Larry Enlow, the silver-haired accordion-playing fixture in Gulfport and co-owner of local arts nonprofit The Enroy Foundation Inc., died Saturday night, September 11, after a breakthrough battle with COVID.
Enlow, who was born and raised in Atlanta, left behind his wife and musical partner of 38 years, Maureen Kilroy, along with a whole community of people who will remember him as family.
“He housed the needy, fed the souls of every person he touched and gave everything he had to anyone who needed it,” said Caroline Duvoe, who heads Abstract Art for Autism. “It makes me so angry at those that care more about their ego than how they infect others who do not deserve to die because of their ignorance.”
After a lifetime as traveling musicians with a firm foot in Atlanta, the couple relocated to Gulfport in 2013, where Enlow lived with Kilroy – who was paralyzed in an accident that same year – in their iconic colorful Gulfport home.
“What was he like? Mischievous, silly, charismatic, generous to a fault, expansive, a profound believer in social justice and non-violence, a great hugger, an encourager, the least sexist man you could ever meet, more of an intellectual than he appeared, occasionally testy and curmudgeonly,” Kilroy wrote of Larry. “He loved celebrating every occasion with champagne, and sometimes his killer margaritas.”
It was in Enlow’s Gulfport-based second life that he and Kilroy started the Enroy Foundation to help support the arts community, lead the Gulfport Swamp Opera – a band that plays homage to the music of the bayou – and personally lent a hand to many local artists.
He was a zydeco dancer, a member of the Nobody’s Business contra dance band and sported his Cajun accordion in the Atlanta Swamp Opera before the Gulfport version was born.
“He played a little hammered dulcimer, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, bass, and percussion, but his greatest love was the Cajun accordion,” Kilroy wrote.
“The music…it conveys the emotion of the Cajun people and that’s maybe why Larry loved it,” fellow musician Bruce Waters said. “Larry and Maureen embraced me like family.”
Touched by Kindness
The list of people Enlow impacted during his nearly 10 years in Gulfport is immense.
“The thing that always struck me about Larry was the vast openness of his heart and his genuine desire to be a help to others,” said James Briggs, owner of Gulfport-based arts agency Carroway + Rose. “It takes a lot of courage to open one’s heart to a community like he did and we’ll see the fruits of his and Maureen’s wonderful offerings across Gulfport for a long time. He was a magical man.”
“He was a huge part of my recovery and without the support, encouragement, inspiration I would not be who I am today,” said photographer Larry Busby. ”He took strays like me that needed a helping hand and, without naming names, I am not the only one. There are many others that I know…that he has helped over the years.”
Gulfport artist Tom Pitzen, creator of the Gulfport Waterfront District sign, remembers a time Enlow pulled him out of a dark and desperate spot in 2017.
Pitzen had just completed his “big yellow submarine” float for the GeckoFest parade and was flat broke with mortgage due after a commission fell through.
“It was a low point for me. I chopped up the float into bits and put it in the trash; I felt totally unsupported…was acting like a crazy artist,” he said. “So Larry pulls up on his bike, and asks what art I have for sale…He buys a few things, which I price at $1,800, and he says ‘I’ll give you $2,500 if you bring it by and install it today.’ I think he got wind that I was having a really hard time.”
At the time, Pitzen barely knew Enlow aside from seeing him – normally wearing tie-dye and a smile – and Kilroy at local art events.
Musician and Swamp Opera guitar player Waters lived with Enlow and Kilroy for five months after finding himself in Gulfport for the winter with nowhere to stay.
A traveling artist himself, Waters and the couple hit it off after meeting on the street outside the Gulfport Casino in 2017 and discovering they had the same ear for Cajun sound.
“When I didn’t have a place to stay, Larry took me in with no questions asked,” Waters said. “They helped other people before they would help themselves sometimes. Larry always told me ‘What you give to an artist you get back tenfold.’”
“When ArtJones Open Studio Tour was just a thought in my mind…this guy Larry Enlow caught wind of it and called to offer money to ArtJones to help fund the artists,” said Brenda McMahon, owner of Brenda McMahon Ceramics & Gallery. “We went from strangers to friends and I, to great admirers of them both.”
Nearly everyone who talks about Enlow mentions his and Kilroy’s semi-regular backyard concerts that would bring 50 to 60 people into their home for a barefoot party.
With lineups of local bands, and sometimes out-of-town friends such as well known folk group Rising Appalachia, the Gulfport home was transformed into a venue where artists could make a little extra coin, and locals could enjoy the music.
“It was really special for everyone,” Waters said. “He knew how to make people feel good.”
“It’s hard to believe he’s not going to be with us anymore,” Pitzen said. “I feel sad for the new artists; they’re going to miss that type of support. We lost a big one, and not a lot of people out there are like Larry.”
Longtime friend Donna Sullivan shared her memories to Larry and Maureen directly: “I hear your legs bells and see your smile as you and friends…danced in my garden in Decatur…You brought fun wherever you went. My mother was so grateful to both you and Maureen when, many years ago, she was down on her luck and you guys, without asking, loaned her a large amount of money which she paid back with joy in her heart. Mom passed away in March of this year and I can see the two of you hamming it up inside the heavenly gates. I look forward to hearing your music in my dreams.”
Publisher’s note: I first met Larry when I was a Gabber reporter, and my job that particular Saturday was to get an “exciting” photograph of the citywide garage sale. I cruised the streets, looking for such excitement. In front of a home I once owned, I stopped – the home (badly in need of TLC when I’d sold it some years back) had transformed. The yard was lush, and the signs of the home locals now know as Larry and Maureen’s guest place were starting to show. The couple emerged from somewhere in the depths of the foliage, playing music and singing. It wasn’t for me – they were playing for themselves, and loving every second. I stopped and watched, transfixed. That was the first time I’d met either of them, but our lives would intersect. Larry and Maureen helped the Gulfport Historical Society with the Gulfport Arts Center, programmed the Pop-up Dance Parties and donated to get the Gabber back in print. He told me once he would bring the paper more money “as soon as he could.” Larry, I told him, you’ve done so much, we don’t expect more. But, just as he and Maureen played for themselves the first time I met them, Larry, I suspect, donated so much to so many because he expected it of himself. Gulfport is a little less Gulfport without Larry, and the best way we can honor him is to bury him not in the ground, but in our hearts, and keep his loving, gentle spirit alive through us. Thank you, Larry Enlow. We’re better for knowing you and for you having loved us. – Cathy
The Gabber received far more memories and kind words about Larry than we could publish here. Please feel free to share your memories of Larry with this post on Facebook, and we will make sure they get to his family. Memorial plans for Larry are in the works. The Gabber will have updates as those details become available.