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Mr Smith rides to inspire

posted Jul 7, 2012, 2:20 AM by Dianne James
Local man Larry Smith will not let Parkinson's Disease get in the way of his love for cycling as he shoots a documentary of his ride across South Dakota to raise awareness.

"Ride With Larry" is in the process of filming and will feature Smith on his ride of 280 miles across the state from Aberdeen to Vermillion. On each scheduled stop he plans to speak to a different Parkinson's Association of South Dakota support group.

"I want people to know you can still have a life with Parkinson's," Larry said.

Larry made his own breads in Connecticut for his family in the 80s but then developed Parkinson's Disease, a deficiency of dopamine in the brain causing tremors, muscle stiffness and difficulty moving.

Larry then brought his family to South Dakota and started Mister Smith's Bakery in Jones'"Oprah Magazine," Smith's bread was called "The best bread in the world!"

Professor Elizabeth Smith, Larry's wife of 37 years, said her husband's bread has always drawn a crowd.

"Everybody knew that if you were at our house at 6 o'clock you were invited to dinner. It wasn't unusual for us to have not just our two kids at the table, but eight kids. Everybody in the neighborhood knew about Larry's bread."

Larry said he always enjoyed cycling, but when Parkinson's made riding a two-wheeled bike too difficult, getting on a trike was like not having the disease.

"Our friend brought over a three wheel cat trike and we were just blown away," Elizabeth said. "The look on Larry's face the first time he tried this very stable, three wheel trike was just very joyous."

Baker Jacq Johns worked with Larry for 10 years and watched him go from full to part time, then finally to retirement at Mister Smith's on the first of this year due to safety concerns.

"It was very different back then," Johns said. "He had already had Parkinson's for about nine years at that point and if you didn't know that, you wouldn't have been able to tell."

Advertising has helped the Smiths reach their goal of raising enough money to cover the cost of the documentary. According to the website RidewithLarry.com, $54,330 has been pledged and they are still taking donations. The ride is being coordinated by Barking Dog Cycling Club, which is also based in Vermillion.

Stephen Nemeth, the executive producer of "Ride With Larry," also produced "Wardance" which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008. Andrew Rubin is co-directing the film along with Ricardo Villarreal, who said he hopes the documentary is done by the end of the year.

"We want to reach as many people as possible," Villarreal said.

Kevin Brady, South Dakota Bicycle Coalition president and owner of Barking Dog Cycling Club and has been personal friends with the Smiths for years.

"(Parkinson's) could be seen as a death sentence because most patients don't live as long as Larry has," Brady said. "He attributes it to cycling and wants to do one last big thing to promote awareness."

Smith is still known for his kindness as his bakery lives on in Jones' Food Center. Johns was lucky enough to get to see Smith's son and daughter both work alongside their father in the bakery for awhile.

"He is a friend of mine, a joy, a treasure," Johns said.

Even students haven taken notice of this local hero.

"I think it's inspiring that he would sacrifice that much time and energy to help other people with Parkinson's," freshman Denise Plagmann said.

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