Antique Vintage 13
Official Obituary of

Larry Hayes

August 31, 1938 ~ February 10, 2024 (age 85) 85 Years Old

Larry Hayes Obituary

If Larry Hayes met his Maker February 10, they must have had a very interesting conversation.


Larry, 85, died peacefully that evening, in Fort Wayne. He was born Aug. 31, 1938 near Defiance, Ohio to Gertrude and Ray Hayes. He grew up in Defiance and Fort Wayne and graduated from South Side High School.


As a child, Larry devoutly followed a conservative Protestant faith and even obtained a couple of divinity degrees. Ultimately, however, he realized he no longer believed various credal teachings, yet he never lost his faith in the gospel of compassion taught by Jesus. He became a high school English teacher for awhile but eventually found his true calling as an editorial writer at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Suddenly, he had a rare opportunity to combine his passion for social justice with his skill with the English language.


Within a few years, he was the editorial page editor and went on to one of the great careers in Indiana journalism. He won 50 journalism awards, led his team to a finalist position for a Pulitzer Prize and was eventually inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.


Undoubtedly, the Maker has met few souls as intellectually and morally alive as Larry. He used his voracious reading and outgoing personality to undergird his editorials with great amounts of research. While his outlook was politically liberal, he reached out for the latest and best information as he searched for solutions to difficult social problems. He directed his team of writers to not just rely on their own ideas but to look around the country and see what successes other communities had — to see “what works.”


Larry lived that model in such projects as getting the Fort Wayne Police Department to create a crisis intervention team modeled on one in Memphis, Tenn., so officers could better recognize and respond to people in mental health crises. He drew on numerous national experts to organize the successful effort to desegregate the Fort Wayne Community Schools. He convinced a key school board member to make the decisive vote to end corporal punishment in those same schools. He teamed up with a conservative City Council member, who was also an oncologist, to get smoking banned in city restaurants.


As someone who suffered his own serious bout with depression, Larry demonstrated tremendous compassion for the mentally ill. He wrote many editorials against executing a seriously ill local man who committed a mass murder. Many other pieces opposed having a disturbed teenage girl who killed two people in a fire from being housed with adult offenders.


Larry was one of the people who got the Carriage House organization to come to Fort Wayne, where it provides both social and occupational support to people with mental illnesses. After he retired in 2000, Larry wrote books, including “Mental Illness in Your Town: 37 Ways for Communities to Help and Heal.”


Larry is survived by his wife, Toni Kring, daughter Robyn Valdizon, son John Hayes (Cynthia), granddaughters Tanya Valdizon (Brandon Brown) and Cynthia Valdizon (Ben Yuhas) and great-granddaughter Annabelle Brown-Valdizon.


Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, February 16 at The Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5310 Old Mill Road and again from 1 to 2 p.m. there on Saturday. A celebration of life service will begin at 2 p.m.


Donations may be made to Carriage House in Fort Wayne or to a national organization that supports research into Alzheimer’s Disease.

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