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Larry Groom retires from law enforcement
TULALIP — During his nearly 40-year career in law enforcement, Larry Groom made friends whenever he went.
As he officially retired from that career on Aug. 26, enough of those friends joined him to fill the old gym on the Tulalip Tribal Reservation.
Although Groom isn’t Native American, he’s felt so welcomed by the Tribes during his time as the school resource officer for the Tulalip Police Department that he considers them part of his extended family.
Judging by the packed crowds at his retirement dinner, that feeling is mutual.
Tulalip Police Chief Jay Goss served as the emcee for the evening, summing up Groom as a man who’s always cared about children and found strength and direction in his deep Christian faith. His faith has helped Groom keep going after being diagnosed more than a year ago with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
“He’ll offer you counsel as a chaplain or as a friend,” said Goss, who added that, in spite of the variety of law enforcement ranks and titles Groom has held over the years, “Some of you probably don’t know him through any law enforcement capacity at all. He’s just dedicated to loving his fellow man and looking for the best in everyone.”
Idaho State Trooper Kevin Bennett was just a little boy when he first met Groom, who inspired his own law enforcement career.
“He made me my first badge 30 years ago,” said Bennett, who held up the handmade badge for the audience to see, before he drew laughter from the crowd by telling them that Groom had advised him to become an attorney instead.
Tulalip Tribal Vice Chair Glen Gobin recalled how Groom was accepted “almost overnight” by the Tribal community. He then recounted how Groom, who made a point of sharing encouraging words and pieces of scripture with Tribal members who had lost loved ones, momentarily lost his composure when he tried to speak after the passing of Gobin’s mother.
“The next day, I got a letter on my desk from him, apologizing for not being able to be strong during a difficult time,” Gobin said. “What I saw instead was a man with so much love and compassion and sincerity that he was overwhelmed.”
Former Heritage High School Principal Martha Fulton and former Tulalip Elementary Principal Teresa Iyall-Williams both praised Groom for supporting them when they needed it, while Marysville-Pilchuck High School student Brad Althoff shared the lessons he’d learned from Groom as a Police Explorer.
“I love him,” Althoff said. “He taught me to do your best in everything you do, and to life your life, because it goes by fast.”
Steve Baltazar is old enough to have gray hair now, but he still remembers when Groom served as his foster parent.
“I consider him my father,” Baltazar said. “He turned my life around. When I was a teenager, he would take me camping and I’d say, ‘Where’s the McDonald’s?’ Now I love going camping with my own family.”
Terrence Charles, a former gang member who stepped up to the podium in crutches, is an ex-gang member who had no interest in being befriended by a police officer when he first met Groom in Seattle.
“What I did and what he did were two different things,” said Charles, whose tongue-in-cheek remarks were frequently met with laughter from the audience. “He asked me for my phone number, like I was going to give that to a cop. The next time we met, he said, ‘Hey, you gave me a fake phone number.’ We found out that we did have something in common, though, because he’s a Christian man. He got me to tell my story to young people. I never thought I’d have a cop as a friend, but he’s been like a father figure to me.”
When Groom himself finally spoke, he quoted football coach Lou Holtz and urged those listening to “always do what is right” and to maintain a winning attitude in order to succeed.
“I didn’t know I knew this many people,” Groom said at the end of his remarks.