It was 12:21 a.m. There were no restaurants open in Fairhope at this untoward hour.

Unless, of course, you counted Sonic Drive-In. And if I wanted the joyous experience of dining in my vehicle, I could save time by dumping boiling grease into my lap.

So it was Waffle House.

I stepped into the surgically chilled air of America’s greatest eatery and found my usual seat.

Waffle House dining rooms are predominantly designed the same way. A Waffle House in Benson, North Carolina, for example, is set up just like the one in Albuquerque.

So I always choose the same seat. I always select the leftmost seat at the very end of the bar. Back of the house. Nearest the refrigerators. Against the window.

I sit here for two reasons. One, because the air conditioners at Waffle House will freeze your vital organs. Two, the air vents can’t reach you back here.

Tonight, our grill-person was named Larry. He was tall, with Rosie Greer shoulders and a perpetual smile.

I asked what he was smiling about.

“Oh, I always smile,” he said.

I asked why.

He shrugged his granite shoulders. “Customers need to feel like they’s at home.”

Larry is a relatively young guy. At least he seems young to me.

He recently suffered a heart attack. The cardiac event was so bad that his doctors weren’t sure how much destruction had been done. They placed him in a medically induced coma to reduce damage to his brain.

Life came to a standstill. His family went into a kind of half mourning. If you’ve ever had a family member in a coma, it’s exactly like going to hell, only with more vending machine food.

Larry survived his heart attack with almost no lingering effects. One week after he left the hospital, he was back at the grill, cooking.

“Cooking is what I do,” he said, flipping eggs with a gentle turn of his wrist.

Larry has been cooking since he was a child. He was knee high to an range stove when he learned the dark art of gastronomy.

“My mama was a cook,” he said. “She was a country girl from Mississippi, taught me everything she knew.

“I’d be in the kitchen with her, watching her do her thing, and I just sort of started cooking. I like to feed people.”

Not long after his heart attack, Larry had another major medical event. He had a stroke.

The stroke occurred on the left side of his brain, which temporarily paralyzed the right side of his body.

Not long after his first bouts of physical therapy, he was right here again. Scattering, smothering, chunking, topping, dicing and covering.

It’s taken Larry some time to get back into the swing of things since his stroke. He’s had to coax his arm muscles and hands into moving again. But he’s done the work. And he’s here.

If you met him, you’d never suspect this giant man had ever suffered a major cerebrovascular event.

I asked how Larry has managed to overcome some much.

“Cooking, man,” he said. “I come to work, I stand right here, I use my hands, I make good food.

“I meet people. I entertain customers by being happy and friendly. That’s what saved me. I just keeping going.”

His 10-year-old daughter loves to watch him cook at home. She stands in the kitchen and watches her mild-mannered father transform into Renoir with a spatula. He’s teaching her the family tradition.

Larry’s eyes become pink when he starts talking about his daughter.

He told me his girl wants to be a doctor someday. Then he said, “She’s my everything, man. I’ll do whatever it takes to make her a doctor, if that’s what she wants.”

When my food is ready, he slides a steaming plate in front of me. I can see Larry flexing his right fist, trying to persuade feeling back into it.

“One thing I know,” said Larry, “God won’t never give you more than you can handle.

“I gone through heart attacks, strokes, lost my mama to a bad disease. But I’m still here. God must got a purpose for me.”

I asked Larry what he thinks that purpose is.

He points to the flat top. “I’m here to do what I’m doing. Cooking is love. This is how I love people.”

If you ever pass through Fairhope, and you’re feeling hungry, find Larry.

Let him love you.

And if you feel like it, maybe return the favor.


  1. Trudy - October 20, 2022 7:07 am

    You and Larry spread a lot of love; you with a pen, and he with his spatula.

  2. Lisa - October 20, 2022 7:32 am

    I’ll look for Larry next time I’m in Fairhope. I look forward to meeting him.

  3. Angela - October 20, 2022 8:12 am

    What a coincidence! My siblings gathered in Fairhope from Mobile, Missouri, Tennessee and me from Oregon for a reunion! I am reading this on October 20 (the day it arrived in my email) a few hours before I leave to move on to my next stop, Tennessee for more friends and family. Too late to meet Larry but this is a beautiful place to visit so I hope to return. Being from the South,I so enjoy reading your stories and reminding me of my beautiful memories. Thank you for your gift of writing😊

  4. Jan LeMaster - October 20, 2022 9:37 am

    Oh so beautiful!

  5. Ann Thompson - October 20, 2022 9:38 am


  6. Ht - October 20, 2022 10:31 am

    Look forward to meeting Larry on my return!

  7. mccutchen52 - October 20, 2022 10:36 am

    Always love me some Waffle House. Might go this morning.

