Baker won't take Parkinson's sitting still

2011-06-11T08:00:00Z Baker won't take Parkinson's sitting stillBy Nick Hytrek nhytrek@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal

VERMILLION, S.D. -- A person's response to a bad medical diagnosis generally falls into two categories.

There are those who give up, give in and wait miserably for the end.

And there are those who choose to fight and live a quality life as long as they can.

Larry Smith falls into the latter category. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 19 years ago, Smith is not going to sit still and wait for the degenerative brain disease to take his movement and coordination without a fight.

Vermillion residents know him for his bread at Mister Smith's Bakery at Jones' Food Center. After a 27-year career in law enforcement, Smith began baking bread and other goodies that have become local favorites.

He now can often be seen riding his three-wheeled recumbent bicycle in and around town. He's pedaling away, showing others who have Parkinson's that they don't have to sit at home and wait for the disease to take over their bodies. As he puts it, he hopes to get people to change their attitudes "from saying 'woe is me' to 'I'm still here.'"

When diagnosed, Smith didn't know anything about Parkinson's. He was told he'd have to quit work in three years and would be in a wheelchair a couple of years after that.

"I said uh-uh," he said.

He was going to put off being fitted for a wheelchair. He kept living. And he kept learning more about the disease he was fighting. He spent hours on the Internet researching the best ways to combat the disease's crippling effects. What he found sounded pretty easy to him.

"I hit on exercise is the only way to go."

He stayed active. Continued to go to work. Three years ago, he bought his three-wheeled bike and was amazed at how he felt after a few weeks of cycling.

"I could walk better and talk better," he said.

It inspired him, and he thought there must be a way to inspire others with the disease to fight back.

"My wife (Betty) and I were in bed, and I said, 'I'd like to do something big before I can't anymore.'"

He suggested bicycling across the United States. Betty talked him down to biking across South Dakota instead. So last June, they began planning Ride With Larry, a 270-mile trek from Aberdeen to Vermillion. On June 21, Larry, family members and friends will begin the journey, and the public is welcome to join for the final leg from Sioux Falls to Vermillion on June 25.

Along the way, he'll stop to speak to Parkinson's support groups, telling those with the disease how a little exercise can make a big difference in their quality of life. At the conclusion of the ride, he'll raffle off a three-wheeler to someone with Parkinson's. Proceeds will go to the Davis Phinney Foundation. Named for an Olympic cyclist who has Parkinson's, the foundation encourages Parkinson's patients to stay active in order to live a better life.

It's a philosophy Smith, 62, supports fully. He's proof that it works, and he wants to prove that staying active can help fend off the effects of Parkinson's.

"I've always said I can't fail," he said. "I can do things larger than I ever thought I'd do in my life."

By staying active, he aims to do them longer, as well.

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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