Long-time friends and customers of Larry Lantz are mourning his Feb. 13 death, after a two-year bout with cancer.
Lantz, 75, worked as a barber for 48 years on the Key. His wife, Dottie, said this week that many of his customers have been contacting her after learning of his death.
They had been married more than 50 years, during which time his sense of humor enabled them to share many laughs.
Putting smiles on people’s faces, she said, “was one of his things to do.”
Lantz started out as a barber in 1956, in the shopping center on Old Stickney Point Road where the Crescent Beach Grocery stands. He spent the last 12 years of his career on the Key at The Village Barber, in Siesta Center on Ocean Boulevard.
About 18 months ago, he left that shop and went to work as a barber on Constitution Avenue.
“He was a great guy,” Pete Sparks, owner of The Village Barber, said this week. Sparks and Lantz worked together for 20 years.
When customers come into the shop and learned of Lantz’ death, Sparks said, they have been shocked.
“He always had a story, but he’d spice it up a little more,” Sparks said of Lantz, adding that Lantz, perhaps, was best known for the succinct conclusion to most of his tales: “It don’t matter now.”
Lantz also had a wealth of information about the history of Siesta Key from having worked so long on the island.
“It’s too bad he didn’t write it down years ago,” Sparks said.
Sparks added, “He’s going to be missed by a lot of people, that’s for sure … We could tell all kinds of stories on him, but that would take forever.”
Lantz used to joke with Sparks and fellow barber Scott Reich — Sparks’ stepson — about what they would find to “yell at (him) about today.”
Asked if he had a favorite story about Lantz, Reich said, “That would be all of ’em … We worked 3 or 4 feet apart for 12 years.”
Reich said he and Sparks used to tease Lantz, telling him “he’s older than the asphalt” on the Key.
He and Lantz became even closer after Hurricane Charley left a swath of destruction across the area in 2005, Reich said. With the shop closed Mondays, they would head out to the Longino Ranch, owned by Berryman T. “Buster” Longino, to help clean up debris and get things reorganized.
Longino was known for his innovation in land-management techniques on the 8,000 acres in the eastern part of Sarasota County, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“He didn’t have very much help for the amount of property he had,” Reich added.
Thanks to Lantz’ joking, Reich said, the work went quickly.
“I think about him every day,” Reich said of Lantz.
The memorial service for Lantz took place Feb. 24, at Pine Shores Presbyterian Church, in Sarasota. Along with his wife, Dottie, Lantz is survived by a son, Jamey; a daughter, Penny; and a granddaughter, Krystal, whom Lantz and his wife were raising.