Alumnus' tuxedo finds new life

By Paul Mayne

Thanks to a loving husband, a tuxedo and the spirit of renewal, Susan Agranove and third-year Music student Dan Luong are strangers no more.

Agranove’s husband, Larry, earned his BA from Western in 1950 and a PhD in 1971. Over the years, he operated a sales finance company, later starting his own management consulting practice. A one-year teaching contract at Wilfrid Laurier University turned into 17 years of teaching business.

Larry was a stickler for dress and behaviour, often wearing bowties to his own barbecues and giving his friends a hard time if they weren’t properly attired.

“He enjoyed wearing good clothes and would get very upset with people who would come to events, such as concerts, dressed as though they should be at a car wash,” Agranove said of her husband of 45 years.

Just over two years ago, Larry died of cancer at 82. Reflecting on his fatal diagnosis, he commented, “I’ve beaten cancer three times; it’s only fair it wins now.”

When she got around to cleaning out his closet, Agranove came across the tuxedo.

“It meant a lot to Larry. He enjoyed getting dressed up on many occasions,” she said. “So, when I got to giving away his clothes, I just had great difficulty with the tuxedo.”

Last Homecoming Weekend, Agranove was on campus and saw a string quartet of students. That’s when the light bulb went off.

She emailed Don Wright Faculty of Music Dean Betty Anne Younker asking if any student could use a tuxedo for their recitals.

A mass email went out to the students, which is where Luong comes in. He contacted the dean and arrived at her office to check out the tux. Agranove was also there and, along with the help of Younker, convinced Luong to ‘try it on,’ using the dean’s private washroom.

“She (Younker) sent out the email to all the students, but I don’t think many knew what she was talking about. I think everyone assumed it was a sale,” Luong laughed.

He remembers stepping out of the washroom to an audience of two in Larry’s tuxedo.

“I remember the dean and Susan said it looked great on me. So, then I’m thinking, do I accept it? It was a pleasant surprise for me and I felt very lucky and honoured to be able to receive this wonderful gift.”

But the gifting was not over.

The shoes did not fit. To look as good as Larry always did, Agranove said, the ensemble had to be complete. She took Luong out and purchased him a pair of shoes to go with his new tuxedo.

“Larry was a perfectionist, so we did a little tailoring and bought a new pair of shoes,” she said. “Larry was a mentor and a teacher and always enjoyed wearing good clothes. He’d have been very pleased with this.”

Since their initial meeting, Agranove and Luong have begun a unique friendship. She has attended all his recitals this semester, missing only one in December. But Luong ensured his performance was recorded and brought it to her home, complete with freshly baked cookies to enjoy.

Two weeks ago, Luong’s parents, his mother from Toronto and father from Vietnam, made it to London for the first time to see him play. Agranove had everyone over to her house to celebrate.

“It was my first solo recital, so it was great to have them there for that,” Luong said.

For Agranove, she is thrilled Larry’s tuxedo has found a second life, and is content to know he will be at every one of Luong’s performances – in more ways than one.

Larry’s photo, wearing his favourite tuxedo, of course, remains in the inside jacket pocket. “And that’s where it will always be,” Luong said.