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Local Hero

Kīhei’s Larry Crilley is a lifesaver.

June 17, 2010
Scott Broadbent

Kīhei’s Larry Crilley is all of the above.

A firefighter for 10 years on Maui and 15 years in New York City, Larry was honored with the “Guardian of Life” award earlier this year for pulling an unconscious man from the water in Tavares Bay, reviving him and stabilizing him until paramedics arrived. Larry, who was assisted that day by wife Marcy, a trained nurse, was off-duty at the time. The award was presented by Mayor Charmaine Tavares at a County Fire and Public Safety Commission meeting. 

In typical fashion, Larry said that what he did was “nothing out of the ordinary. Every firefighter would have done the same. I just happened to be the one that was there.”

Article Photos

Kīhei Firefighter Larry Crilley was honored for saving the life of a California man at Tavares Bay. Pictured (left to right) are Maui Fire Chief Jeffrey Murray, Crilley, Mayor Charmaine Tavares and Maui Fire Commission Chair Butch Soares.

The swimmer was glad he was. The California man recovered fully and made a special visit back to Maui to seek out Larry and thank him for saving his life.

“He was definitely dead that day,” said Larry. “The doctors told him he would have had brain damage if he had been in the water another 30 seconds.”

Like so many, Larry and Marcy discovered Maui while on vacation and made it their mission to live here in 1992. Even then, there was a shortage of nurses and Marcy was immediately hired at Maui Memorial Medical Center (MMMC). They rented a home in Kīhei, and for the next five years, Larry “commuted” to the Big Apple. Under a special arrangement, he worked as a fireman in New York every day for two months, then returned to Maui for four months off. In 1995, son Mack was born at MMMC.

But in 1997, Larry and Marcy realized the arrangement had run its course. “I hadn’t seen my son for three months. He didn’t know who I was,” said Larry. “I walked right into my captain and crew and said ‘Fellas, I’m going home.’” Within weeks, the three of them were on Maui to stay.

Despite repeatedly being told that getting hired as a firefighter in Kīhei would be “impossible,” Larry was determined. He took a job facilitating a parenting class at Women Helping Women, took the firefighter’s examination and eventually was hired at the Kīhei station to start back up the ladder as a “probie,” or (probationary fireman). He has been there ever since.

South Maui residents are glad he is. Larry is a fixture at community events, setting up tables and dishing out chili and rice. For years, he has coached soccer, little league baseball, basketball and Pop Warner football in Kīhei. He has volunteered as a trainer, a referee and an umpire.

Clearly uncomfortable with the “H-Word,” Larry said he volunteers to support his colleagues.

“The guys are very involved,” he said. “Scott Martin and Rod Quintana work with youth groups at St Theresa’s Church; Jeff Robson, Angus Peters, Shane Dudoit and Carleton Long coach all different sports; and Matt Kinoshita teaches kids to surf. Some coach sports and others coach the kids’ souls.”

Larry is known for a few distinct characteristics. You can’t miss his New York accent and he admits he was born with a higher volume setting than most.

“You always know where Coach Larry is,” said Luke Broadbent, 14, [the author’s son] who has played football and baseball for Crilley. “His soft voice is louder than the other coach’s yelling voices.”

Larry’s booming “Go Kīhei!” cheer has reverberated through virtually every baseball and football field on Maui.

But he betrays his rough exterior and his voice chokes when he talks about his colleagues. “They’re a great bunch of men and women,” he said. “If I was in trouble, there would be a line of them to help.”

As proud as Larry is of his colleagues and his community, there is one subject that really makes him beam. Recently, he said, son Mack, now 14, “made his first rescue,” indicating he expects there will be more.

While enjoying a day at Mākena Beach, Mack noticed a swimmer in distress. Utilizing his two years of Junior Lifeguard training, Mack signaled his buddy that he was going out to assist, grabbed his boogie board, paddled out to the swimmer, got him on the board and brought him safely to shore.

“He followed his training to the letter,” said Larry. “I guess he is a chip off the old block.”



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