't go in, but Chuck will - with his thumb set firmly in his fist between his big finger and ring finger on both hands for protection. Ol' Scratch will greet him and they will swap lies back and forth for some time. (That's the advantage of having a big repertoire.) Chuck will brag his hunting exploits - how he killed a turkey, a partridge, 5 doves, a rabbit, a squirrel, a deer, a moose, and a dragon all with a single shot. Ol' Scratch will turn up the heat, hoping to keep Chuck around to entertain him. But Chuck will tell him about the time it was so hot in Georgia the cows rolled on their backs and gave themselves milk baths, the mule out plowing the corn field in sweltering heat froze solid when the corn popped and the mule thought it was snow, and how he himself had outrun a bear he met at the berry bushes that day - it was a long chase before the bear fell through the ice of a not-quite-frozen lake in Minnesota in December. Ol' Scratch will get laughing so hard that he won't even notice when Chuck gets up, wraps a hot coal in a snowball for a souvenir, and strolls back out the gate to where the angel is waiting.

Then the angel will show Chuck that special place they have just for him in the storytellers heaven. No gates on storyteller heaven - everyone is welcomed to stop by. Chuck will have a spot near the entrance where he can sit and see who's wandering by. He will invite them in with stories, music and jokes and will "hold court" there forever. Maybe someday I'll get to be there too.

The legend of Chuck Larkin continues.

Elizabeth, The Unusual Storyteller

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Kathy Pierce

Dear Storytell Family and Chucks other Family,

I read this news from Mikes original post last evening and felt too shocked and sad to reply. I didn't want to believe it. I kept hoping that somehow maybe it was a mistake - I kept looking for a post from Chuck know..'the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated'... I thought about him a lot last night. I appreciate you sharing the hard news with us, Mike.

Then this morning more confirmation that it is true. Thanks Linda for answering the question I woke up with on my mind - how he died. I am glad it was sort of peaceful.

I first met Chuck many years ago at the festival in Jonesboro. I was just getting started and he sat with me, a perfect stranger and shared ideas on storytelling. I never did get to know him very well in person, but I sure did get to know and like and respect his thinking right here on the list. I think he was pretty wise as well as entertining.

I wrote him sometimes off list and I remember when I asked him for some funny stories or even jokes for my husband to share with his best friend who was dying and had asked for some funny stuff - I knew he would have just the thing - and he emailed me so many that it came out to about fifty printed pages. He knew I didn't have time for a snail mail disk, as Bob did. And so my husband and his friend had a last evening of good laughs because of Chuck's generosity and humor.

I later found out, and always meant to tell him that my husband's dying friend was a man he knew and respected, Hawk Littlejohn, the Cherokee man who made a flute for Chuck. Maybe that one he played with Stephen in TN. He would have liked to know that he gave some pleasure to Hawk. Maybe now he does. Maybe Hawk met played him home with flute music.

I too will truly miss him, and will re-read many of his saved posts as need for that advice arises..I think this afternoon I will spend some time again at his website and read some classic Chuck.

It seems odd to me in a way that I feel such a deep loss, since unlike Stephen and many others of you I did not know him well in person. But I feel like I did know him and i liked him a lot.

What a light for storytelling. I am glad he was here with us on this list. I am glad to have all of you, too. Feels like we really are family gathering closer at such sad news.



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Yvonne Young

Like all of you, I'm very sad to learn of Chuck's death. Do you suppose there is any significance to the fact he died on Good Friday, the day Christ died?

Sandy's story touched my heart. I'm sure many people people could tell such stories about Chuck's generosity.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to become well acquainted with Chuck, but I've heard him tell and talked with him at the conference many times over the years.

Since my first memories of Chuck came to mind, I'd like to share them with you. The last conference that was held at Washington College in Jonesborough was my first introduction to what was then NAAPS. I was fascinated with Chuck himself, his stories, and his mustache during the conference. At the end, as a closing, Jay O'Callahan had us all form a circle. He asked us to share something from the conference we'd like to tuck into an imaginary bag tied to our belts to take home. When it was Chuck's turn he tucked a story called The Liar (found in Apples of Immortality, a book of Armenian tales) that I had told in a workshop done by a theater director named Richard, whose last name I've long since forgotten, into his bag. I never saw Chuck again, or told the story again without remembering the thrill of that moment.

