Larry Lawrence La’Verne Colbert died April 7, 2021.
Known by many as the “Mayor of Hawthorne,” Mr. Colbert spent more than 50 years living on
or near Portland’s colorful boulevard, witnessing its many changes. But life started far away.
Born January 27, 1936, La’Verne spent his earliest years in Hawk Point, Missouri, until hard
times uprooted his family, sending them west to Vanport, Oregon in 1945.
His parents, who had found employment in the wartime shipbuilding effort, spent some terrified hours trying to locate La’Verne and his brothers during the catastrophic Vanport flood of 1948. That morning they had given the boys 50 cents for a movie and snacks at the Vanport theater, then taken daughter Judy for a car ride. The boys sprung instead for a bus ride to a Portland theater, which left them each five cents for a coke, plus the fare home to a safe reunion.
La’Verne attended Cleveland High School, participating in Junior Achievement, playing clarinet
in the band, enjoying weight lifting, and running track with classmate Phil Knight. During his
junior and senior years he also served in the Army National Guard. He graduated in 1955.
From 1955 – 59, La’Verne served in the U.S. Air Force in radio maintenance, including 30
months in Korea and Okinawa. Following discharge, he worked at Osborne Electronics and as a
switchman and brakeman for the Burlington Northern Railroad. From 1962 – 68 he worked at
Glaser Bros. as a shipping and receiving clerk and warehouseman, and from 1968 – 78 he
installed fences for many different companies. The bulk of his working life, from 1978 – 2007, he spent with the U.S. Postal Service.
He was married to Mary E. Rudat from 1971 to 1974.
La’Verne purchased a large home near Hawthorne Boulevard’s Bagdad Theater in 2002. He
stacked its shelves with books on old movies and movie stars and crammed the walls with
framed portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, whose music was known to drift through
his window on summer days, along with other favorites from the 1950s.
He liked to linger over coffee at Fred Meyer, making friends with strangers. Around the neighborhood, and in his widely-circulated Christmas letters, La’Verne was known for making humor out of life’s hard times and hardships. He was also quick to put a hand out to help folks who were down on their luck.
He died of heart failure at Providence Portland Medical Center. He was 85 years old.
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