Lawrence Bechtel, or Larry to his friends and family, grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, home of Wheaton College, an institution dedicated to “Christ and His Kingdom.” His father taught literature and wrote a history of the college, A Heritage Remembered. His mother was an elementary school librarian, who besides her love of good books for children, encouraged creativity in her four children, Larry being the eldest. Looking back, he's spoken of the remarkable quietude, for the most part, of their life then. Reading was a principal activity only less important than devotions, with the additional attraction of being a window into other worlds. During the summers of his high school years, Larry worked as an “engineer” at Honey Rock Camp, the Northwoods Campus of Wheaton College, in Wisconsin, where he was free to get sweaty and dirty doing sometimes dangerous work in the woods almost like a character out of one of Jack London’s novels.
Larry graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in 1971, but because he felt somehow it was his destiny to be a teacher like his father and he didn't particularly want that, he did lots of other things over the next ten years or so. He backpacked through British Columbia, picked apples in Okenagon, Washington, and worked in a boat shop on the Oregon coast.
In about 1980, he settled in Southwest Virginia with his first wife. A son, Teague, was born, and Larry went to work building houses. On the side, he reviewed books for The Roanoke Times, and wrote a column on stockcar racing called “Inside Racing” for The News Messenger. From this last experience, he wrote his first (and as yet unpublished) novel, The Favorite. In 1983, Larry entered graduate school at Virginia Tech, writing his thesis on D.H. Lawrence, and reading a paper from that thesis at a Lawrence conference in Montpelier, France. In 1985, following completion of his graduate work, Larry was hired by the English Department as an Instructor—becoming a teacher like his father after all and happy about it, too. On the other hand, his marriage gradually broke down, the worse of it being the break he felt in the relationship with Teague, and for therapy through the divorce, he plunged himself into clay sculpting and wood carving.
Through a mutual friend Larry met Ann Shawhan, who lifted his spirits with gifts of banana bread and cassette tapes of her favorite music, They married in 1990, and Larry found his life transformed: they bought a little house, he became a stepdad to Ann's daughter, Rose, then later the happy father of another child, daughter Haley, and they did our best to keep the cocker spaniel, Milo, from jumping the fence and seeking his own kind of experiences. In 1991, after months of volunteering his time, Larry was appointed Virginia Tech's first Recycling Coordinator, which was a long jump from teaching English, but a mission. He had by that time also taken up figurative sculpture and secured over time significant public commissions. Additionally, Larry had a wonderful time being the designated storyteller for children at the Blacksburg New School, and from that experience eventually recorded three CD’s worth of original stories.
Larry retired from Virginia Tech in 2009, celebrating the occasion with a hike up to Dragon’s Tooth and coming back down exuberant about sculpture. Gradually, and with a purpose deepened from his friendship with Nannie Hairston, initiated from the Charles Schaeffer sculpture project for Schaeffer Church in Christiansburg, he at last turned his attention to the writing of what has become A Partial Sun.