San Bernardino Victim Remembered by Friends, Fellow Ren Faire Performers

Ryan Reyes, 32, holds a photograph of his boyfriend of three years, Larry Daniel Kaufman, who was confirmed as one of the 14 people killed at the Inland Regional Center on Wednesday. The image was taken at a Renaissance festival.  (Rick Loomis/L.A. Times via Getty Images)

Friends of San Bernardino shooting victim Larry Daniel Kaufman remember him as a smiling man who would twirl his way through the parade at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, spreading joy.

About 100 people gathered last weekend at the site of the fair east of Los Angeles for a candlelight vigil to share their stories and happy memories of Kaufman. By day, Kaufman trained disabled people at a coffee stand in San Bernardino. But during his free time, he performed at the fair for the past 16 years.

While there were some tears at the vigil, Kaufman's Renaissance Faire family also laughed a lot, just like Kaufman did in real life. Phil Schwadron saw him every day at the fair, but never talked to him.

"I knew him as the guy who smiled and did that silly twirl as he walked through the parade. And I found after 10 years, I was looking forward every morning to see the parade so I could catch the smiley guy," Schwadron said. "So I never knew his name until this whole thing went down on Wednesday."

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Others shared stories of what they called Kaufman's "wicked" sense of humor, like a story about him performing as a pie thief at the Queen's Tea during the fair and intentionally falling face first into a pie to make people laugh.

Another person recounted how during the last parade of the year at the fair, Kaufman took the '70s theme to a whole new level.

"The gold lame, like, Speedo trunks, bare-chested, moon boots that made him tower that much more over me," Keebler Hunt remembered with a smile.

Some people showed up in costume to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire site in Irwindale to remember Larry Daniel Kaufman, a member of their community for more than a decade and a half.
Some people showed up in costume to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire site in Irwindale to remember Larry Daniel Kaufman, a member of their community for more than a decade and a half. (Susan Valot/KQED)

Bethany Alldredge met Kaufman four years ago through a mutual fair friend.

"He just lit up the room," she said. "He just made you laugh, gave the best hugs, and he was great with children. He would make everyone smile."

Alldredge said Kaufman, who started out at the fair as a shy guy, helped to teach her to give of herself, through a smile or a hug, to make someone else's day better.

She fondly remembered how Kaufman would wear a black and red devil's mask and make his way through the fairgrounds, playing the role.

"And he would go around and poke people and play with people, all that, and just be that naughty devil part of him. And it was always so much fun to see," Alldredge said. "But if ever was a child or someone was scared of it, he would try to ease it in. But if it didn't happen, he would remove his mask and just start talking with them [and] share his smile."

James Crowley, who plays a knight at the fair, wore what he calls "anti-Daniel armor" to protect him from Kaufman's friendly poking. He said it's tough not only for the adults to lose such an effervescent spirit.

"We're kind of dreading it because some of the younger children, he's been there as someone to play with. Well, now come next year, it's going to be hard trying -- 'cause some of them don't fully understand yet. All they're going to know is he's not there," Crowley said.

Longtime festival friend Scott Forst plays "The Tinker" at the fair. His role is to go from town to town, fixing broken stuff, which he carries in a large wicker basket on his back.

Forst said his costume was inspired by Kaufman, with the basket to protect his backside. Kaufman would playfully pinch Forst's rear when he would pass by.

"When I'm standing and walking, it's protection. When I see him smiling, I can shake and it knocks him out of the way," Forst told the crowd at the vigil, which roared with laughter.

About 100 people gathered at the site of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale on Saturday for a candlelight vigil to remember San Bernardino shooting victim Larry Daniel Kaufman.
About 100 people gathered at the site of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale on Saturday for a candlelight vigil to remember San Bernardino shooting victim Larry Daniel Kaufman. (Susan Valot/KQED)

One of the last things that Kaufman did for Forst was give him a broken tambourine. Kaufman would carry the tambourine with him at the fair.

"And being a tinker, he brought it to me, gave it to me to put on my basket as a token, as if I would actually go and repair it. But it's more of a memento now," Forst said. "Where I carry it, I actually carry it close to my butt, so every time I'm walking it swings and hits me, [and] I know he's still there."

The crowd celebrated Kaufman's life in a way they knew he would want it celebrated, with laughter, song and a "huzzah!" cheer.

"The biggest thing that people can do to honor Daniel is to not be afraid -- to still be friendly, to smile, to reach out and touch somebody that may have had a horrible day and you could be the person that turns that life around," Forst said.

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