People across Whidbey Island are sharing their memories this week about Larry Cort — planner, leader, public servant, communicator, world traveler, Renaissance man.
“I am stunned and thankful for the outpouring of love and respect,” his wife, Lisbeth Cort, said.
Cort, the former Langley planner and most recently the Oak Harbor city administrator, died at his Coupeville home Oct. 28, just about a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
He was 60.
A celebration of Cort’s life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Lisbeth requests that donations in his honor be made to the newly established Dr. Larry Cort Geography Scholarship Fund of the Oak Harbor Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 1801, Oak Harbor WA 98277 or to Friends of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, P.O. Box 958, Coupeville, WA 98239.
Cort was well-known across Whidbey as he worked in Coupeville, Langley and Oak Harbor during his career. His fingerprints are on documents that govern the future shape of all three communities.
He believed government could be a force of good in people’s lives.
“His emphasis was always on service to the community,” Oak Harbor Councilman Rick Almberg said. “I don’t know how many times he would say that the most important thing is what’s best for the community.”
Cort’s friends and colleagues said that one of his greatest strengths was his ability to communicate, which often meant translating complexities in regulations in a way everyone can understand.
Cort grew up on Whidbey and graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1973. He attended college at the University of Washington and abroad, earned advanced degrees, worked as a cartographer and a town planner before returning to Whidbey.
Mayor Nancy Conard, newly elected at the time, hired Cort as the Coupeville town planner. They started the same day in 1995. She said she learned a great deal from him and later became close friends with him and Lisbeth.
“Our most productive years were when Larry was with the town,” she said.
She said he wrote the town’s comprehensive plan, which has guided planning and development in the town for 20 years. He also was very successful in obtaining grants that brought a great deal of money to the town.
“He really understood the role of government in the community,” she said.
He later went to work as a senior planner in Oak Harbor, became the planning director in Langley, then returned to Oak Harbor as a project specialist and finally as city administrator.
In his private life, he was a man of culture. He loved traveling in Europe, fine wine and good food.
“He was a happy man who truly lived life to the fullest, did not wait until retirement to realize his dreams and never let a minute of vacation leave go to waste,” Lisbeth wrote in his obituary, which will be in Wednesday’s paper.