Larry Untermeyer — a Westporter for over 60 years, whose retirement career of photography made him a beloved local icon — died Sunday night. He was 94 years old.
From the pages of “06880” and WestportNow, to the walls of the Library and art shows, Larry’s photos celebrated his town — and the world — with a keen eye, a fresh perspective, plenty of color, and a bit of whimsy.
Larry was curious about everything he photographed — and he shot photos all over the world. He spent 6 weeks in Greece after his 90th birthday, slowing down only to make sure his shutter was ready.
Larry came to photography after service in the Korean War (Army special services), the early days of television, and advertising.
Westport is lucky that Larry came to us.
In 2019, I posted this story on Larry:
In many ways, Larry Untermeyer’s life mirrors lots of residents who arrived in the 1950s and ’60s.
He’s a Korean veteran (Army special services). He worked in TV (“Pulse,” the first-ever morning show) and advertising (JWT, Hill & Knowlton, his own firm).
He and his wife Nikki raised 2 kids. When she retired after 23 years as a Weston Middle School teacher, they traveled the world. With good friends Ted and Carol Diamond, they visited 30 countries.
She died nearly 6 years ago, of pancreatic cancer. That’s where Untermeyer’s story diverges a bit from other Westport 91-year-olds.
A month after Nikki died, he had a major operation and almost died. He had to learn to walk and write all over again.
Just a couple of months later, he took a trip. He spent 3 months in southeast Asia.
His daughter Lynn — a longtime “06880” photographer — was terrified.
Untermeyer had a wonderful time. He calls it “one of the most extraordinary trips of my life.”
It was not his last. He’s traveled overseas 6 times since then — each time to a different country. Most recently, Untermeyer just returned from several wonderful weeks in Tanzania.
His traveling companion was Bill Balch. A former Westporter whose wife died a year and a half ago, he now lives at Meadow Ridge. Previously, the men traveled to Greece — where they rented a car, and also sailed through the islands — and, on another trip, throughout Europe.
The 2 men knew each other through the Y’s Men’s Camera Club. Untermeyer had carried a camera throughout his many trips as an advertising executive. In retirement he became a noted photographer for, among other outlets, “06880” and WestportNow.
Untermeyer and Balch shot over 7,600 photos. They captured “every creature that crawled, walked and swam in the rivers and lakes,” as well as “birds of all sizes and color, on the wing and under brush.”
Untermeyer timed the trip to photograph the annual migration of more than a million wildebeests and zebras. They gather on the wide open plains of the Serengeti, heading several hundred miles north.
“It’s a sight to behold and to photograph,” Untermeyer says.
He and Balch also spent time in the Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient collapsed volcano where rare beasts and birds graze and roam.
Two days before she died, Nikki told her husband of 62 years, “Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll live a long, long time.”
He heeded her words. Traveling — and photography — is energizing, Untermeyer says.
“I never wanted to sit around and feel sorry for myself,” he says. “I’m very lucky to have my health and my brain, and to be able to use my camera. As long as I can move around, I’m happy.”
Photography has been “a constant thread through my life. From my early days to now, it’s been a steady force.”
Untermeyer is already planning his next trip. It may be Portugal. Or Namibia.
Actually, that sounds like 2 more trips, for Westport’s favorite 91-year-old photographer.