Yvonne Young

Teller of Truth Tales

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Robert Seutter

I did not get a chance to hang out with Chuck very much. I met him at the Storytelling festival up by San Luis Obispo. And chatted with him online, and at some of the Conferences. He had style and wit, and a great sense of humor. I told a story at swap, and ran over time (the cardinal offense). I apologized to him and was worried about it. He said not to worry, and not to do it again. Besides, he said, "I love a great selkie story". He was garroulous and I sense, sometimes a bit opinionated and grumpy. All the things I look for in a man of character. Chuck, you were many things, and all of them a class act.

By three things you will know him;

By his outrageous acts of poesy By his long and outstretched hand By his mirth,and wise humor

May he visit Tir Nan Og, and regale at the feasts May his first meal be the salmon of knowledge and the mead of poetry May his desert be the apples of avallach

Not easy will it be to replace him Not easy will his words die Not easy will his generosity be found again*** May he be the great eagle,above the plains May he be the Gold Horned, red eared Stag, white, within the forest May he be the Salmon of Knowledge,deep in the halls of MacMannan MacLyr

And may he know joy in this world and the next, And may I stand him a cup, again. And swap lies and truths with much abandon.

Blessings, True

Robert Seutter

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of Chuck Larkin with all of us. I logged in this morning with thoughts of asking your suggestions for a telling at an Arts Festival next week. Then I read the posts about Chuck not being with us anymore (in body and on the list, thru postings). It was your posting, Mary Lee, of "Fiddlers' Green" that allowed me to cry, ruing the loss of any further connection with this very generous, kind and wise good fellow.

Although it may not be exactly the venue for "Fergus, the Lad Who Had No Story", I'm going to tell it Tuesday and tell it in honor of Chuck. It was one of the first stories he shared with me, and it is with joy that I'll tell it. He had said he hoped he'd get to hear me tell it someday. Now he will.

How rich those of you who knew him well are, and how lucky I feel to have been gifted by him. Thanks for sharing your memories.


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Melanie D. Pratt

Folks, I met Chuck before I was even a storyteller - wasn't even aware I would become a teller. But was with friends in Atlanta for the SOS Olde Christmas Storytelling Festival in January 1986. I met Chuck at the home of one of the tellers. My friends and I were there to see how a storytelling conference is run as we were planning to do one in July of that year. Chuck was very encouraging in his suggestions. Later that evening, Chuck and I spent some time in Susan's kitchen just talking about storytelling - I think he was the first person who realized that there was a storyteller in me waiting to be freed. I told my first stories eight months later! In my travels to SOS conferences in the early '90s it was always a treat just to see Chuck in action - I think someone mentioned earlier that there was always a crowd around him - he drew people like a magnet and was so generous with his time and energies.


Melanie the Seanachie

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Steve Otto

Just after I quit my job to start telling stories full time, Chuck called me. He was coming to KC for a gig and wanted to get together with local storytellers. We talked for about an hour on the phone, and set up to meet at his hotel the evening before his gig. I found a few local storytellers to join me and we had a great time learning new interests such as the mouth harp and nose flute and the musical saw, then we told stories. We found that we had some things in common. Chuck was a former Federal Employee... So was I! Chuck loved to tell "real" ghost stories... So did I! Chuck had multiple talents... Well two out of three's not bad! We began to get together every national event, and really could talk to each other from experience.

I will miss his friendship and leadership.

Steve Otto

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Gene Gryniewicz

Chuck Larkin, storyteller and friend to many of us, left this world on March 18, Good Friday. He was at home, at his computer, and apparently had a heart attack. He was generous, knowledgable, warm, and funny and will be missed. Nancy Kavanaugh is putting out a call for memories of Chuck and Ray-- especially of their early days in storytelling -- for both the NSN web site and Storytelling Magazine. Please send your memories as soon as possible to The web site of Chuck's home church is: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta ,

In lieu of flowers his family is asking for his friends to do a kind deed to someone in need, which is what they feel he would want.

Memories are being posted at

Gene Gryniewicz

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Sandy Pomerantz

Dear Fellow Tellers, When I attended my first NSA Festival - the 9th, I was introduced to Chuck who immediately took me under his wing and I've been there in some form or other ever since. about four years ago, my younger brother Fred was dying of cancer at the VA hospital in Atlanta and we didn't know how bad he was because he lied about his condition. He had emotional issues with some family members and had his own deep, emotional problems - period.

