Former Calhoun Chamber exec dies: Larry Sylvester dies from bicycle wreck injuries Friday
by Megan Nichols
Staff Writer
Nov 07, 2009 | 4762 views |  1 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Larry Sylvester is congratulated after the winning the Republican primary for the Calhoun County Commission in this June 2002 file photo. Sylvester died Friday in Birmingham after being injured in a bicycle accident Thursday night in Anniston. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
Larry Sylvester is congratulated after the winning the Republican primary for the Calhoun County Commission in this June 2002 file photo. Sylvester died Friday in Birmingham after being injured in a bicycle accident Thursday night in Anniston. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
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Former Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Larry Sylvester died Friday at UAB Hospital after sustaining injuries in a bicycle accident Thursday night.

He was 69.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday evening.

Sylvester's accident occurred approximately 5:30 p.m. near the intersection of 7th Street and Park Avenue, said Anniston EMS President Johnny Warren. He was transported to UAB Hospital where he died in intensive care, said Chamber of Commerce President Sherri Sumners. Sumners was a longtime friend of Sylvester's.

Warren didn't know what caused Sylvester's accident, but he said no cars were involved. Calhoun County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Matthew Wade said Sylvester wasn't wearing a helmet.

Sylvester had enjoyed cycling during a recent vacation and was intending to pursue the exercise more regularly, said family friend Bill Jackson.

Local veterinarian Barry Nicholls said he became friends with Sylvester in the early 1980s.

"His personality was always the same — glad to see you, so happy and friendly, with his hand extended," Nicholls said. "Somebody who reaches that point in life where they should be enjoying those years, and then to have this accident, it just breaks my heart."

Also heartbroken is longtime neighbor Janet Tyson Prosser, who moved into a house across Park Avenue from Sylvester and his wife, Sheila, in 1987. Single at the time, Prosser remembered him as "the father figure of the neigborhood — Larry was there for everybody."

"He was the best across-the-street neighbor I had for 20 years. There will never be another one to top him," she said.

Jackson, who with his wife, Sherlyn, attended First United Methodist Church with the Sylvesters, said his friend's genial nature was known to all. The two men were as close as brothers, Jackson said.

"We used to kid Larry about being so nice that if there was a room full of 200 people, if Larry held the door for the first person out he'd hold the door for the last person out."

Sylvester's helpfulness extended to professional life. A retired FBI investigator, Sylvester was a huge help to the Sheriff Office's cold case squad during the last five years, helping solve 13 cold case homicides, Wade said.

"For anybody to think that solving 13 homicides is not a significant thing, one cold case would be fabulous for what it does for the families of the victims," he said. "His background and experience has been instrumental."

An Illinois native and a graduate of Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn., Sylvester, joined the FBI shortly after college. He came to Anniston is January 1967.

Sylvester's work with the chamber began in February 1990 and ended upon his retirement as executive vice president in April 2002.

Sumners said he's the reason she's in Calhoun County. She was working in Opelika, but Sylvester convinced her Anniston would be a good fit. He was right, she said.

"He was well-loved by the entire profession," she said. "Everybody loved Larry and he was just one of the guys that people would always go to."

Jackson, a former chairman of the chamber board, said Sylvester "did a great job there and was always so careful with the finances."

As executive vice president, Sylvester also helped five different chamber presidents do their jobs and aided in the transition between each one. The chamber moved into its current building on Quintard during his tenure.

Quoted in a 2002 article about Sylvester's retirement, then-director of the Spirit of Anniston program Scott Barksdale said of him, "I think one of the attributes that Larry brought to the community was that he didn't have an ego. If a job needed to be done, Larry was always the one to jump in there and pitch in and do it. Whether it was something high profile or sweeping glass out of the parking lot."

Sylvester ran for the Calhoun County Commission in 2002. He won the Republican primary, but was defeated by Commissioner Robert Downing.

Sylvester worked with numerous civic organizations, including the Salvation Army and the Anniston Rotary Club. He also was a member of the Anniston Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4.

With additional reports from staff writer Bill Edwards.
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