Larry Countryman, Snohomish cartoonist and civic leader, dies at 81

A political conservative, Countryman lampooned opponents with satirical cartoons that earned rebukes from the left.

Larry Countryman

Larry Countryman

SNOHOMISH — Friends of Larry Countryman said he often shared how when he was in the third-grade his teacher told him he couldn’t draw pictures all his life.

Yet he did, as a career and as an instrument of political expression throughout his life in Snohomish, where he influenced its economic development and civic debate for more than half a century. Countryman died Dec. 6 at the age of 81.

An unvarnished conservative Republican, Countryman took much pleasure in poking foes on the political left with biting satirical cartoons. Come election season, he sometimes cranked out a comic book targeting those he hoped to see defeated.

“He loved humor. He loved political humor,” said former Snohomish Mayor John Kartak, a longtime friend and a relation through marriage. “He really enjoyed making the far left political hacks go completely wacky with his cartoons.”

Those lampooned rarely found his handiwork funny, however.

In 2006, he aimed his drawing pen at Hans Dunshee, a Democratic state representative from Snohomish, who at the time was fending off a challenge from Republican Mike Hope.

Countryman produced and mailed voters a 16-page political piece entitled, “A Pirate Story: Hope in a Boat,” in which he refers to the incumbent as “Captain Dumbshee.” Dunshee won re-election. Two years later, Countryman ran against Dunshee and lost.

“Of course I totally disagreed with just about everything Larry wanted to do in Snohomish, but I did think he thought he was doing the right thing. He certainly put in the time on the City Council,” Dunshee said. “He got personal and slanderous with his comics. I still have mine. But again I do think he thought he was doing good.”

City Councilwoman Karen Guzak often found herself a focus of his barbs.

“He made really important contributions to Snohomish. He and his wife did a lot to create the historic Snohomish districts,” she said. “My criticism of him was how he used his artistic talents to lambaste individuals, and it seemed, most often women. Those comic books I’d say were nasty.”

Born and raised in Snohomish, Countryman studied art at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake and served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force before setting root in his hometown. His career path included work as an illustrator with The Seattle Times, as a commercial artist and as a contractor and builder.

He and his wife, Sandy, operated the Countryman Bed and Breakfast Inn for nearly 35 years. She preceded him in death in 2019.

Larry Countryman served 16 years on the City Council spread across a span of decades: He served from 1975 to 1983, 2003 to 2007, and a final time, 2017 to 2021.

In his tenure, he pushed to establish the city’s historic business and residential districts, and to get the state to build a U.S. 2 bypass around the city.

“He had a love of the community. He considered it his contribution to community service being on the City Council,” said R.C. “Swede” Johnson, a friend dating back to their time at Snohomish High School. The two would later serve together on the council.

He recalled his friend’s graciousness, passion for debate, and desire to preserve the history and traditions of the town where he grew up, raised a family and spent nearly his entire life.

“I never saw him have an attitude or temper. He communicated with his words and his artwork,” Johnson said.

Kartak, who knew Countryman for nearly 40 years, called him “a saint” who always responded to those seeking his help. He said he never saw him take anything personally, even when political foes targeted him.

And Kartak said that when he exclaimed he wasn’t having any fun, you knew he really was.

“He had fun every day of his life,” he said.

Larry Countryman is survived by three brothers and a sister; six children, Cary Countryman, Cheri Green, Perry Countryman, Cathy McRae, Jeri Moore and Teri Jo Countryman; 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A service celebrating his life will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 7, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 8522 131st Ave. SE, Snohomish.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @dospueblos

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