I am an Elk - Meet Larry Cobarrubia
From the Hill Country of the Alamo to the shores of the Gulf Coast, wherever he may roam, he makes a home.
Larry Cobarrubia is quiet and blends into the background. Not that he is unremarkable, but he does not like to bring attention to himself – unless there is a carnival ball involved, but that is for later in the conversation. The son of Josephine and Frank Cobarrubia, Larry is the baby of eleven siblings: four sisters and seven brothers. He was born in the city known as the “Cradle of Freedom” located in the shadow of the Alamo - San Antonio, Texas. Raised on the West Side, Larry was not a mischievous kid but was part of what his brother, Juan, named “The Hoodlums.” “I was smart enough not to join the real gangs,” Larry said. Instead, he and his friends skateboarded and played street football, often with a flat football.
Moving around San Antonio, Larry went to Alamo Heights Junior School where in the seventh grade he began running cross country, specializing in the mile as a long-distance runner. Soon, Larry was tapped to join the varsity team, the “Mules,” even at that early age. Later, he played soccer for the Douglas MacArthur High School “Brahmas,” where he was the rover for the team.
During his high school years, Larry worked various jobs but recounted one in particular, “I worked for H-E-B, a Texas grocery store chain. I started as a bag boy and worked up to the meat department. I learned how to butcher in a two-month program they held at the warehouse.” Larry eventually moved into the seafood department, managing that for a while. “H-E-B,” Larry explains, “Started with the grandmother [Florence Butt] selling vegetables. It became so popular that the son [Howard E. Butt] quit his job to help.” In 1927, that initial store expanded into the store that is well-loved throughout Texas and bearing the initials of the son, H-E-B.
Why is it important that H-E-B be mentioned? Because that business donates five percent of its annual pretax earnings to charities in the areas of its operations. Larry did not know it, but at the time, he was already helping the community through his work.
Following high school, he moved on to Jim’s Coffee Shop where he began working as a sous chef. Owned by Jim Hasslocher, who also ran Frontier Enterprises, Jim’s Coffee shop gave Larry his first taste of what he thought he intended to do for a career. He also served as a waiter but decided cooking was his passion. “I didn’t want to serve tables. I mean, I made good money, don’t get me wrong. But I wanted to be in the back,” pointing over his shoulder as if he were still at the restaurant. So, he started at the restaurant atop the 750’ tall Tower of America, the tallest building in San Antonio, where he became a chef.
Volunteering always meant something to Larry, and it led him to meet Stephanie, his wife of 25 years. He had several friends in law enforcement from Dallas and San Antonio. Those friends were going out one evening and needed someone to watch the kids. So, Larry volunteered. As the women were gathering to leave the house together, Larry caught a glimpse of Stephanie and was immediately smitten. “I saw that black skirt and red top… I was like, oh yeah, I’m marrying her,” he says. Larry and Stephanie got married in 1998 while still living in San Antonio.
In 1999, Stephanie’s father became ill. “My father-in-law was military, and he had moved all around. But he ended up in Mississippi,” Larry says of the situation, “I packed everything up and we moved within a week.” Once in Mississippi, Larry worked a variety of jobs finding his way to the Beau Rivage as an assistant Beverage Manager for three years.
However, Cobarrubia felt something was missing. “I thought to myself, ‘This is not what you want to do,’ and I wanted to give back to the community.” So, when the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department advertised it was hiring, Larry tested and was hired as a corrections officer in November 2004. He worked in corrections for several years until he caught the eye of the Process and Transportation Captain, David Chamberlain who saw the work ethic that Larry had and pulled strings to get Larry working for him. Cobarrubia continued to show that work ethic, working transportation and serving process, acting as the Department’s primary replevin officer. He also worked marine patrol duties as well as acting as the department’s dive recovery team equipment manager and safety officer. “Law enforcement caught my heart,” he says. (Author’s note: Larry was one of the hardest working and most loyal employees I could have ever hoped for. He would have gladly laid his life down to protect his fellow officers, and we would have done the same for him. There was no challenge that Larry would not or could not take on. I knew if Larry said he was going to take care of it, it was going to get done right and probably earlier than I expected.)
Larry was transferred to the patrol division but was injured during certification training at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer’s Training Academy. Upon return, he had surgery to repair the injury and spent time recuperating to attend the academy again. On his second try at the academy, tragedy struck again, and Larry reinjured the same lumbar disc ending his hopes of becoming a patrolman and eventually leading to his medical retirement.
While Larry was still working for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in 2010, David Chamberlain sponsored Larry to be a member of the Pascagoula Elks Lodge 1120. Joseph Parisi, Sherwood Beckham, and the late David Roberts were his references. Once initiated, Cobarrubia immediately began his tactic of being seen but not heard in the public and was extremely active behind the scenes.
When the April 2011 Super Outbreak of tornados hit the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, Larry volunteered for the relief effort organized by his new Lodge. Along with a group of other Elks, Larry helped raise funds, purchase ingredients for, and cook 4500 meals for the victims in the affected area. He says of the experience, “It was hot. I was tired. We kept going. [we] Served a lot of plates and made a ton of beans and rice. I think that’s why I don’t eat much of it today.” While there, the group visited the Tuscaloosa Elks Lodge #393 and learned that two of their members had perished in the storm.
In the following years, Larry would go on to hold the chair of Lecturing Knight. He has been a member of the Elks Carnival Ball twice as a duke. He volunteers for many of the activities at the lodge. “Anywhere I’m needed I like to help,” he says, “That’s why I like the Elks, we do a lot for our community. We do a lot with kids.”
He and Stephanie live in Pascagoula where they are active in the Krewe of Vesta, a mystical Mardi Gras Krewe. For that organization, Larry served as King Zeus XXVII. To say that Larry loves carnival balls is an understatement and one can often find him dancing with anyone and everyone during the events. It is the one time he lets his hair down.
The Cobarrubias have four children: Shanna, Stephen, Sarah, and Lorenzo; and seven grandchildren. “We have five dogs and a cat who thinks he’s a dog,” he laughs.
Larry and Stephanie plan to travel all over the states, but Larry hopes to be able to visit Native American lands and learn about history. We know you will, our friend. We are so glad Stephanie shares you with us.