Laverne Lobdell, the heavily bearded, silver-tongued street poet known as Reverend Friendly, who haunted Boulder’s open mics for decades, died on Jan. 7. He was 76.
Lobdell was a fixture around town, and in his later years you could see him shuffling around town, handing out beige business cards with his photo on them, a speech bubble coming out of his mouth with the words, “Laugh and the world laughs with you / cry and you cry alone / so if you’re gonna pout stay at home.” He’d approach people and talk to them, and when he said goodbye, he’d say, “Bless your soul! May the birds of paradise fly up your nose! And may an elephant carress your toes, and may you live long enough to go anywhere you please without any clothes!” A Michigan native, Lobdell, or “Rev” as friends called him, moved to Boulder in the late ’80s and began frequenting poetry readings around town. Tom Peters, the owner of the beat book shop on Pearl Street, hosted many of the open mics Lobdell attended.
“I’ve never met anybody who didn’t say that he liked him,” Peters says. “Almost everybody I know at one point or another asked me if I knew him, because everybody that met him was always really impressed by him.”
Lobdell’s life was a struggle with addiction, mental illness and homelessness. He experienced sporadic periods of homelessness during his two decades in Boulder, and five years ago he became one of the pilot clients for Housing First, a program that provides housing to Boulder’s chronically homeless population, provided that they meet with a case manager. Chris Byrne was Lobdell’s case manager, and he was with Lobdell the week he died. Lobdell had planned to visit a friend back in Michigan, and Byrne had made travel arrangements for him.
“His friend, what he does for a living is make parade floats,” Byrne says. “And the Rev described in detail what it was going to be like when he got there. There was going to be a parade for him, ‘Welcome home, Reverend Friendly,’ and there was no doubt in my mind that he didn’t see this and believe it a hundred percent, and he passed away that night. So he had a parade [in his head]. … If you could write an ending to that story, could it not be better that he died surrounded by those who cared about him, off the streets? I mean, jeepers creepers, he was at peace with himself and he was at peace with God.”
To read an in-depth profile on Reverend Friendly, visit j.mp/ReverendFriendly.