Lawrence Smith Memorial Page

Messages from members and friends sent to will be posted on this page.


Lawrence Edward Smith was a quadriplegic who refused to let a wheelchair slow him down.

He drove, operated a broadcast tower company, went deep- sea fishing, rode roller coasters and attended sporting events.

Mr. Smith died June 9, 2008, losing his 15-month battle with squamous cell carcinoma, said his wife, Paula. He was 57.

On his high school senior ditch day in May 1969, Mr. Smith dove into Folsom Lake and hit his head on a submerged log. He broke his neck, causing paralysis from the chest down. He could use his arms but had minimal use of his fingers.

With six months in a halo brace, therapy in Vallejo and support of his family and friends, Mr. Smith fit his 6-foot-2 frame into a manual wheelchair and adapted to a new way of life without complaint. Through it all, his vibrant personality and adventurous spirit remained intact, family and friend said.

"If we went on a boat, he didn't mind a couple guys picking him up and getting him into the boat," said longtime friend David Leesha. "He wouldn't get upset if he couldn't get into some place. If we were going swimming, he would say, 'Get me into the pool.' He didn't let his handicap handicap him."

He was president of Magnum Towers, Inc., a broadcast and telecommunication tower manufacturer company that his family owns. His father operated P&R Tower Co., a tower installation company on the same property. When his father died in 2002, Mr. Smith earned his contractor's license and oversaw operations at P&R Tower.

Mr. Smith treated his employees like family, said Jeff Styler, project manager at Magnum Towers.

"He was just an easygoing guy. He didn't like too many complications," Styler said.

He was well-respected in the industry, and his counsel was sought by colleagues, said his nephew Jason Kardokus, who was mentored by his uncle and now runs Magnum and P&R Towers with his brothers.

Mr. Smith was born in Adams, Mass., as the middle child to Athel "Pete" and Doris Smith. His family moved to Rosemont when he was in elementary school. A graduate of Hiram Johnson High School, he earned an associate's degree from Sacramento City College. He married the former Paula Alvarado three years ago.

After his accident, it took him a year to learn to write his name because he needed both hands to hold a pen, his wife said.

He learned to drive again in a Buick Rivera with a device that allowed him to control the gas and brake pedals with his hands. He needed assistance getting in and out of the car and later got a van outfitted with a lift for his wheelchair.

"Once he started driving, he never slowed down after that," she said. Mr. Smith enjoyed sporting events, fishing, playing trivia games, reading, eating at restaurants and being with his friends.

He had a large group of friends from all walks of life. He was known as "Uncle Lar" to his friends' children and attended all of their functions.

"He had a way to make you feel good and comfortable," said friend Gary Turner. "He never said a harsh word about anything. He loved his life and loved his friends."

Messages from Members and Friends

I am saddened by the news of Larry's passing. He overcame many obstacles in his life and was a friend to all who came in contact with Magnum Towers. My condolences to his family and staff.

— Marty Jackson, MARCOM

It was indeed my pleasure working with Larry on several tower projects over the years. He was always the gentleman and a true professional. It speaks volumes to say I have never heard a harsh word about him anywhere in the broadcast industry. My sincere condolences to Larry's family, associates, and friends. He will certainly be missed.

— Bob Groome, ERI