Mr. & Mrs. Landes •
The Petersburg Natives & Founder of the Landes Arts Center
Larry Landes was born in Petersburg to Catherine Ashenfelter Landes and was raised by his grandparents, Robert (Bob) and Margaret E. Ashenfelter. While he was a student at Petersburg High School, he lettered in basketball, football, and baseball. He was captain of each sport, and named both “King of the 1952 Petro Schola” and “Most Popular Senior.” Larry graduated from PHS in 1952.
Joyce Alexander was born in Petersburg to Robert and Verda Smith Alexander. She lived on Water Street, across from the electric power company at the time. Her grandparents, Austin and Augusta Lyon Smith, also lived in Petersburg. Austin was well known throughout Grant County for his expertise as a blacksmith. Also a PHS graduate, Joyce was named “Queen of the 1953 Petro Schola.”
She married Larry that same year. She graduated from West Virginia State College in 1972 with a B.S. degree in Education. She then began teaching at a Christian school in Wytheville, VA, and went on to teach in Huntington (WV), Roanoke (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), and Hurt (VA).
While living in Huntington, Joyce began working on her Master’s Degree, which she completed in 1979 at Radford University. Joyce retired from teaching, as the administrator of a Christian school.
Larry was a veteran of the Korean Conflict. He was assigned to the first helicopter division at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He retired in 1992 as Superintendent for the English Construction Co. (located in Lynchburg, VA). He suffered from major cardiac problems and had to have heart bypass surgery. After a major heart attack, his heart was so badly damaged that he received a heart transplant in 1994.
Larry and Joyce moved to Texas in 1995 to be near their son, Brett. They enjoyed their years in Texas and played golf all over the USA, from California to Maine. They also traveled to Europe three times, checking off items on their “things to do” list. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on a Mediterranean Cruise in 2003. Shortly after their trip, Larry went into rejection of his transplanted heart and was in extremely poor health from that time. He died June 16, 2006. Joyce passed away in 2017.
“Larry was funny beyond measure…he was a southern gentleman at all times,” said Joyce. “He was an awesome father, and my best friend and sweetheart for over 50 years.”
The Performing Arts Center was named in their honor, thanks to a major donation from their son, Brett Landes, who is president and founder of Landes Investments, Inc. in Dallas, Texas.
Brett says, “I couldn’t think of a better way to pay tribute to my parents…and in their hometown.”
Larry and Joyce had three additional children: Greg, Matthew, and Ayn. Greg, who had down syndrome, lived to be 46 years old. Matthew is a successful businessman in Dallas. Ayn had a long career as an office manager and personal secretary to the president of a company in Atlanta, Georgia. She passed away in 2016. Joyce continued to enjoy 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The Landes family hopes that the arts center will stand as a beacon to everything that “God is good, and His blessings are never ending.”
The Landes Arts Center theatre is named after Eugene K. Harr, in gratitude for his extraordinary gift to the Grant County Library through his estate. The conservatory grand piano, accompanied by the piano’s bench, trailer, and quilted cover, is a gift from his sister, Dr. Debra Harr. Her gorgeous gift is to memorialize her brother and benefit the county that he loved.
Debra and the late Eugene Harr were reared in Petersburg, the daughter and son of E. Debs and Lucille Kyle Harr. Their father was an electrician and a founder and the first president of the Golden K Club in Petersburg. Their mother, who was affectionately knows as “Tippy,” was the owner and operator of Tippy’s Beauty Salon in Petersburg. She was active in many local civic organizations. The couple operated Seneca Theater for many years.
Eugene graduated from Petersburg High School in 1957. He attended Potomac State College and was a graduate of West Virginia University. he spent his entire career in government service. He was a budget officer for the Internal Revenue Service prior to 1988. From that time until his retirement in 1999, he was a budge officer for the U.S. Information Agency, now known as the International Broadcasting Bureau in Washington DC. In 2000, Mr. Harr succumbed to his eight-year battle with cancer. He had maintained strong ties with his hometown and its people and bestowed generous gifts to both the library and the Petersburg High School Scholarship Fund. He is the father of two daughters, Jennifer Harr Campbell and Amy K. Harr and the grandfather of two granddaughters, Hannah Campbell and Alyson Campbell.
Debra graduated from Petersburg High School in 1964 and was honored by being one of the first graduates named to the Hall of Fame in 2007. She graduated from West Virginia University. She joined the WVU School of Nursing faculty in 1975 and achieved a Doctor of Education degree with a specialty in health services administration in 1984. While serving as a professor in the WVU School of Nursing, she initiated the Parish Nurse Program. Dr. Harr retired in 2005 and continues to live in Morgantown.