I was frantic to help him and had called Chuck because he and George Goldman, a retired Atlantan and storyteller I'd met at a couple of festivals, were the only folks I could think of that I knew lived there and that might visit my brother or get others to visit him. Chuck was the one who contacted George for me. We are Jewish and so is George. Chuck also contacted another member of the Atlanta Guild who visited my brother.

When Fred's doctor finally broke patient confidentiality and called my mom in San Antonio that the end was near and somebody should get there fast, I called Chuck, and he arranged to get my mother(flying in from Texas) and my sister (flying in from New York) who is Orthodox and somehow is better in these situations than I. He picked up my mom who arrived first and when they got to the hospital, they learned that my brother had died as her plane was landing at 6:30 PM.

Chuck had been to visit him a couple of times in the weeks before it got that bad. He later picked up my sister and he hosted the two of them overnight. He got hold of George who it turns out, had been visiting my brother earlier that day. George took my mother and sister out to eat the next day and talked about the time he spent with Fred. He helped with VA arrangements for my brother being shipped back to New York for funeral and burial, and he was the one who tracked down my brother's possessions and had them shipped free of charge to my mom later. This wouldn't have happened without Chuck's initial help in contacting him.

God bless the Storytelling Community! And God bless you, Chuck!

Sandy Pomerantz

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Mary Lee & Frank Sweet

Chuck was an amazingly well informed citizen and a truly great storyteller n the old Irish tradition. We had the good fortune of knowing him for almost ten years. He freely shared all of his stories, and his storytelling expertise has benefited and influenced tellers across our nation. His "wing" was wide, and we too enjoyed the benefit of his support and encouragement. Frank and I will miss him as a friend and a mentor. I'm sure he's on his way to the Irish Ceile (party) in Fiddler's Green.

(John Connolly)

As I roved by the dockside on evening so rare
To view the still waters and take the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing this song
O take me away boys my time is not long

Dress me up in me oilskin and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell me old shipmates
I'm taking a trip, mates
And I'll see them someday in Fiddler's Green

Now Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell
Where fishermen go when they don't go to Hell
Where the weather is fair and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away
The sky's always clear and there's never a gale
And the fish jump on board with a flip of their tail
You can lie at your leisure, there's no work to do
And the skipper's below making tea for the crew

And when you're in dock and the long trip is thru
There's pubs and there's clubs, and there's lassies there too
Now the girls are all pretty and the beer is all free
And there's bottles of rum hanging from every tree

I don't want a harp or a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a good rolling sea
And I'll play me old squeeze box as we sail along
When the wind's in the rigging to sing me this song

So long, Chuck. We'll miss you.

"So fill to me the parting glass

Good night and joy be with you all."

Mary Lee & Frank Sweet, Palm Coast, Florida

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Lois Sprengnether

I was working my way through my Inbox (Storytell filters into another folder) when I came to a message from Ina about Chuck. My 1st reaction was: WHAT! ! ! Then I flipped to the Storytell Inbox & saw this was too true. The ironic thing was that just then my CD player chose exactly that moment to give the final revived volume of Chopin's Funeral March.

Even that reminds me of Chuck as he had the best funereal version of Happy Birthday.

When he came to my library I remember approaching my library director, our storytelling group, the newspapers, & the general public by saying he was a National Treasure. He proved it easily to the largest crowd we ever received for a storytelling program. After his visit, those of our group that saw him in action KNEW what a tall tale was. Any of us who attended his coaching session saw in action the things he tried to explain about technique on STORYTELL.

The other thing that pops into my head is that I _was there!!!_ when the incident he loved to tell happened. The Michigan Storytellers Festival was held in a tent that had become dangerously overloaded with rain. Chuck was the M.C. & it fell to him to interrupt Jackie Torrance in mid-story as she sat enthroned on a piano bench. Chuck loved to talk about the importance of Para-language ... this was up to the standards of Grand Opera! LoiS (ad news may travel fast, but fond memories last)

Lois Sprengnether

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Fred Davidow

I wrote to Rabbi Fred Davidow, a member for many years of the Atlanta storytelling group about all the accolades Chuck was getting and how he went above and beyond making sure Chuck gave them a helping hand. Rabbi Davidow passed this on to me to add to the list of remembrances.

