LARRY CARY, 69, Union-Side Labor Lawyer, Beloved Husband and Father
Larry Cary, aka Larry Lee Cary Jr., a prominent labor lawyer in New York City, died December 15th, 2021. He was 69 years old and a Westfield, NJ, resident for 26 years. The causes of death were complications from cancer, diagnosed two and a half years earlier. Despite the pandemic and cancer, Cary practiced law nearly until the day of his death.
He was a prominent union-side labor lawyer in New York City. For over a decade he was a partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, one of the country’s most respected labor and plaintiff employment law firms. In 2004, he founded Cary Kane LLP, dedicated to the exceptional representation of unions, union affiliated employee benefit plans, and employees with workplace claims. At various times during his legal career, he served as counsel to TWU Local 100, the union representing NYC’s bus and subway workers, Utility Workers Local 1-2, the union representing Con Edison’s workers, and the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union, which attempted to organize Amazon in Alabama, as well as many Teamster union locals. He was a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, which has 300,000 participants and $40 billion in assets. He was counsel to the benefit plans of District Council 37, the union representing 125,000 municipal employees of the City of New York as well as numerous other union employee benefit plans. Among his proudest achievements was successfully conducting an anti-corporate campaign on behalf of 200 low-wage Black women telephone workers seeking eligibility for company health insurance from Ticket Master as well as negotiating with a foreign corporation to make a $100 million voluntary contribution to its pension plan.
Cary was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1952 to Evelyn Linde Cary, and Larry Lee Cary Sr., who was stationed there while in the US Air Force. Cary lived in a variety of places but described a small town, Macomb, Illinois as “home” where his paternal grandparents and other family lived, the family having first settled there well before the Civil War. His grandfather, Cecil Cary, was a rank-and-file local union officer of a steel workers union local during the Great Depression. His grandmother, Helen Cary (née Crabill), was a homemaker. Both were born on a farm.
In 1970, Cary graduated Brooklyn Technical High School where he majored in chemistry. He graduated Brooklyn College where he studied history, economics, and secondary education. He received his Master of Public Administration from New York University on scholarship where he concentrated his studies on Health Policy, Planning and Administration. While studying at New York University he was the head of its student government representing 30,000 students. He graduated Brooklyn Law School in 1983 where he focused his studies on labor law and related subjects. In his 50s, he commuted to Washington, DC to earn a certificate in Employee Benefits Law from the graduate division of Georgetown University Law School.
Larry radicalized while a senior at Brooklyn Tech and in May 1970 led a four-day strike involving 6,000 students to protest the Vietnam war. He continued his anti-war activities while a college student. At the age of 18, he went to work as a stock boy at Abraham & Straus, a downtown Brooklyn department store, where he started a union campaign seeking to organize its 4,000 workers. Nominally, he was a member of the Democratic Party for almost his entire adult life but considered himself a socialist.
Larry dedicated himself to supporting educational excellence at his former high school, which he credited with transforming the trajectory of his life. For eight years he served as president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation. During his tenure, assets under management increased by $3 million to $16 million, new laboratories at the school were built, numerous classroom innovations were funded, and internships offered to over 400 students each year. The Foundation is the largest public high school alumni organization in the nation with 50,000 members.
He felt he was the rational voice in the public debate over preserving the standardized admissions test for Brooklyn Tech and the City’s other specialized high schools. His efforts are credited by many with preserving the test. He strongly believed that as a school for highly motivated and academically talented working-class students, most of whom were the children of recent emigrants, an objective admissions process based on merit and open to all of New York City’s children needed to be preserved while advocating efforts to improve the racial diversity of the student body.
He and Ann Ormsby were married for 37 years before his death. They met in NYC having moved into the same building in Soho. He proposed three weeks after their first date, and she agreed three weeks later. He said she was the love of his life. Together they had two wonderful children. He is survived by Ann and their sons, Charles Ian Ormsby Cary who resides in San Mateo, California with his life partner, Boya Fang, where he is involved in a technology start-up after graduating from the University of Chicago, and William Edward Ormsby Cary, who resides in Brooklyn, New York with his life partner, Erin Felicity Noll, where he is an actor after graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Cary’s father predeceased him, as did his stepfather, Harry Birnbaum. His mother resides in Chicago, Illinois. His sister, Dr. Margaret Colarelli, who received her doctorate from the University of Chicago, also resides in Chicago. His niece, Julia Colarelli, also resides in Chicago.
Larry lived his life as he wanted to. He believed that money was like oxygen, you needed enough to breath but no more. Instead, he was dedicated to social justice by improving the lives of working people and their families. His self-adopted motto “Carpe Diem – Carpe Imperium” (“Seize the Day – Seize the Power”), well captured the purpose of his life force.
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