Cover photo for Lawrence Braman Perkins's Obituary

Lawrence Braman Perkins

August 4, 1932 — April 26, 2024

Lawrence Braman Perkins

The Sun was in Leo when Lawrence Braman Perkins was born on August 4, 1932, in New London, CT, and it graced him with a strong, vibrant, sunny personality that -- throughout his long extraordinary life of 91.7 years --  filled those he met with a kind of nurturing warmth. And, because he cared about connections, he had a rare talent for remembering everyone's name.

Larry graduated from Staunton Military Academy (SMA) in Virginia, and Louisiana State University (LSU) with a degree in Geology.

After graduation, Larry married his first love, Anne Mauzy. He was heartbroken when she passed away early in their marriage from lymphoma.
 
Larry served in the Air Force during the Korean War where he lost dear friends. He thought he might see the world when volunteering for military service, but ended up in Biloxi, Mississippi, only miles from his Natchez home, teaching a radar course he created for Air Force pilots.
 
Later, at IBM, he cut his technology teeth on the early large mainframe computers at Cape Kennedy, Florida, where he worked as a developer of Ground Operations/Saturn V Control Checkout Systems for the Apollo 11 moon mission. He even had a conversation with the genius German rocket architect, Werner von Braun, who was interested in Larry's ground vehicle checkout system he'd nicknamed "Count Checkula". 

At the same time, unbelievably, Larry got into racing SCCA sports cars via his mentor Wolfgang von Trips, and was especially known for his outstanding Daytona and Sebring endurance races against "The Big Boys" like Phil Hill, Pedro Rodriguez, and Mario Andretti in his Ferrari 250 GTO. Larry became a race car driver instructor and (secretly) taught some of the original NASA Mercury astronauts how to drive -- fast, but safely. He said "They were all naturals."

Larry and his wife, Joy, and their three children, moved to Denver where he was an employee for Martin Marietta Space Systems, on various computer and planetary systems projects, including the most phenomenal, Viking, the first Mars lander mission, and Titan/Atlas rocket programs, eventually becoming a corporate manager. If Larry had a hero, it was definitely Carl Sagan. Over half a century, he continuously read, watched and studied Dr. Sagan's work. (Larry sat in the front row at the Planetary Society meeting in Seattle in which Carl last spoke.) He was thrilled to attend the Mars Viking mission reunion honoring all who worked on this mind-blowing "outta sight" project-of-the-century.
 
An avid backpacker and skier, Larry loved Colorado mountains better than any place on earth. He was seen holding a book, reading How to Ski while zooming down his first slopes! If he wanted to know how to do anything, he read a book first. (Larry was always reading a book or magazine.)
Larry also worked for United Banks and helped to devise the first ATM system.
He worked at Unique Mobility in Denver, with the team who launched the first purpose-built electric car.

An opportunity to see the world presented itself when Larry got a job offer to work for Massey Ferguson Tractor Company in Europe to create a centralized, multi-country data processing organization. It was there he married his third wife, Jackie Hansen. Larry especially enjoyed England and said he became an "honorary British citizen" when he wrote a dictionary which translated between American English and British English.

When living in Roxborough, Colorado, he was a volunteer fireman, driving the big pumper engine. Larry was also a long-term volunteer in the Highlands Ranch Community Association where he was an Arts Encounter leader, SCFD (Scientific Cultural Facilities District) representative, Douglas County Cultural Council leader,  neighborhood delegate working with the Board of Directors, Public Issues Chairman, and member of countless other committees geared toward improving the community. Larry stepped up!
 
Later in life, Larry mastered the art of bronze sculpting, creating award-winning sculptures that are exhibited in public outdoor settings, international museums, and private collections. He taught sculpting to children and adults. He encouraged many to begin art careers. 
 
His love of animals, wild and tame, was profound. So when Larry was 72, he set out on a foot safari in the Tsavo jungle of Kenya, Africa, joining the excitement of ten people walking among hippos, elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, crocodiles - who had never before seen humans - over a 10-day hike through the Maasai Mara. As this was one of the biggest highlights of his life, he relished sharing these adventures through a photo & lecture presentation to several organizations.
 
But before that, he moved to Seattle with his fourth (and last (:-)) wife, Diana, where they sailed the deep Pacific Northwest waters in their tiny 25-ft sailboat Artemis. They also learned to race yachts and participated in regattas in Colorado and Puget Sound, and sailed Chesapeake Bay, the intercoastal waterways of Florida, and the Ionian Sea in Greece.

Life got even more exciting when the current owner of his exotic Ferrari 250 GTO asked him to be part of the restoration team to render his now iconic car to exact racing condition/configuration as it was when Larry had won in its last FIA Daytona 1966 endurance race.
 
He joined a dream team of restorers that won top honors at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (2011), best car show in the world. One of the awards was "Most Elegant Racecar". From then on, Larry's nickname in Ferrari circles was "Mr. Elegant".

Together, Larry and his wife, Diana, (author Petra Perkins) wrote a book about his racing days and his hot Italian race car he nicknamed Sophia, after Sophia Loren... FULL CIRCLE: A Hands-on Affair with the First Ferrari 250 GTO ... which won an International Book Finalist Award in non-fiction and sports,  and a Colorado Authors League finalist award. (FullCircle250GTO)

Larry didn't die of old age. He had no intention of doing so for a few more years. He and Diana were writing a screenplay together -- a space story. His death was via an accident: an outdoor advertising sign went airborne in a big wind and slammed into his leg, destroying it and then him. He pronounced this last turn of events "supremely ironic" since he never got injured on a racetrack going supersonic speeds, nor in a sailboat in torrential winds, nor in the Highlands Ranch tornado or in countless Florida hurricanes or Washington earthquakes or in a car/bicycle accident or by a bear in the woods or by his wife crashing her airplane. He was a survivor to the end. 

Larry is survived by his beloved wife, Diana, son Lawrence B. Perkins, Jr. (Becki), son Burgess Perkins (Joni), daughter Paula Lyons, step-daughter Susan McDonald (Matthew), step-son Michael Surline (Heather), sister Elizabeth Maddux (Jim), brother-in-law James D. Duncan (Vicki ), sister-in-law Debbie Vandebrake (Todd), sister-in-law Dee Huxtable (Hugh), eight grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, fans and friends.

Contributions are greatly appreciated, in his name, to the M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis) Society, for research he was passionate about and which he supported via fundraising in local M.S walks and his trek in Africa.

Larry's life will be joyously celebrated at an event on August 4, his birthday. Details will be posted on PetraPetra.com in summer.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Lawrence Braman Perkins, please visit our flower store.

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