April 2021 Newsletter: Larry Ketchem I & R Specialist Living & Working Independently
When Larry Ketchem picks up the phone at LIFTT, he is armed with answers.
As the organization’s information and referral specialist, Larry is often the first point of contact with Montanans living with disabilities, many of whom are desperate for services and programs to enhance their lives. Larry makes the red tape necessary for services look easy, but it was not always that way. Growing up, Larry had to grapple with his own questions.
Born with retinitis pigmentosa, he lost most of his eyesight in high school. “My teen years were tough he said, “I should have been learning how to drive, but instead, at 16, I was learning how to be blind.” By the time Larry was 25, he could only see light and dark. Despite his dwindling vision, Larry refused to be held back: He was on the Billings Senior High School wrestling team, skied; and, as a third generation Broncos fan, faithfully followed his team. After high school graduation in 1988, Larry attended MSUB and accepted a job offer from LIFTT.
Except for a brief medical hiatus, Larry has assisted people with disabilities for a total of 12 years. He credits his accomplishments to his parents, who insisted he “pull himself up by his bootstraps,” and a blind vocational rehab counselor who held degrees in math and chemistry, drove a pickup around his farm outside of Billings, and frequently ran up the Airport Road using two canes as his eyes.
Passionate About Freedom
Larry believes living independently is a life well lived. He is passionate about helping others achieve the same sense of freedom, providing intake and referral information, fielding phone calls, conducting I&R research, and sharing his expertise with colleagues. He says the best thing about his job is seeing people with disabilities achieve their goals, “I enjoy helping people succeed,” he said, “they come to LIFTT beaten down and desperate for help and it’s great when they smile and say, “I can do this.”
In his free time, Larry unwinds by playing videogames, spending time with his wife of 22 years, and reading a good book through a talking book device courtesy of the State of Montana that can be downloaded and put on a thumb drive. Larry’s literary taste ranges from westerns to Sci-fi and horror.
Larry’s philosophy is to stay independent, try everything once, and laugh a lot. “If you can’t laugh” Larry said, “you’ll go nuts.”
Celebrating Independence Day
Once a year, Larry’s vision detects more than just light and dark. On July Fourth, Larry purchases the biggest fireworks he can find, and when they are ignited, he can see brilliant red, yellow, and orange explosions in the night sky, spotlighting both America’s freedom, and Larry’s independent lifestyle.