Louis S. Larsen’s hands were big. His grip on the affairs of the waterfront was firm and friendly. To shake his hand was to feel affirmation, fellowship and a bit of the strength of one who was always a Menemsha fisherman. On the water, he was the fisherman captain’s captain.

Louis spent much of the recent years on the Menemsha waterfront attending to the affairs of his family’s businesses, which bought and sold fish. I remember his long sideburns. I remember him dressed as though he was just back from a trip on his 70-foot steel dragger Mary Elizabeth, even though he sold the boat and hadn’t been on the water for awhile.

Louis was the patriarch of the Larsen family, and its extended family. When I saw him, he was always in motion. He was midstream in a chore, something needed to be done for one of his children. There was a refrigerator compressor at the fish market that was singing and needed his attention. There were errands, that began with “Mary said.” His day was full, and those missions were tied to his family, or a friend of a friend of one in the family.

Louis was a storyteller. And when I needed some help putting words together for the With the Fisherman column, to have a moment with Louis was precious.

One short piece of information became many stories weaved together into one. When he began to speak, he cast a wide net. And I always felt honored to hear how he stitched it all together, to weave the challenges into some kind of hope.

I remember him being earnest about a thought he held in his hand. It may have been quite simple, or it may have involved the Canadian government, like that troublesome Hague Line. Louis had something important to say about all the affairs that made Menemsha a fishing port, and the affairs that affected his world. If Hershel West was in the room, or at the dock standing nearby while Louis spoke, the stories got longer. Hershel nodded and could always add to it.

Louis’s stories, like his life, were a large full barrel, overflowing. He was a generous fellow, a giver in a world that in most cases was not giving. If it was a meal, there was always more than you could eat. He fished that way, too.

I remember sitting with him and his wife Mary at their dining room table one afternoon. It was a busy place, almost busier than the town hall across the street. Family and friends would come in and out the door.

Mary facilitated the affairs of the town of Chilmark, where she worked as executive secretary to the selectmen. Louis facilitated the affairs of the Menemsha waterfront.

My conversations with Louis always began with a short question. Then his story would lift off. His tale would take you on a journey of words, over to the Coast Guard station, maybe three times around the Mayhew fish shack. His story would touch a Flander’s quahaug rake. It would go up the hill and back down again. He’d shift his tone and then point the story down to the fill dock where Hershel West used to keep his boat. Somehow the name Cottle and Morgan would be weaved in.

I was always amazed where his distinct voice took me. When I looked at my watch, it would be a half hour later and he would be just coming to his conclusion. But his words always had a central point, that of making the world a little better. The word “goodness” seemed to float in there somewhere. Something needed to be fixed, and maybe if there was a little more lifting, or someone gave an extra shove, things would be made right.

Louis traveled great distances on the water, without a cellphone, without contact to his home. He fished the Grand Banks, and walked the streets of Halifax. He long-lined for swordfish across the waters of the Atlantic into the blue waters of the Yucatan. He walked the docks of Panama City in Florida. And he would draw on those memories as part of his tales.

In the spring of 1986, I went fishing with Louis for a day in his dragger Mary Elizabeth. Louis was generous about sharing his love for the water and we mutually felt a trip for a Gazette story would be beneficial to the both of us. We went fishing for fluke in the Sound, when skate far outnumbered fluke.

The most striking memory for me was how enthusiastic Louis was at the prospect of bringing my four-year-old son Alan along. With Hershel West onboard that made four of us. The Captain was a “show and tell” fisherman. What came out of his net was interesting and worth sharing. My son picked up an octopus and walked the deck for a long time carrying the creature like he had made a new friend.

With Louis at the helm, with Louis reeling in the net, the Mary Elizabeth became a friendly environ, all fish were safe to touch, and it was a safe place for a child wearing a life jacket.

It is no wonder therefore that all of Louis’ grandchildren adored him. He could be any child’s best friend.

There is an old sea chantey that honors a passing fisherman. The chorus to the song ends with:

Oh tell me old shipmates,
I’ve taken a trip mates,
and I’ll see you someday
On Fiddler’s Green.