  8. Te - October 20, 2022 10:39 am

    Your ability to find the salt of the earth is downright magical.

  9. Dolores - October 20, 2022 10:57 am

    There’s nothing better than to wake up with a steaming mug of coffee and to read about good and positive people. Somehow the day that stretches out before you seems like it’ll be good too. Or at least you can handle the detours.

    Larry is a reminder to stay humble and positive even with life’s trials. Otherwise your ‘salt’ loses its flavor and is no good for anything. Stay salty friends.

    • frank plyler - October 20, 2022 2:31 pm


  10. Huey Hoss Mack - October 20, 2022 10:58 am

    Glad you came to Fairhope. Sorry I missed the event. I really enjoyed reading your articles and now I’m reading your books

  11. jocelyn - October 20, 2022 11:06 am

    What a great purpose Larry has. Cooking and Love. The planet needs more Larry’s.

  12. Cheryl - October 20, 2022 11:10 am

    excellence with words.I love words. they can convey feelings. you do that regularly.
    I appreciate your fine art so much.
    you identify with people and our common experiences with our FEELINGS.
    today I’m feeling like I have lost my momentum (again). 😕
    I hate when I feel this way.
    Everybody needs their peeps and I need mine.
    People I know. love. care about.
    others I don’t know because I haven’t met them yet, but we need each other none the less.
    I am feeling alone and that I’ve done something wrong…
    But I’m never sure what that is.

    I just know I NEED my peeps. All of them. each and every one of them.

    get busy and reach out to someone today that needs what each of us have to offer.
    it might be a smile. Companionship. just being present. ears to listen, and hope with.

    come alongside another. Try not to neglect others who need some love today or tomorrow. Do better than I’ve done recently. make the call. Arrange coffee.
    others are well worth the effort.
    reach out.


  13. Kathy Croft - October 20, 2022 11:18 am

    ❤️❤️❤️ Nice to hear about Larry! Heartwarming. May have to ride down to Fairhope Waffle House soon & see his smiling face. Praying he continues to heal.

  14. Fran Blackburn - October 20, 2022 11:29 am

    You’re daily blog writing is like a Christmas present daily. Each morning, I take just a few minutes of quiet time to read it… it starts my day off in a positive manner! Thank you!!!

  15. Ann - October 20, 2022 11:33 am

    I had my first Waffle House experience a few weeks ago. I also decided to try grits. I was in London, Kentucky, and the lady that served my hubby and I said that southerners do t really eat grits. Is this true? She couldn’t even tell me what they were made with (boiled corn). She claims it’s a misconception that southerner eat grits.

    Thanks to you and your stories about Waffle House, I felt brave enough to go into one. Whether or not I will go to one again, remains to be seen, but this northerner loved the grits.

    • Leigh Amiot - October 20, 2022 1:52 pm

      Ann, I live in southern Georgia and I had grits this morning! Sliced some sausage, pan fried it, made scrambled eggs, stirred it all together with cheese, good groceries! Also, shrimp and grits is delicious dinner fare, hope you get a chance to try that, too.

    • Lynda Fowler - October 21, 2022 12:53 pm

      I beg to differ with the Kentucky Waffle House woman. Southern do eat grits. We Love grits. White and yellow! With butter, cheese, gravy. Scrambled eggs,Sliced tomatoes, etc. so glad you a northerner tried and liked them. Your better for taking the risk !!!

  16. Linda Lewis - October 20, 2022 12:16 pm

    I’m praying for Larry to have continued good health. I’m sending him lots of love.

  17. Dawn Celiberti - October 20, 2022 12:19 pm

    Wow, my eyes are watery this morning for sure, this right here. 🙏❤️

  18. Sean of the South: Fairhope | The Trussville Tribune - October 20, 2022 12:37 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  19. Gordon - October 20, 2022 12:43 pm

    What a wonderful story, Sean. Through your story, thanks for reminding us that God is still taking care of His people.

  20. Joe - October 20, 2022 1:12 pm

    Sean, somebody turned me on to your daily email column a few months ago and this is my first comment but not the first time I considered it. First let me say thanks for the daily dose of wit, wisdom, common sense and love your neighbor articulation through prose. I agree with you that each of us see Larry’s every day and all of us could make this world a little better trying to show some love like he does and not be like the fella from a few weeks ago who never tips (those folks make my blood boil just like yours obviously) and wouldn’t know humanity or compassion if it walked up and bit him. Oh, I have 6 dogs and 2 cats and my wife would be having to wait while I became one of the people who would have to introduce myself to your blind bloodhound. I’m a firm believer that dogs are a lot more loving than a lot of people in our world and they always share if you let them. Anyway, I just want to say thanks for your daily light into as I contemplate meaning every morning and as I meet the God I’m certain is real over coffee and words.

