CHESHIRE, Mass. – Hundreds of community members Friday gathered at Hoosac Valley High School to celebrate the life of Mike Larabee.
The best way to honor him is to follow in his footsteps, they were told.
“Please join our family in living like Pa,” his daughter-in-law Emily said. “Do the right thing and be there for your people, even when it’s not easy. Work hard. Smile big. Volunteer and give back to your community. Remember to take the time to do the things you love.
“Be a role model for a child who needs it. Be blunt, but be kind. And most importantly, love and protect those around you fiercely.”
Larabee died unexpectedly last week at age 62 after building a legacy of community service that touched generations in the athletic community and beyond in Adams and Cheshire.
Fittingly, his memorial service was held in the high school gymnasium, where Larabee was perhaps most visible as a long-time coach for the Hurricanes boys basketball program.
Friday’s memorial, including a poignant slide show, highlighted Larabee’s many passions, including farming, fishing and, most importantly, family.
But there were plenty of references to his career as a coach at every level of youth sports.
“He was the big brother I never had,” Bill Robinson said. “He was a second father to every kid in this community. He took care of everyone. That’s Mike.”
Robinson was Larabee’s long-time collaborator on the sidelines. Larabee served as an assistant coach under Robinson for both his head coaching stints and served as head coach in between Robinson’s tenures.
He recalled the title game of the 2016 Western Massachusetts tournament, when fifth-seeded Hoosac Valley won a sectional crown against second-seeded Easthampton at Curry Hicks Cage at UMass-Amherst.
“As usual, we hugged each other,” Robinson said. “This time, we hugged a little longer than usual because we were both crying – not just because we won but because we realized we took a group of young men and pushed them beyond their limits, out of their comfort zones.
“Before we broke our hug, Mike looked at me and said, ‘Boy, coach, we’re soft.’ “
Robinson apologized before he spoke Friday because he knew he would not be able to look his audience in the eye but would have to look down for most of his speech, lest he not be able to get through it. And at several points, the fiery coach appeared on the verge of tears.
Robinson said that when he heard the news of Larabee’s death, it was the first time he cried since sharing some tears with his dear friend after their last Western Mass triumph together in 2020.
“He touched me as he touched so many of you,” Robinson said. “He made me a better person, a better coach, a better human being.
After the planned speakers took their turn at the podium, master of ceremonies Tim Morey invited any of the other attendees to offer some words. Pat Ryan took him up on the offer, sharing how Mike and Lynn Larabee made him feel like their son and their children made him feel like a sibling.
“One time I asked him, ‘Mike, why did you have so many kids?’ “ Ryan said. “He said, ‘It gives me five chances to have a pro athlete.’ And it’s true. He pushed every kid in the gym as much as he did his own kids.
Mike and Lynn’s daughter, Kayli Manning, said her father appreciated the love of his Adams-Cheshire family, including the hundreds of families he touched as a coach in football, baseball and basketball.
“He was proud of all the relationships that you all built over the years,” Manning said. “He was proud of his friendships on and off the court. He was so proud of the kids he coached and watched grow up over the years. He’s proud of our family and extended family that continues to grow.
“He was proud of my mother, who has given everything to our family. He was incredibly proud of all of us, me and my brothers. He lived and breathed for us. … I think it can go without saying that the greatest moments of his life and the ones that made him the most proud were the ones with his 12 grandchildren. They were his world. He was always there to coach them, watch them, play with them, hug them and love them unconditionally.
“While our children were only able to spend a small amount of time with him, I find comfort knowing that the community of friends and family that my dad has built over the years will continue to keep his memory for them.”
More Adams Stories
- Veterans Make Memorial Day Trek to War Memorial
- Lenox Tops Lee for Western Mass Title
- Adams Increases Transfer Station, Cemetery Fees
- Mount Greylock Girls, Boys Too Swift for Field at Western Mass
- Adams Elks Lodge Sold to Developer With North Adams Properties
- Adams Fire District May Expand to Entire Town