American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Lawrence George Coveney, 1898-1981

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982


Lawrence was a man of many interests. In addition to a successful business career and a lifelong love of music and literature, he was an enthusiastic outdoors man and mountaineer. His death on July 27, 1981 after a short illness was a great loss to the mountain climbing fraternity.

Lawrence started rock climbing in the 1930s with Appalachian Mountain Club members who were pioneering the sport in the Hudson Highlands. Later he was involved in the development of the first routes in the Shawangunks. The limited time off available to businessmen during the Great Depression restricted long trips for many years. However, he managed to climb in the Tetons and the Bugaboos, making one first ascent and several second ascents in the latter. He was a member of the party which made the first free climb of the Devil’s Tower and took part in the first climbs of the Needles in the Black Hills.

The love of mountaineering continued throughout Lawrence’s life as excerpts from his climbing record show. When nearly 60, he climbed the Mischabel Dom (highest mountain completely within Switzerland) with the vigor of a man half his age despite recent back surgery. At the end of the trip, he enthusiastically remarked that his back never felt better! At the age of 70, he took part in the Alpine Club of Canada camp in the Mount Steele area of the Yukon Territory. Only a few years before his death, he climbed one of the best 5.7s in the Gunks.

Lawrence was elected to membership in the American Alpine Club in 1945. His organizational ability was recognized when he was elected to the Council in 1954. After serving as Secretary and Vice-President, he became President from 1965 to 1967. During his term, one of his chief interests was the encouragement and development of the younger, active climbers in the Club. As a member, Secretary, Vice-President and President, he served as a bridge between various segments of the Club, old and young, East and West. Prior to holding these offices, Lawrence had been Chairman of the New York Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1944 and 1945.

Born in northeastern Pennsylvania, Lawrence went from the local high school to Pennsylvania State College. There, among other things, he was on the varsity debating team, a skill he retained in later years as many of his friends can testify. His college career was interrupted by World War I during which he trained as an Army Air Corps pilot although the war ended before he saw combat service. His business career centered on foreign trade. After positions in a number of export- import firms, he finished his working life as Executive Director of the Intercontinental Trading Corporation. In connection with his business, he contributed his services to the Economic Warfare Board, the New York Export Managers Club and various committees of the National Foreign Trade Council.

In 1941, Lawrence married Marguerite Schnellbacher, an American Alpine Club member whom he had met on skiing and climbing trips. Their daughter, Lelia Coveney, now lives in Colorado. After his retirement, Lawrence and Marguerite moved from New Jersey to South Royalton, Vermont. In their comfortable, modernized farm house Lawrence enjoyed his retirement years and, on numerous occasions, played host to Council meetings. Marguerite died in 1962.

Lawrence married Marion Wood Wallace in 1964. They left the Vermont farm in February 1980 and moved to a center near Philadelphia where full-service living and health services were available. Marion died a short time after they moved.

Lawrence was a good companion on any trip. He never put self above the interests of the party—he was ready to do his share and more.

His organizational talents always helped keep things on track but he was no martinet—he was always tolerant of the failings of others. We fondly remember the happy expeditions of which he was a part. His death is a great loss to all his friends.

Frank Cary, Percy Olton, Fritz Wiessner

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