Fred has moved away to become the Rabbi in Wilkes Barre, PA. mentioning the direct critiquing that Chuck did give. Once I was with a small group of storytellers at Underground Atlanta. We were there to attract listeners who had come to Underground Atlanta for purposes other than settling down to listen to stories. I was standing up telling a story with a very small number of listeners, struggling to hold their attention against all the distractions in the marketplace. After the story was over, Chuck said to me, "Sit down to tell the story and take the pressure off yourself."

Now that's a piece of advice I have followed many times since, a piece of advice that I can trace to Chuck's astute comment. If you want to share this with others, please do so.


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I asked, "Have any of you been in the situation where you knew a loved one's time was nearing an end? What did you do? How did you approach them? What did you say?" This was Chuck's answer to me: "Yes, too many times. Celebrate their life. Talk about the fun memories by the bed side. Place their cycle of life into one of meaning. Laughter and grinning is a narcotic for pain and suffering. Hold their hands, hold onto love and acceptance of death's departure. Chuck I am struck by his words "Celebrate their life. Talk about the fun their cycle of life into one of meaning..." Chuck knew what was important in life and he was certainly a role model to many.

Blessings, Karen

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Marilyn Kinsella

Dear all,

I've had 24 hours to let the news of Chuck's passing sink in. Today I told stories all day and he was there in my stories. So, I just had to write...In 1982 when I went to Washington College for the first of many conferences that I would attend, I met Chuck and his sidekick George. Even then, Chuck did things his own way. He set a tent, as I recollect, and did not stay in the dorms (which were only a set up from camping anyway). I remember sitting in lawn chairs behind some building. There was Chuck holding court for the renegades. It was just a friendly gathering but it had its own charm. There were hidey-holes like that in the early conferences where we could go off and have our own "fringe" conference. It was there that I regaled Chuck with my famous snake tongue and eyeball trick. It was Chuck who told me to get a story with a "crazed snake" in it so I could put the two together. Yup, I found the story alright. Whenever I saw Chuck thereafter, I greeted him as Br'er Snake. He never failed to throw back his head in a throaty laugh. As the nights wore on there at the early conferences, the sweet huckleberry became a heady scent and our stories became a steady steam of pure white gold.

As evidenced by others' experiences, Chuck had a way of making you feel like you were special. While you were in his presence, he was all yours. Chuck could be harsh. He laid it on the line. But you knew he told you those things because he had your best interests at heart. If he didn't care so darn much, he would have just left you alone. I can think of many times that I saw Chuck give advice that was right on the money.

Whenever, I saw a post from Chuck, I'd read it. His writings were often masterful. He knew how to get the info out there in a concise, informative and enjoyable way - just look at one of his last posts about using a sound system. He deeply cared that we presented our stories in the best way possible. I also liked his writings on world mythology, paralanguage and humor. I can't think of Chuck without thinking of his bodacious humor. "I'd rather eat fried chicken than lie to ya!" He made me laugh, not just a giggle, but a knee-slappin' hee-haw kind of laugh that cleanses one's soul. I can't say his political leanings were mine, but you never had to second guess where he was coming from. He respectully accepted others opinions, but stuck to his own six-shooters. He was so proud of his Celtic and Southern heritage. He wore both badges proudly. It came out in his stories and his writings.

One year he came to St. Louis for our festival. I was still in the late fledgling stage and he asked me out to dinner. Me! He could have spent more time with the featured tellers, but he chose to have supper with me. He did that all the time with so many other wannabes. Always ready to take them under his wing. One time at the New Salem festival, he insisted that I tell one of his favorite stories during his session. Now, how many storytellers of his caliber have you seen do that?

And, of course, not just the storytelling community is mourning his loss. Besides his family and former co-workers, he will be missed by the folk music people. Chuck loved music. He's the only person I know that could sing in the key of "saw." Late at night at Washington College the midsummer wind carried those haunted notes to the top of the mountains where the whipporwill and hoppy toads sang three part harmony.

My last comment is that Chuck was so intelligent. He was a raconteur who could talk on a variety of subjects. I just loved to hear him get off on a subject. BTW, he was a big-time kidder. Sometimes you didn't know he was "kiddin' with ya" till it was too late. Gotcha!

So, Chuck, wherever you are...thanks for the melodies. Their haunting notes will play forever.


Marilyn A. Kinsella, Taleypo the Storyteller

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