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Larry Dwight Manley was born November 20, 1951, in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the much beloved 5th child and 4th son of James and Orene Manley. His energy, intelligence, talent and special anointing became apparent very early in life. Larry’s brothers and sisters affectionately nicknamed him “Churchy” in recognition of his love of worshipping the Lord; a joyful, soul stirring, gift he used until he took his last breath.

Larry went to Ketona Elementary School, graduating from New Castle High School (1970), in Birmingham, AL, and from Morris Brown College (1975), in Atlanta GA. After graduating from college, he was recruited by the Grand Rapids Public School System, and moved to his new hometown of over 30 years. There he met the love of his life, Kathy Groce, whom he couldn’t wait to marry. In his words she was just his type, “Smart, beautiful, loves the Lord, and with the most gorgeous hair you’ve ever seen! She even plays the piano!” In short, Kathy was his ideal, and a blessing from God. They shared passions for worshipping God and serving in the church, cooking, baking, being gracious hosts and sharing meals and holidays with loved ones in two states (they were always traveling back and forth from Grand Rapids to Birmingham) and above all, being devoted and loving parents to their two sons, David and Larry Jr. Larry loved being a father, and loved spending time with his sons, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and a host of adopted family members. To know him was to love him, and to be loved by him was to experience a love so fierce and true it takes your breath away and points you to our Heavenly Father.

Such a faithful and incredible person leaves a huge legacy. Larry was a much beloved English and Drama teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools for 32 years. He taught at Central High School, Riverside Middle School, Northeast Middle School, Burton Middle/Renaissance Montessori. In addition to teaching, he was a model, actor, and singer. Later in life he and Kathy moved back to his birthplace of Birmingham, Alabama where he continued to make an impact as a substitute teacher, was a co-laborer in Christ in his and Kathy’s church home, and got to enjoy more special time and memories with his siblings. We could not give an exhaustive list of the ways he impacted the lives of those around him.

Larry was a member of First Community AME Church in Grand Rapids for 36 years where he was actively involved. He participated in Vacation Bible School and several church choirs. He directed the Children’s Choir and was a tutor for the Sarah Allen Neighborhood Center. Larry also Organized the Bud Hardiman Scholarship Fund. He was impactful in the theater community in the Robeson Players theater group and was the Ethel Coe Humanitarian GIANT Award Winner in 2001. In the last 10 years, Larry was a member of St. John’s AME Church where he served as a Lay Organization Chaplain, and a member of the Male Chorus and the Mass Choir. Larry had a true love for praising the Lord with the Men of Praise, an all Male Chorus in the Birmingham area. They ministered at prisons, rehearsed together, and praised God on a weekly basis.

When Larry and Kathy married, they embraced each other’s family as one. Larry was preceded in death by his parents, James and Orene Manley; brother, Billy Manley; father and mother-in law, Daniel S. and Katie B. Groce; in-laws, Alice Blackmore, Nolan and Julia Groce, and Jeri Groce.

To honor his memory, he is survived by his wife of 41 years, Kathryn; sons, David and Larry Jr. (Christian); grandchildren, Kyndra, Miles, Grace, and Isaiah; siblings, Rev. Robert (Dr. Ollie) Manley, Patricia (Willie) Griggs, James (Janie) Manley,Jr., Anthony (Marice) Manley, and Michael (Linda) Manley; In-laws, Debra Manley, Daniel (Betty) Groce, and Maurice (Donna) Groce; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, adopted family, and special friends.

Gathering of family and friends will take place on Friday, July 30, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. at Messiah Baptist Church, 513 Henry Avenue S.E., Grand Rapids, MI, 49503, with a memorial service beginning at 11:00 a.m. Due to Covid-19, face masks and social distancing are required. A memorial service in Birmingham will be announced at a later date.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Larry’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:

Cremation arrangements are entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, 616-452-3006.


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31 Condolences

  1. Joe Hadden Jr. on February 4, 2022 at 11:45 pm

    Mr Manley,
    You will be greatly missed … There are time I want to call and chat with you about the ” Good old days” at Burton Middle.
    Thank you for being a kind, compassionate, and caring teacher.

    You wont be forgotten my friend

    Joe Hadden Jr.
    1985 8th grade student
    R.I.H. my friend

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