Streator, IL is a working community much aligned with the common ideologies of mid-America. Larry Oldenburg, born and raised in Streator, redefined the "common" life-style that defines the area. Influenced greatly by eastern philosophies and religions, Larry traveled little. Instead he developed a profound personal spirituality grounded firmly in an area where spirituality is often limited to what can be found at the local Christian church.

Spending much of his time in the woods around the Vermilion river, he became a Shaman, teaching those who would listen and being a friend to all he encountered. To those who could not find a niche in the narrow constraints of the area, Larry offered a home and a haven to be and explore. Larry died of AIDS related complications in February 28, 1991.

A parental air but never patronizing, he holds a special place in the hearts of all who knew him. Below are pictures and a short movie of Larry's last home and the shores of the river where he connected and established himself firmly between Illinois and eternity.

All images including the movie below are taken from a video recorded a little over a year before Larry's death. Because of the quality of the original and the conversion from analog to digital, they are slightly distorted.

Although only a small plot in the living room, Larry was most proud of his sand garden. At times nothing more than rippled sand, at others, as here a forest of inorganic life.
The entire house was a collage of artifacts from hundreds of religions and spiritualities. An eclectic museum of the soul.

Even the kitchen table was a montage of items from all over the world. Carvings and items from Africa, China, Australia and South America sat alongside a hawk's foot collected down by the river and family pictures.

And it always came back to the river. In the woods nearby he built a shrine from the rocks and branches brought in by the floods. He would spend entire days and nights in the company of nature. By the time this picture was taken, nature had already begun the reclamation.
Towards the end of his life, the ravages of the disease had tapped what seemed to have been a well spring of vitality. In the video below, he is tired and spent as can be heard in his voice. That he died with dignity and with love is due almost entirely to the selfless care of his life partner, Dan Ehlers.

One unseasonably warm January day, Fred (who we always called Fritz) stopped by with a camcorder. After recording some time with Larry in the attic apartment he and Dan shared, Dan and Fritz decided to take a trip down to "the bottoms", the flood plains of Vermilion River. This was one of Larry's favorite spots, and since the illness was severe enough to keep him from the river, Dan and Fritz decided to bring the river to him. The following five minute film is from this footage interspersed with the Larry's last recorded words.

Larry Oldenburg
Memoria in Aeterna

Heathen's Haven

© 1999 C.T. Thieme all rights reserved