He's the one with the hair.
In 1982, Larry Sohrweid and his twin brother, Gary, had a meeting of the minds deciding that, if they were to live in the same area and work in the same school district in similar occupations, they’d need to differentiate themselves.
They looked alike and had a shared sense of humor. Both taught art in Evergreen schools. Both had married other Jeffco teachers. And both wore Western clothing.
“My daughters suggested I could look different from Gary, so I took on wearing khakis and regular shoes rather than Western clothes,” Larry said. Gary can still be seen in a cowboy hat and boots. Minus the hat, you’ll have another clue as to who’s who.
“We decided Gary would do the fine arts and I would do the theatre so no one could compare us.” But they’re often seen together, helping one another build sets for the theatre or set up art exhibits.
Rural Nebraska upbringing
They’d attended a one-room schoolhouse of 9-12 students near Amherst, Nebraska, moving up to a high school with 15 students in the graduating class. The brothers were part of a track team of five who won the state title in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1957. "Needless to say, each of the five was entered in quite a few events," wife Elaine pointed out.
It was “one green field” that enabled the twins to attend college to pursue careers in something other than agriculture. Area farmers relied on rainfall to grow their crops and were subjected to droughts and insects. Dry-land farming was the norm for that part of south-central Nebraska, but the Sohrweid farm sat on a huge aquifer. The drilling of a second well provided irrigation for their cornfield while others in the area withered and turned brown. It was the productivity of that one green cornfield that enabled the farming couple to send their twin boys to Kearney State in the fall of 1957.
“Tuition was $69 per semester,” Larry recalled, and everything was “times two,” which meant they couldn’t afford to live in a dorm. Their stellar reputation at track had caused the coach to recruit them, and he pulled strings to enable the boys to live off campus – contrary to regulations for freshmen – renting a room in a private home.
The brothers were high achievers in track while in college as well. One time while running the one-mile relay, coaches from the opposite side challenged the race thinking the guy who'd run the first lap had jumped back in for the last lap 'just to ice the cake.' Larry explained, "Our coach had to bring both of us to the upset coaches for positive proof." Together they set a university record in a relay, and to this day a banner with their names still hangs in the gym at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“Attending a one-room schoolhouse was the biggest adventure growing up,” Larry reflected. “There were no indoor bathrooms or electricity [and not at home either]. I thought the whole world lived like that. The greatest disadvantage was that we never socialized; we were so naïve. We were so shy because we weren’t around people. We had to learn how to talk to people without our parents there. If we hadn’t had each other, I don’t know how we would have survived.”
The creative side
Larry’s been heavily involved with productions for the Evergreen Chorale and the Evergreen Children’s Chorale while his wife, Elaine, served as artistic director of the children’s group for 17 years. He started out with the Evergreen Players, performing in a melodrama in 1978, admitting he knew nothing about theatre but growing his enthusiasm and desire to support local theatre. He played a small part in that first show but soon got hooked and did more productions.
In 1988 he was asked to direct “Godspell,” attended by people with the Evergreen Chorale, which typically put on a couple of musicals each year. Soon after Marcia Phelps and Mike Weiker of the Chorale approached him about directing the next show – “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” And that started a long association – 30 productions over 33 years – with the Chorale, building sets, directing, acting as stage manager, or performing in a show. “I’ve always been in the chorus, never a lead role,” he pointed out.
After his 33 years as an art instructor and third grade teacher – most of the time at Marshdale Elementary – he needed to look beyond the classroom for something to fill his days and provide a challenge.
He took on the role of building manager at Center Stage for 11 years through a period when Center Stage made some major improvements – the addition of a green room, dressing rooms, a lobby and bathrooms. The Evergreen Chorale dedicated the Green Room in his honor when he retired.
In 2005 when Evergreen Lutheran Church tripled the size of its facility, he and Dave Rommelmann worked together on the building committee with Larry being the on-site observer during construction. "He was the right person with the right temperament," Dave commented. "He didn't get too excited when things went wrong. His artistic skills added to the beauty of the facility – we could do more for less because of his skills. We came in under budget."
It was Dave Rommelmann who recruited the brothers to paint the jungle background on the recessed concrete surface behind “The Sentry” at the Veterans’ Commemorative Walk and Memorial.
Creativity runs in Larry’s blood. He’s been telling original Halloween stories for 48 years to youngsters, now trading students for grandchildren as his wide-eyed audience. Whether at school, in the theatre, at home or wherever, “I’m always creating something out of nothing.”
“We’ve been up here 50+ years, and no one’s throwing rocks,” he says in recapping his years in Evergreen. It’s difficult to imagine he used to be a shy kid with his laughing eyes, quick wit and easy conversation. He can hardly go anywhere without running into someone he knows from some aspect of the community over the past half century. He especially enjoys running into former students and finding out what they’re doing as adults.
Plain and simple: he likes people. “It’s what keeps you young.”