DURHAM (WTVD) --At ABC11 Friday, we celebrated Larry Stogner and his decades-long career with Eyewitness News.
Larry shocked us all January 23 when he announced he's been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and would be stepping down from the anchor chair effective immediately.
Larry explained the disease is affecting his voice - making it impossible to continue in the career that he loves.
Since the announcement, well wishes have been pouring in from all over the country - reminding us of the huge impact Larry has had on people's lives since he joined the Eyewitness News team.
During a special broadcast honoring Larry from the ABC11 studios Friday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory came to present him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. The honor is presented to people who have a proven record of service to the State of North Carolina.
VIDEO: Larry receives the Order of the Long Leaf Pine
Larry started his broadcasting career at UNC-TV after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam and finishing his journalism degree at Chapel Hill in 1969. He joined ABC 11 in 1976, and he has anchored the Eyewitness News at 6 p.m. continuously since 1982.
Click here for our week of stories celebrating Larry's career
In 2010, Larry was inducted into the NC Journalism Hall of Fame housed at UNC. In his honor, the school announced Friday it has founded the ABC 11 Larry Stogner Fund for Excellence.
"This fund will ensure his brand of local broadcast journalism is experienced and practiced by the generations of UNC J-school grads that follow him," said UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Susan King.
If you'd like to contribute, click on the link below and click on the "search funds" box and type in "Stogner" to find the "ABC 11 Larry Stogner Fund for Excellence."
Click here to donate to the ABC11 Larry Stogner Fund for Excellence
ABC11 is also honoring Larry by forming a team to take part in the Triangle Walk to Defeat ALS April 4 at the Halifax Mall in Raleigh.
We'd love to have you join us.
Click here for more information about the walk
Click here to join the ABC11 team or donate
Through the years, Larry has earned the respect of his colleagues in journalism - many of whom have reached out after learning of Larry's diagnosis and decision to retire.
"Please know that all of us here at ABC News thank you and salute you on your bravery and your storied career," said ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir.
Larry, you're family and we'll be thinking of you," said Good Morning America hosts Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos.
Larry also made time to mentor others who wanted to be journalists. The late Stuart Scott of ESPN credited Larry for helping him find his own voice and follow his own course.
Byron Pitts from ABC's Nightline also reached out Friday to say thank you.
"I'm blessed to have the job I have today - a dream job - because Larry Stogner believed in me before I knew to believe in myself," he explained.
Click to watch some of the messages to Larry
While a natural on the anchor desk, Larry most loved chasing big stories across the nation and around the world. He counts among his favorites: Governor Jim Hunt's trade mission to China in 1979; the Tar Heels National Championship with Dean Smith and Michael Jordan in 1982; his return to Vietnam for the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon in 1995; the tour of Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks in 2001; the journey to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne in 2002; and the ten days of live reporting from Haiti after the historic earthquake in 2010.
Among the many famous and powerful people Larry interviewed over the years was North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, who called Larry a professional, a patriot, and a friend.
"He was a tough interviewer. He didn't shy from the tough issues and he forced us to answer the question. But Larry did it in a way that allowed us to laugh after the interview, which few journalists accomplish," said Senator Richard Burr.
A sports fan himself, Larry also has his own fans in the sports world.
"When I turn [the TV] on and I saw Larry's face there I knew I was going to get an honest opinion. I was going to get something that I thought was going to make me more informed, and also knew that deep down Larry was a Tar Heel," offered UNC Chapel Hill Head Coach Roy Williams.
Duke's Coach K didn't hold it against Larry.
"When I think of you I think of trust. Every time I turn on that darn TV and you're on I trust what you say and whenever you interview me I trusted what you were asking me and what you were going to do with it," he explained.
Larry told us Friday that after 42 years in the news business that it will be hard to disconnect, but he's ready to say farewell and move on to the next chapter of his life.
"I have loved this job and I've always considered it a privilege to come into your homes each night and tell you of the day's happenings," he said. "I've been truly blessed to be able to serve all of you for so many years."
VIDEO: Larry's final goodbye
We appreciated it too Larry, and we'd like to close with the same way you have closed for so many years: Thanks for the company.
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