Laurence Herbert Scott (1933-2005)

A drawing by “El”

I think it was the spring of 2002. I started chatting online with a fella in one of those bear chat rooms.

Boy he had a way with words. All these delightful expressions and vim. Laurence was overly complimentary and quick to offer an ear or lend advice.

We moved to writing letters and phone calls. His voice boomed over the receiver with authority laced with self-deprication. A charming character, all around.

A lover of gardens he said I must come visit Ann Arbor, to see the (insert flowers) in bloom.

That fall I planned a trip to a lake house in Canada and a visit was entirely possible—a nice break in the jaunt actually.

So after 5 hours on rainy roads, I remember pulling into the driveway of the house he shared with his partner of over 30 years—who happened to be an excellent cook. After some quick introductions and to verify I had no food allergies, Gerry tended to dinner and Laurence gave me a tour of the place—packed neatly with books and art hanging on what seemed to be every square inch of the walls.

He hung with the beatniks. Made drawings for the New Yorker. Protested, well… everything (and had buttons for it.) He knew people with names I should’ve known.

And after dinner as I sat there digesting absolutely everything around me, I could not shake that I was privy to greatness.

I left after brunch the next day and as I walked to my car, Laurence stood there waving in the shadow of his front door. That was the last and only time I would see him.

Our friendship strengthened from that visit. We chatted and phoned and wrote even more. He’d send classical music I should know. He’d send cards of prints he’d made. He’d call whenever his computer was being difficult. And he’d tell me I must come visit again.

I said I would, and I meant it.

But I noticed late spring of this year, an unusual silence. So I called. I wrote. And there was nothing for me to do but think the worst.

I did my best hand at research online and could not unearth anything.

Until tonight.

I found out that Laurence passed away in June.

Now I’m reeling between tears, anger, and memories.

Laurence Herbert Scott

Scott, Laurence Herbert Ann Arbor, MI Laurence Herbert Scott was born in Detroit, Michigan to Harry and Lillian (Eder) Scott on November 17, 1933. He died on June 13, 2005. He grew up in Ann Arbor and graduated from Ann Arbor High School and the University of Michigan. He received an M.A. from Harvard and did further studies there in Slavic languages. At Harvard he was a tutor at Lowell House and he later taught at M.I.T.

While in Cam bridge, he started a small press that printed broadsides of poems by Ezra Pound, W.H. Auden, Robert Lowell, and Allen Gingsberg. He also printed and worked in long, close relationships with the poets Marianne Moore and James Merrill. In later years he designed gardens, was on the Dean Fund, and was very active in Gay-Feminist politics.

For the last 25 years he has been a consultant to Abby Rockefeller and represented her company Clivus Multrum in Canada and Michigan. Laurence was interested in preserving and enhancing the environment both locally and globally. Poet, artist, gourmand and gardener extraordinaire, Laurence was fluent in eight languages. He delighted in words and images.

Laurence was a loyal friend, adored by many, who will miss his wide intellect, startling wit, eclectic interests and passion ate joie de vivre. He is survived by his life partner of 35 years Dr. Gerald G. Naylor, and his brother Burton (Dedi), nieces and nephews.

14 responses to “Laurence Herbert Scott (1933-2005)”

  1. dave @ radio free newport Avatar

    Sorry for your loss, Chris. That was a beautiful send-off. The obit is incredible, he must have been an amazing guy.

  2. angie Avatar

    chris – i’m sorry to hear of the passing of your friend. i know you’ll keep the memories of your meeting with you, always. it obviously made an impact on him as well. he seemed like quite the character and a good person. angie

  3. A.J. Avatar

    a sweet slice in your life… obviously a choice man, and friend. his memory will comfort you…

  4. Sean Avatar

    Hey Chris–So sorry to hear of this. The memory and pain in your words come through. All I can say is be gentle with yourself and be patient. There is great joy and amazing wonder in the people we are lucky to call friends. There is also great sadness and deep sorrow when they die. My condolences on your loss.

  5. Frank Avatar

    I was wondering why I hadn’t heard his rich sexy voice in so long, and now I know. Bearhugs Chris.

  6. yuri Avatar

    Thank you for putting in words what I feel in my heart, since my fingers went suddenly numb. I just learned about the passing of Laurence, my mentor and friend.

  7. Eddie Avatar

    I met Laurence in the early 80’s and visited his home he shared with Gerry many times. I married, moved away from Ann Arbor in 1991, and raised a family. The times I shared with Laurence and Gerry were some of the most unique experiences of my life. One of those was when he read Russian aloud to a few of us–I will never forget how rhythmical the language sounded as he spoke. I have just now learned of his death and this saddens me greatly. He was without a doubt the most unique person I have ever met in my life.

