SANTA ANA, Calif.—When Virginia Mort’s husband died suddenly three years ago, her neighbor, Larry Hausner, stopped by to offer his condolences. Hausner told Mort he’d like to lend a hand by taking out her trash.
He’s been doing it ever since.
“Without fail, he has never missed a week in three years,” Mort told The Epoch Times.
Her 80-year-old neighbor “truly enjoys helping others,” she said. “If every neighborhood had a clone of him, our communities would be filled with good cheer and much happiness.”
Hausner has become something of a legend to his neighbors, renowned for his acts of kindness, small and large. But he wasn’t always such a nice guy, he told The Epoch Times.
When he was young, he was a “pool hall bum” and an alcoholic, he said—until the love of his wife set him straight.
Hausner—ever-willing to divert attention to others—credits Sandy, his wife of nearly 50 years, for whatever positivity he spreads to those around him.
“Sandy’s been my everything,” he said. “She’s been an instrumental part in why I got to where I am.”
Hard Times Build Heart
Hausner said he’s driven toward everyday acts of kindness because he’s no stranger to hard times and personal struggles.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, he was the youngest of 11 children in a family he said was “dirt poor.” He had to fend for himself from the beginning, and said that made him bitter at a young age.
He struggled to make it through school, because he was constantly distracted by gambling at bookie joints. “When I got out of high school, I was a pool hall bum. Trust me, my mother called me that enough times,” he said.
As soon as scraped up $300, he followed his sister to Santa Ana, California—where he still lives to this day. Over time, Hausner clawed his way to success. He parlayed his strengths as a salesman into opening his own construction company in Tustin in 1976.
But even though he began to profit financially, he was fighting a personal battle with alcoholism, he said—the same disease that plagued his father—and he was losing.
Then, with his wife’s support, Hausner stopped drinking at age 41. That’s when his life finally started to turn around for good.
“Sandy’s been the backbone to the whole thing, because she should’ve given me the boot long ago,” he said.
He’s been sober ever since. On June 1, Hausner will celebrate 39 years of sobriety.
When Sandy was asked how hard it was to straighten Larry out, she asked, “Have you got all day?” Then she shared a story.
“My one granddaughter, Hannah, adores this man,” Sandy told The Epoch Times. “She’s just obsessed with him, right? And she says to her mother one day, ‘Mom, when I get married, I’m gonna have a husband just like grandpa. I want him to be just like that.’
“And [her mother] goes, ‘Hannah, darling, he hasn’t always been like that.’”
The Spirit of Giving
Hausner’s personal struggles and successes have led him to think of life as a steering wheel: whatever you put at the top of the wheel will eventually wind up in your lap. That’s why he feels it’s important to put something positive in the world every chance you get.
During a trip to Tecate, Mexico, in the early 1980s, Hausner spotted a half-finished orphanage. “The best way to describe it was it was a skeleton of a building,” he said. “There were no doors or windows, and only a partial roof and a poorly made cement floor.”
The woman in charge told him that it was her dream to house needy children there, if they could ever get it finished. About a week later, Hausner returned with a small band of subcontractors and finished the building in three days.
On another occasion, he went to the Orange Mall five days before Christmas, where he noticed that the “Spirit of Giving” tree was still covered with about 600 tags containing the names of needy Orange County residents.
Troubled by the idea that so many folks would go without gifts for the holiday, Hausner took all the tags off the tree. He and his family spent the next two days buying, wrapping, and delivering 600 gifts.
Since retiring in 2015, Hausner has written and self-published six books; the latest is a nonfiction biography of a renowned mobster from his hometown. He donates all proceeds to his favorite charity, Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“I’ve been giving them money for years. I make sure I take care of them,” he said.
Acts of Kindness
While Hausner is proud of his larger philanthropic efforts, it’s the small actions that Mort feels are worthy of recognition, whether paying for the order placed by the car behind him in the drive-thru or rushing out to the store to buy groceries for a neighbor.
In April, Hausner got a call from his neighbor, Mel, who had a flat tire and was in need of onions for a Seder dinner he was hosting. Hausner didn’t have any on hand—but he dropped what he was doing, picked up some onions at the store, and delivered them to Mel’s front door.
When he heard that Mort had shared this story, Hausner burst out laughing. He couldn’t understand why such a meaningless deed was worth mentioning, even after Mort explained that the “average bear” wouldn’t want to be bothered.
“The small things I do, they don’t amount to anything compared to what I’ve been given,” he said. “I don’t think of it as a big deal.”
Hausner refers to his acts of kindness as “small potatoes”—but Mort said they’re more like “a big feast” for her.
“He doesn’t even think about it. He just does it. It’s just a natural thing for him,” she said. “It’s an inherent characteristic with him. He’s just precious. But don’t tell him.”