Lawrence (Larry) Edwin Rahal (90), Test Pilot, Flight Instructor, Title Insurance Officer, tennis player, golfer, sports enthusiast, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and friend earned his eternal wings on February 3rd when he ascended to the skies for his final flight.
Larry was the only child of Mina (Seery) Bowers. His early days were spent roaming the brick streets of Arkansas City hanging out with his aunts, uncles and cousin Wayne. Larry’s family followed the work during the 30’s and 40’s and traveled between Arkansas City, KS and Canton, OH. But if you asked Larry he would say Ark City was his home.
Larry had a need for adventure even as a child. When he was 14, he made up his mind he was going to Wrigley Field to see the Chicago Cubs play. He found a summer job working at the railroad so he could make enough money to buy a ticket to the game and little extra for food. He also saved back a dime to call his mom once he got there. His mode of transportation was his thumb, sleeping on benches at bus and train stations during the nights. He made it there and back and had lots of stories to tell about that adventure. Hitch hiking then became his way to get around.
At the age of 17, Larry convinced his mother to sign the paperwork for him to join the Marines. He dropped out of school and headed for Camp Pendelton. It was 1947, WWII had ended but the U.S. still had soldiers in Guam. Larry’s job was a radio operator on board ship. When not performing his job, he was in training as a boxer. He must have been successful because he has a first place trophy in the lightweight division. Thankfully, his boxing career ended when his tour of duty ended.
After his honorable discharge from the Marines, Larry moved to Wichita to find work. He found a job and the love of his life at Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. The auburn hair, blue eyed women that caught his eye was Patricia A. Malcom who processed his job application. It must have been love at first sight because they were married three months later in May of 1952. They remained married for 68 years.
In 1954, after having their first child Robin, they loaded up their possessions, which fit in the car with the baby, and headed West. Their intended location was Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, the rumors of work there were not true. With very limited funds, they decided to continue west to California. They made it all the way to Los Angeles with a couple of dollars to spare. Larry got a job the next week and with an advance to his pay they were able to get a small apartment. While living in California, Larry and Pat had two more children, Barney and Nancy.
Larry found a career in the title insurance business that would become his profession for most of his life. But his hobby and love was flying. Larry and Pat saved up money so he could take flying lessons. When he wasn’t flying he was wishing he was flying (he actually had a license plate that said, “I wish I was flying”). On Sunday nights Larry and Pat loaded up the kids and parked at the end of the LAX runway to watchthe planes land while listening to The Shadow Knows on the radio. Flying would become a lifelong passion that he would pass down to his son and his granddaughter.
After 13 years in California and now with three children, Pat was ready to move back to Kansas to be near her family. Larry and Pat moved to Andover which would become their home community for the rest of their lives.
Larry worked in the title business most of his career except for the 10 years he spent as a test pilot for Cessna. Larry would say that being a test pilot was his dream job. He had many stories to tell of his test flying days. One time his landing gear malfunctioned in a plane that did not have a radio. To communicate, Larry dropped notes to the ground with questions that were answered with different colored flags. He made an incredible landing with minimal damage to the plane landing on the grassy area beside the runway without landing gear. Another time he had to do an emergency landing in a field barely missing the power lines. Needless to say, being a test pilot did fulfil his need for adventure, but it also caused a great deal of stress for Pat. When Cessna had a layoff, Pat considered it permanent. Larry reluctantly went back into the title business that he knew so well.
In 1994, Pat and Larry retired. They spent the next 25 years going to Mesa, Arizona every winter for 6 months. Larry was an avid tennis player. Larry and Pat had many, many friends and family in Mesa which is what kept them going every year. They treasured those friendships and the memories they made in Mesa.
Larry was the kind of dad who always wanted to play with his kids. Many an evening was spent shooting hoops in the driveway, playing touch football or a game of Sequence. Larry instilled the thrill of flying for his only son Barney. Larry was so proud of Barney being able to make a career out of flying. They took several trips together and Larry documented each one in detail. Barney and Larry also shared a love of golf. If Larry wasn’t playing a game, he was watching one. He was an encyclopedia of baseball information and loved to watch football, basketball, tennis, golf, you name it, he watched it.
In 2005, at the age of 75, Larry marched across the stage at Butler County Community College receiving his GED. It was a lifelong dream to finish high school. He received a standing ovation.
In his last 3 months, Larry flew the plane with Barney, played 18 holes of golf, and walked 2 miles. He was not going to let a little pancreatic cancer get him down.
Larry was devoted to Pat all of their 68 years of marriage. Many people have said they have never witnessed a love affair like theirs. Larry would not leave Pat’s side while she was under Hospice care the last year of her life. When she passed in July 2020, Larry was never quite the same. He missed the love of his life. Now Larry is dancing with Pat among the stars. Together forever.
Larry is survived by his three children, Robin Speer (Joe), Barney Rahal (Lois), Nancy Carroll (Barry), 7 Grandchildren, 3 1/2 Great-Grandchildren, cousins, and Dr. Pepper (cat). One of the last gifts Pat gave to Larry was the gift of a silver rescue kitty with green eyes. Larry named him Dr. Pepper. Pat said she wanted Larry to have something to take care of when she was gone. Larry and Dr. Pepper had a special bond.
Larry received excellent care from Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice which is a non-profit organization. To honor him donations can be made directly to hynesmemorial.org or to the Food Pantry at Hillside Christian Church, 8330 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67206.
Due to the pandemic, services will be private.
Posted online on February 06, 2021