When Lawrence Hilsdorf was laid to rest, an entire community cried.
The 55-year-old, affectionately known as “Larry,” was more than just a Bayside resident – he was a neighborhood icon, and his roots in the community ran deep.
He went to Sacred Heart, then Bayside High School, before settling to raise his own family in the area.
The father of six boys – Charlie, 25, James, 20, twins Billy and Bobby, 18, Patrick, 15, and Jack, 13 – Larry put his life on the line as a police officer beginning in 1981, first with the Queens North Task Force, and then with the 114th Precinct in Astoria.
“He had so many stories to tell about his experience on ‘the job’ but he told me the most important thing was the friendships and brotherhood he had with so many of you that to the day of his death were strong and vibrant,” said his widow, Maureen, during her eulogy.
After Larry retired from the NYPD, he became a popular bartender at some of the hotspots along Bell Boulevard, among them K.C.’s and TNT’s and McCabe’s.
In 2008, a routine physical turned up something. Larry was only 50 at the time.
“They found a very small nodule,” said Maureen. “He swam through that surgery.”
Then a colonoscopy showed polyps, one of which was malignant. A surgeon removed part of his colon on March 14, 2008, and Maureen remembers it was the day her husband’s health took a turn for the worse.
“He recovered but was never right,” she said. “We went back to the internist and we were in and out of the hospital.”
He was admitted in May and tests found an obstruction; soon after he was released, Larry had lapsed into a coma.
“He spent 32 days in the ICU [Intensive Care Unit],” Maureen told The Courier. “He was even given last rites.”
But Larry, ever a fighter, said his wife, pulled through and spent the summer of 2008 in rehab. At that point, he had lost his colon and part of his small intestine.
“He went from 250 pounds to 120,” said Maureen, who had to give up her job at Bourbon Street to care for her husband.
The staff there was so moved by Larry’s courage, they organized a benefit for him in 2009.
“This really gave Larry the will,” said a grateful Maureen. “He was a real fighter.”
Last September, the Hilsdorf family was able to get hospice care at home.
“In the last couple of months he really deteriorated. There was nothing to do, he was constantly battling infection. It was a very long battle, but he wanted to be home with his family and kids.”
And those “kids,” said Maureen, were not only his own children, but their friends as well, who spent countless hours at the Hilsdorf home.
“Larry was like a father to the kids’ friends,” said his wife.
On January 9, at 11:29 p.m., Maureen said, Larry lost his battle.
“This world is a better place today because for 55 years Larry lived and really lived on this Earth,” said Maureen. “My heart is aching and all six of our children, Charles, Jimmy, Billy, Bobby, Patrick, and Jack, will never be the same. We have lost our rock”.
Over 1,000 people showed up at Sacred Heart as Larry was laid to rest.
“We had an Honor Guard, it was amazing,” said the widow.
“Larry was a fantastic guy,” said Ellen LaPerna, manager at Bourbon Street and a long-time neighbor. “He would always give the shirt off his back. He was a total Bayside guy – everyone knew him, everyone loved him. He was an all-around great guy.”
Maureen said that though this is a very difficult time for the close-knit family, they are lucky to have a lot of support, from extended family, friends, neighbors and the community as a whole.
“We just want to support them [the family] and make sure they’re ok,” LaPerna told The Courier.
In her eulogy, Maureen explained to the mourners just what kind of a man Larry was.
“Most of all he wanted me to remind his six sons how proud he is of all of you. How
lucky he was as a father to get to know each of your close friends and treat them as if they were his own kids. He is not away or gone now. His heart and soul are always with us. I know in my heart that he will walk each step with each of his children, never skipping a beat.”