Some of you have heard me talk of my grandpa quite frequently. He was instrumental in my decision to become a pipemaker and a huge supporter of mine for the past 5 years. Sadly, Larry Phillip Cembellin passed away peacefully at home on March 23rd 2011. He will be greatly missed.
My grandpa wasnt a high-grade collector. He didn't have a single Dunhill, Peterson, or even Savinelli. His collection, which was handed down to me , consists largely of Medico, Yello-bole, and Dr. Grabow, with a Whitehall or two sprinkled in there. He was a child of the depression and would never pay more than $5 for a pipe. He used to gasp and drop his jaw when I told him what i recently sold a pipe for. He was a man of great confidence and didn’t care what other people thought of him.
When I was little we would hop in his old 55 Ford dump truck and take a trip down to the hardware store in town. The truck didn't have seat belts, so at my mom’s request , he had to literally tie me to the seat with rope. We would make it down the hill and the engine would give out at a stoplight. People would curse at him and honk and he would just hold his arm out the window and wave. If he was feeling especially saucy, he’s stick his head out and smile at them. He’d just start the truck up again after several attempts and be on his merry way. Nothing could get him down.
His greatest stories would come up when I would complain about having to take a test at school or whine about helping him move bricks or something. He would just look at me and say, “this is nothing.” and follow up with “I used to pick prunes 18 hours a day when I was your age (approx. 10)” . The man had a full time farm job in Hollister, CA when he was 10 years old! He grew up extremely poor and built his own small empire in Los Gatos, CA. Around here, he was the lovable old guy that would take sometimes daily trips to the lumber yard in town. I would tag along some of the time. He would never admit it, but I could tell he just wanted to spend time with me and see his friends. No one needs that much wood! :)
I miss his ornery attitude and his constant questioning. “Are ya still makin pipes?” he would ask every time we spoke. “You better get back in the shop!” is how he’d end nearly every phone call. I think everyone needs a man like him in their life. He was a father, a teacher, and a hero to me. He will be missed greatly, but his spirit and message lives on in my pipes.