  21. David Britnell - October 20, 2022 1:45 pm

    Lots of Love to Larry!

  22. Leslie Anne Tarabella - October 20, 2022 1:51 pm

    Happy to have you in Fairhope. Sorry I missed you, but I’ve had breakfast cooked by Larry and it is wonderful.

  23. Patricia Gibson - October 20, 2022 1:53 pm

    What a wonderful experience. We never know where and from whom we will receive a blessing 🙏

  24. John - October 20, 2022 1:57 pm

    What a great story about one of the fortunate few who has found the ever elusive contentment and purpose in the midst of tragedy!!!

  25. Connie - October 20, 2022 2:10 pm

    This touched me, Sean. Thank you.

  26. Lucretia Jones - October 20, 2022 2:16 pm

    Wonderful to come to know Larry, Sean. Thank you. Lucretia

  27. Stacey Wallace - October 20, 2022 2:42 pm

    Sean, I do love Larry. And he’s right; God will get you through anything you face. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.

  28. Pat - October 20, 2022 2:51 pm


  29. Barbara L - October 20, 2022 2:51 pm

    Larry sounds like a beautiful person. Thanks for sharing. And Fairhope is a wonderful small town. I hope you stayed to explore it.

  30. JonDragonfly - October 20, 2022 3:05 pm

    Yes, we do eat grits.

  31. LIN ARNOLD - October 20, 2022 3:26 pm

    This one brought tears to my eyes. Such a kind, gentle soul. My God continue to bless him!!

  32. SAMUEL GATES - October 20, 2022 3:47 pm

    Have an antiquing friend in Huntsville Al , whose family has had a 2nd home in Fairhope for years
    and they love the town / area. Will put Larry and WH on our travel list. thanks Sean

  33. hbryan21 - October 20, 2022 4:45 pm

    Love Fairhope Love the “Awful waffle..I tipped the cook $10 one day for the show he put on.Ive bee4n in every Waffle house between Dallas and Sarasota fl. and North Carolina..

  34. Debbie g - October 20, 2022 5:23 pm

    I love our Larry and Seans in this world ❤️❤️❤️🌈🌈

  35. Carol J Pilmer - October 20, 2022 6:14 pm

    Thanks for the Larry introduction!

  36. Paul Alge - October 20, 2022 7:53 pm

    Waffle House is a little expensive but it’s real food cooked in front of you not hiding behind a wall. And Larry is real people. I’m a grits loving southerner but when I go to WH I have hash browns. Because growing up I never new you could have potatoes for breakfast. And mixing the runny egg yellow with the potatoes is as good as it grits. 😬

  37. Bill Booher - October 20, 2022 9:35 pm

    We now live in Fairhope, after 27 years in the. Washington, DC area. We found Fairhope somewhat by accident about 6 years ago and fell in love with this community…because there are a lot of “Larrys” here. Fairhope is a community where people live because they want to, not because they have to!

  38. Joe - October 20, 2022 11:11 pm

    Larry is another beacon for those around to follow. Amazing Gentleman.

  39. Cece baggett - October 20, 2022 11:44 pm

    Such an uplifting column. Absolutely made me feel pride and hope for our country. Need more people like this precious soul

  40. Sue Ann Holmes - October 20, 2022 11:54 pm

    I lived in Fairhope 7 years. Never met Larry. Wish I had!

  41. Dan McMillan - October 21, 2022 1:55 am

    That’s a cool story. I’m ready to go see Larry tonight! 😊

  42. Larry Holley - October 21, 2022 2:06 am

    Sean your the best! A few days ago when you were performing in Fairhope my grandson Judson Braly got to meet you and have his picture taken with you. He was elated! I wish it could have been me! We love your column. Keep up the great work. God bless you and yours. Larry Holley.

  43. Brant Riley - October 21, 2022 3:03 am

    Excellent story! Next time I’m in Fairhope, I’ll stop at the WH and have Larry cook me up some love!

  44. Deborah Thompson - October 21, 2022 4:22 pm

    Ur writing. Ur way of thinking. The questions u ask folks to know them & understand them. Ur patience. Ur kindness. Ur compassion. U never, ever disappoint.

  45. pattymack43 - October 21, 2022 6:20 pm

    May our Lord bless Larry in his work/mission!! This man has real wisdom!! Blessings!

  46. Julie, RN - October 22, 2022 4:00 pm

    Larry at the Waffle House in Fairhope, Alabama…Get it, Got it, Good‼️ He’s on my Bucket List. And I don’t need GPS to find him. Just follow his Beacon of Light, Love, and Caring❣️

  47. Cathy - October 22, 2022 8:01 pm

    Fairhope Waffle House is my favorite Waffle House. Food is always good and the people always nice. Lots of people go there after having tests or procedures at the hospital. It must be a healing place. 😁


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