  8. Ralph Fertig Avatar
    Ralph Fertig

    Years after Laurence died, I just googled him and found this sad post. I had sent him my Holiday card every year since I spent time with him in the 1960s, but wondered why I had heard nothing in reply for a few years. I feared the worst and just now read your thoughtful writing.
    I have rich memories of time together in Ann Arbor where I was a graduate student and worked for 4 years, plus I visited him in Cambridge MA. I have a number of excellent drawings from him, plus photos and a WH Auden collection of poems that he illustrated and published.
    Laurence was indeed a consumate genius who shared his life so generously with everybody. I’m glad Chris that you had the opportunity to meet him. We are all richer for having shared life’s hours with Laurence Scott.

  9. Mark Avatar

    Laurence was one of the more interesting people I’ve ever met and had a positive influence on me in my Ann Arbor years and beyond. I stumbled in the obit – nice send off to a great person.

  10. Joshua Avatar

    Thank you, Chris. I knew Laurence during my undergraduate years in Ann Arbor. He was always a hoot and a great inspiration. He taught me to garden and expect more out of life. Your post about your time with him brought me to tears. Thank you!

  11. stephen israel Avatar
    stephen israel

    It was september 2nd 1971, I was 17 years old and just arrived in Boston from my hometown of Hong Kong. It was 8am in the morning and I was standing on Mass Ave in front of MIT hitch hiking down to Harvard Square. A blue mercedes-benz pulled up driven by 40 something year old man. He had a thick red beard and long red hair and was wearing a blue Mao suit with a button of the Chairman on his label. I climbed into the front seat of the car next to him, there was indonesian gamelon music playing from a eight track tape cartridge. “Where are you going he queried?” “Harvard yard” I replied. “You a student there?” he asked. “Yes, a freshman” I answered. “Where are you from” he asked…”Hong Kong” I responded. In perfect mandarin chinese he asked if i spoke chinese…and i answered yes. With a great big laugh he said..” well I am taking you to breakfast this’s your lucky day” He handed me a well rolled joint of marijuana which had a handwritten label (RADICAL LESBIAN BRAND)”I am Professor Scott” he thundered, “but you can call me Chairwoman Mao” That’s how I first met Lawrence Scott… I knew him for next 34 years…

  12. nick pearson Avatar
    nick pearson

    I’m not at all surprised to read all of these testaments to Laurence’s unique genius and generosity of spirit. I had fist read Chris’ moving remembrance some years ago before there were more than a few comments. Now there are many as befits the extraordinary, bigger-than-life person that Laurence was. I first met him in the summer of 1966 in Cambridge at a tiny French bistro on Massachusetts Avenue near Harvard. The following decades would be a good subject for a book. Laurence certainly deserves a book, probably more than one book. He was the one true modern-day renaissance man I have known. Among his countless talents: linguist, horticulturalist, master mimic, master cook, superb letter writer, collector of friends, lover of great music, mentor to many, lover of many, excellent artist. In addition to all of these talents, and as others above have often mentioned prominently, Laurence was a devoted friend, never put off when one was in a temporary bad mood. That quality was what most endeared him.

  13. Eddie Avatar

    Nick Pearson–I remember Laurence talking about you several times. I met him in the early 80s and kept in touch until I left Ann Arbor in 91. I posted here under Eddie on October 26, 2007.

  14. Danny Gray Avatar
    Danny Gray

    I met Laurence on an Amtrak train heading into Seattle in the summer of 1992. I was a troubled youth, 25 years old, and had taken a break from riding my bicycle around the United States to catch a train from Kalispell Montana to Seattle, before continuing on my bicycle south. Laurence and I kept in touch for awhile. I visited him and his partner in Ann Arbor Michigan, probably in 1993. He took photographs of me, and I remember being taken to a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright home belonging to friends of his. I felt a little overwhelmed by all of his talents and interests. One weekend he waited for me at the train station in Ann Arbor at the time I had said I would arrive from Chicago. But I had selfishly gotten drunk and failed to show up or call. I was ashamed of myself, and we did not speak again. He had given me a copy of Hadrian’s Memoirs by Yourcenair. Now, 23 years later, I have finally penetrated this most beautiful novel, am about fifty pages from the end. It was inscribed by Laurence to me in December 1992. Thank you Laurence, for befriending a troubled youth and pointing him in the direction of greatness. I am sorry we did not enjoy many more years of friendship. Danny Gray (Davis, CA)