School psychologist mourned after sudden death

Monty Larrew, an educational psychologist with the Ministry of Education, died 9 Aug. following a brief illness. He was 40.

Larrew’s unexpected death hit colleagues hard.

“His loss is tragic and untimely,” said Clive Baker, a senior policy advisor with the ministry. “It will be deeply felt across these islands and beyond.”

Baker, who worked closely with Larrew, said in an email that Larrew was highly respected at the ministry.

He was, Baker said, “a true professional, a kind, compassionate man who always had the best interests of the students at heart. A man of integrity who worked hard to improve our service.”

According to friends, Larrew recently underwent an appendectomy while in Colorado. He fell ill after returning to Cayman and died while plans were under way to airlift him to Florida for treatment.

Matt Sloane, who was Larrew’s roommate for four years, said the death has been a shock.

“I’m trying to be positive about it, because that was him,” said Sloane, a former radio presenter on Bob FM.

He said Larrew loved to travel, was an avid Denver Nuggets fan and a good cook. His specialty was gumbo. Both Sloane and another friend, Stacey Weber, said he had a remarkable way of connecting with people.

“You quickly felt you were one of his tightest friends,” said Weber, a sales representative for Compass Media.

His colleagues said that openness made him effective in the work he did.

He was initially posted in Cayman Brac in 2010 as part of specialist support team for the schools there. He spent four years on the Brac, introducing an early-intervention literacy programme that was eventually adopted in all Cayman primary schools. He continued to work in a similar capacity when he came to Grand Cayman and gained the respect of co-workers.

“Monty was one of the hardest working people I know,” Kirstie Lindsay, a speech-language pathologist who worked with him daily, said in an email. “He truly wanted to improve life for the children on this island, and he was proud of his profession.

“Monty advocated hard for the children and sometimes that got him into a bit of trouble in meetings,” she added. “He just had zero tolerance for anyone who was not doing their job to make life better for these kids.”

Weber said he saw that too. While Larrew did not often speak about his job outside of work, Weber said, in June, just two weeks before school was out, Larrew was frustrated.

“He was quite upset because he’d determined that a child needed a certain type of service and an administrator said, ‘Well, it’s the end of the year.’ And he said, ‘This child’s not going to be shortchanged just because you’re getting ready for summer vacation.’ He wasn’t having it.”

In a statement, Tammy Hopkins, acting director of the Department of Education Services, said Larrew’s dedication to students was always evident.

“After moving to Grand Cayman in 2014, he maintained links with the Brac community and always queried how his former students were doing,” Hopkins said. “His same genuine work ethic continued and helping our students was always his number one priority, no matter which school he was assigned.”

His death has shaken the department, she said.

“Our loss is immeasurable,” she said, “only equal to the happiness we had when he was in our lives. He was our colleague and friend. On behalf of the Department of Education Services and the Ministry of Education, I extend prayers of comfort for his colleagues on the education psychologist team and all those who worked with Monty, as well as to his dear family and friends.”

Sloane said he will remember his friend’s smile and positive way of dealing with things. When Sloane had to leave Cayman in May because of the rollover, he had a hard time getting motivated to go home to Liverpool, England.

“I left everything to the last minute,” Sloane said, “including picking up my new passport. [Larrew] said, ‘What time’s your flight?’”

Despite being only three hours from scheduled takeoff, Sloane said, he was not ready. Larrew got him moving.

“He said, ‘You kind of need to pack up.’ He could have gotten on my case. He could have made me feel bad. But he just helped me get all my stuff done and kept telling me how much fun I was going to have back home. He did all of that without making me feel judged. He took me to the airport and gave me a big hug. He said, ‘I love you. It’s all going to work out. Now get on the friggin’ plane.’

“That will be the way I remember him whenever I think of him,” he added. “I just see that big smile.”

Services for Larrew are planned for 16 Aug. in his hometown of Eads, Colorado. Larrew is survived by his parents, Randy and Fran Larrew of Eads.