Lawrence Teacher, 72, Philadelphia publisher and talented artist

Teacher
Teacher
Posted: March 28, 2014

JIM GRAHAM took a sad walk in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island this week.

He walked to Turtle Point, the beach home of his longtime friend, Larry Teacher, and took photographs of the little stone animals out front and the house where so much of Larry's heart and soul reposed for many years.

Jim was having a difficult time realizing that his friend was shockingly gone.

He had had a three-hour lunch with Larry on Monday at Parc, the Rittenhouse Square brasserie, where Larry seemed to be his usual jocular self, full of jokes and humor, kidding with the waitresses and fighting over the check.

"He looked incredible," Jim said. "Vivacious, happy."

But Larry died in his sleep that night. He was 72.

Lawrence Teacher, co-founder of Running Press, the Center City publishing company, and later founder of his own publishing company, was a man brimming with ideas for books, websites, video presentations and other projects. He was also a talented painter, whose portraits and landscapes are treasured by family, friends and collectors.

"Larry Teacher was the most creative force to come out of Philadelphia publishing since Benjamin Franklin," said Toby Schmidt Meyer, former art director for Running Press. "I can't even explain what a powerhouse personality he had, and, yes, there was a quiet side, too, because he was a very spiritual man, connecting with Native American lore as much as his Jewish roots."

"He was an amazing guy," said his wife, prizewinning photojournalist Sharon Wohlmuth. "He was so sensitive, so funny. He told a great joke. He had great ideas. Every day he would say, 'What do you think of this?' about some new idea. We made a great couple. We're both creative. We supported each other's ideas."

Sharon, a photographer for the Inquirer for 20 years before embarking on a career of producing best-selling coffee-table books chronicling the lives of women, talked about how considerate and endearing Larry could be.

For instance, on her 60th birthday, he gave her a card on which he had written "I love you" 60 times in tiny letters.

He could also be self-deprecating. An avid fly fisherman, Larry wore a fish pin on his lapel. When asked about it, he would say, "That's the fish I never caught."

Larry loved taking his sailboat out in the bay from his home in Harvey Cedars, scene of many family reunions. He also took fishing trips with his brother, Stuart "Buz" Teacher, including one to Ireland. He once used a fly-fishing bag for a briefcase.

Larry turned his energy and passion to painting early in his career. Sharon related that once Robert Downey Sr., a film producer and father of actor Robert Downey Jr., visited her and her husband in their apartment on Rittenhouse Square.

Larry had painted a portrait of his mother, Zelda, seated at a piano. Downey, in town to make a documentary, was fascinated by the painting.

"I love this painting," Downey said. "I want to buy it." The painting was not for sale, but Larry agreed to make a copy and send it to him.

Larry showed his portraits and landscapes at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, where he won honors.

He made greeting cards out of some of his landscapes, and wrote on the back, "By the son of Zelda." His mother is now 92.

Larry was a fan of Fauvism, a French school of art practiced by Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, among others.

"Our apartment is piled high with art books," his wife said.

Larry was born in Philadelphia and attended Cheltenham High and American University in Washington, D.C. He operated a bookstore at 38 S. 19th St. in the '60s.

He and his brother, Buz, decided to start a publishing company in 1972. They called it Running Press and began by reprinting books that were in the public domain.

Buz Teacher is now the sole owner of Running Press since Larry left the firm in the late '90s. Since then, Larry had created Lawrence Teacher Publishing Group, which has produced pocket books with such titles as The Little Book of Zen, The Joy of Cats, How to Give the Perfect Foot Massage and the like.

He also had many ideas for websites, including "100 Wishes," which would deliver an inspirational message to your computer every day. It was in development.

In other words, Larry Teacher was always thinking creatively.

He and Sharon Wohlmuth were married in 1991.

Besides his wife, brother and mother, Larry is survived by a daughter, Rachael; a sister, Melissa Cookman; and a grandson, Noah.

Services: 2 p.m. today at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, 8339 Old York Road, Elkins Park.

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