Laurence Henry Hall was born in England in 1908. The Selbits, his birth parents, were vaudevillians who traveled internationally. The facts are unclear but we know he was adopted as an infant by the Halls, his adopted mother died and he left home at age 14 to live with the family of his best friend. When Larry was 18 and that family decided to move to Canada, Larry longed to go with them. He had no money for passage. Active in the Anglican Church, his local priest, hearing of his plight, paid his way. Thus started Larry’s life-long relationship with the Episcopal Church; they became his family.
In Windsor, Canada, he joined and became a Captain in the Anglican Church Army, dedicated to serving others. In 1937, he was assigned to St. Barnabas Mission in the poverty-stricken West End of Cincinnati, initially to aid victims of the great Ohio River flood. Larry engaged the help of some of the “street kids” in the venture and grew to love them. The kids loved Larry and his wife, Sadie (also in the Church Army), in return. The Halls recognized the need to give the kids a respite from poverty and the intense summer heat. They took action; Camp Joy was born. And what a joy it was for the kids!
The kids affectionately called Larry “Cap” – short for Captain. Cap and Sadie had a master’s touch for working with them; they nurtured the campers and gave each child individual attention. Cap made sure that no child felt the way he had felt as an abandoned orphan. They saw to it that the kids had a chance to be kids and simply have fun! Cap and Sadie’s love and service impacted and changed the trajectory of more lives than can ever be tallied – and continues to do so.
On a personal note, in 1941 Larry was called to serve Christ Episcopal Church on Sycamore Street in Cincinnati, following his tenure at St. Barnabas. In 1944 he became an ordained Episcopal priest; he served seven parishes throughout his career. In 1967, he was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Yale University. And Sadie was faithfully by his side through it all, partnering, participating, loving and encouraging every step of the way.
Larry Hall was a talented musician, magician an, public orator. Congregations flocked to hear him when he preached, as he utilized those skills during his sermons. He was invited to speak at social gatherings of various venues such as Rotary Clubs, luncheons, etc. and the word quickly spread. He was soon in great demand. Father Hall became known as the “clerical Bob Hope,” and was one of the top ten most popular after-dinner speakers in the United States.
Cap undertook this laugh-ministering ministry, along with his clerical ministry, to enhance his purpose of love and service. His forte was humor; some of the titles of his talks included, “He Who Laughs, Lasts” and “Make Use of Your Funny Bone.” He had a way of putting life in perspective and seeing things with a sense of humor, which served to help folks gain strength to go back and face the challenges of life with a renewed perspective. As Cap once told an audience, “Humor is like a shock absorber – it absorbs the bumps of life and smooths out the road!” He cautioned, “If you go around with a chip on your shoulder, people may think it came from the block above.” J
A plethora of former parishioners from Cap’s parishes were interviewed. To a person, they each effused about Larry and Sadie, with love and affection. Adjectives such as personality plus, funny, kind, considerate, generous, down to Earth, comfortable as an old shoe, loved, amazing speaker, multi-talented, endearing, magical, charming, charismatic and loving were shared – and that’s just to name a few of the heartfelt and sincere accolades spoken on their behalf. They left heart prints on every life they touched – including the lives of their son, Larry and their grandson, Trevor. Are Cap and Sadie Camp Whisperers? Trevor operates a summer camp for teens in Washington that offers opportunities for turning points and “direct, human and transformational impact.” Shades of Joy! The proverbial apple does not fall far from the tree.
It is truly a disservice to attempt to do justice to these two larger-than life-people in the minimal space allotted here. Suffice it to say, Larry and Sadie were “the real thing.” They didn’t just talk about love and service – they lived it – they breathed it – they gave it. They brought joy to everyone they met. And they brought abundant joy to underprivileged children by their founding of Camp Joy.
And that same joy continues to abound today – you hear it in the laughter of kids playing and swimming and running and forgetting about “real life” for a while. You see it in the hopeful eyes of the children as they look up to the counselors as folks who care. You feel it – well, that’s a truly indescribable feeling. You will know it when you feel it. (We’d welcome you to do so. Please pay us a visit; our doors are open. Just sign in and get clearance first, please. Safety for our campers is of utmost importance to us. And if you can’t make it, you can read some of our 80th Anniversary Joy impact stories and then close your eyes and imagine!)
And to think it all began with one “beautiful-inside-and-out” couple, Sadie and Larry Hall. They started where they were, using what they had, to do what they could. Thank you Halls, for being amazing human beings. Thank you, Halls, for Camp Joy, and the lives you have touched and changed – who went on to touch and change others lives…and the cycle continues ceaselessly! We love you and we are forever grateful, Cap and Sadie. We hope somehow you know your lives made a lasting, endurable and eternal difference. What a legacy! May you both rest in peace.
PS: If you’d like to read about how the life of a camper was impacted at the original Camp Joy by Cap and Sadie, please see 80 Stories of Joy’s Frank Wetenkamp story: