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Groom retires from Tulalip Tribal Police
TULALIP — For two years after his ailing health forced him to retire from his full-time duties as the School Resource Officer for the Tulalip Tribal Police Department and the Marysville School District, Larry Groom was still able to put in part-time hours in his former position, but on Friday, July 26, he left the job for good due to his worsening condition.
"The very next week after I'd retired, Jay asked me if I'd come back on a part-time basis," Groom said of Jay Goss, who was the chief of the Tulalip Tribal Police Department at the time. "After the first month, I went from five to four days a week. A while after that, I was working three days a week, then eventually two, and for the last several months, I've only been able to work two half-days each week. It's just gotten harder and harder."
Groom was diagnosed three years ago with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease," but he found the strength to keep going from his desire to continue his nearly 40-year career in law enforcement, as well as his love of the many children he's befriended in his role. And for a while after his retirement, the deterioration of his health leveled off, but his latest six-month medical checkup confirmed that his illness had grown more severe recently.
"When I was originally diagnosed, one lung was already gone and the other was only functioning at 36 percent," Groom said. "I've had aches and pains throughout, but I've lost even more of my remaining lung function lately. I have a machine at night that works like the reverse of a sleep apnea machine, to help pull the air out of my lungs so that they can open up and inhale more air. When I'm not on the job, I walk with a cane or a walker, or I get around on a scooter, which helps with my back and legs, since they're getting weaker."
Still, Groom is able to look back fondly on a law enforcement career that's included stints as the chief of police of two cities, as well as working with federal investigations, customs and the DEA. None of that, however, is what he'll miss the most after he turns in his uniform and equipment.
"What I'll miss the most is the kids," said Groom, who's mentored countless children over the decades, many of them now adults with children of their own. "The Tulalip Indian Reservation has become my home. They've accepted me very well, in spite of my being an ugly old white guy," he laughed.
Tulalip Tribal member Patrick Reeves was still a teenager when he first met Groom seven years ago.
"He came up to me and asked me to join the Police Explorers, and we've kept in touch ever since," said Reeves, who now has a daughter and works in maintenance for the Tulalip Tribes. "That academy was hard, but Larry kept me in. He was always there for me. If I was having hard times, he'd stop by or bring me lunch. He's just a really good guy. No matter what you're going through, he'll be there to help you any way he can."
"I just want to thank this community for trusting me with their children," said Groom, who still hopes to continue serving as the Tulalip Tribal Police Department's chaplain. "And I want to thank the Marysville School District for allowing me to work with them as their School Resource Officer."