John Bartus

I met Larry Kahn the first week he moved to the Keys. It was in the long-ago pre-smartphone-Internet days of 1994, springtime. I was already a multi-year veteran of performing at the Seven Mile Bridge Run, and I was there in front of the old train car on Knight’s Key, singing and playing at an ungodly early hour.

Every year back then, someone would always show up before the runners got back and request “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. All eight minutes of it. So every Seven Mile Bridge Run morning…

It was at that moment in my life that Larry Kahn showed up. He had just accepted a job as reporter at the Florida Keys Keynoter, accompanying his friend Tom Tuell from the mainland after Tom was offered the job of editor. And the Seven Mile Bridge Run was his first assignment in the Keys.

Imagine a native New Yorker, fresh from Broward County, as he walked into what must have seemed a surreal islandscape: a bunch of people hanging around a train car outside a campground drinking beer at 7 a.m. while some large dude is singing “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on a flatbed trailer.

Larry introduced himself; I welcomed him to the islands. He asked some questions and took a bunch of photos — and a shot of me on that trailer stage in front of the train car became my second appearance on the Keynoter front page.

Larry and I became friends after that. I was involved in local radio; he eventually took over as editor of the Keynoter when Tom Tuell migrated to the Key West Citizen. When one of my radio co-hosts left the WFFG morning show I was doing, Larry’s name came up. Although Larry was a real newspaperman with ink running through his veins, I thought he would do a good job on the air. And he did. Our center-left “On the Rocks” radio show became an interesting contrast to the rest of WFFG’s rather conservative talk radio programming. 

When station owner Joe Nascone revived an old FCC license and decided to start the Keys’ first classic rock radio station, Larry and I were chosen to move “On the Rocks” to the new WKYZ-FM 101.3. Larry and I were both music fans with similar tastes, and we were the perfect team to launch the new station. Needless to say, we had a really good time playing our favorite rock tunes and goofing on the air.

Larry and I didn’t always agree on everything. When Marathon was voting to incorporate in late 1999, Larry thought incorporation was a bad idea and preferred to stay under Monroe County rule. (You can probably guess which side I was on.) After I declared as a candidate for that first Marathon City Council, Larry had to quit the radio show. He couldn’t impartially cover someone with whom he had a working relationship. And Larry wasn’t too happy when my partners and I started the Weekly Newspapers back in 2003.

But Larry was always forthright and open. Agree or disagree with him, Larry always had integrity and conviction. We remained friends through some rather intense disagreements.

After I won that first Marathon municipal election, Larry gave me something that still hangs on my office wall — an autographed photo of The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. It was his way of encouraging me to fight the good fight, and I’m always reminded of Larry when I see it.

Larry remained editor of the Keynoter through publishers Wayne Markham and Richard Tamborrino. After the paper folded, Larry became public information officer for the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office. And unbeknownst to many, Larry was a regular volunteer for good causes like the Domestic Abuse Shelter.

I’ve read lots of tributes and remembrances of Larry on social media from people who knew him and worked with him over the years. I’ll leave you with some fitting words from State Attorney Dennis Ward’s Facebook page: “I think about him and all that he’s done for the office and so many people in our community. I know I’m going to miss him and so will every employee… All I can say is thank you, Larry, so, so much for being part of our lives. You will be missed. You don’t know how much.”

Godspeed, Larry Kahn.

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