May 01, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

A fund-raising drive has started to assist a well known and popular Observer newspaper carrier.

Larry Maloney is hospitalized in Nampa, Idaho, with lung cancer. Doctors fear that Maloney may have less than a month to live, said Gay Ladd, The Observer's carrier coordinator. Maloney, 68, has worked as an Observer carrier for about three years. He delivered newspapers downtown.

Ladd said she is being deluged with phone calls from people asking how they can assist Maloney.

"People are coming out of the woodwork to help. It is amazing how many people he has touched in this town,'' Ladd said.

Maloney's spirits are still high in spite of his diagnosis.

"Even though he is sick, he still tries to make the nurses laugh. When you talk to him on the phone, he tries to make you laugh,'' said Ladd, who regularly visits Maloney in Nampa.

Ladd hopes that Maloney can soon be transported back to La Grande where he can be with friends. He had made many friends with a generous spirit all his own.

People often try to help Maloney, a man of limited means, by giving him everything from clothing to furniture. He often has given away what he was given.

"If someone gave him a sweatshirt and he already had one, he would give it to someone who needed it,'' Ladd said.

Maloney once gave away a recliner that had been given to him.

Maloney was born in Topeka, Kan. He once had a farm in Kansas, was married and had three stepchildren. When his farm and marriage failed, he hit the road. He became a hobo of sorts, a person who did not have a home, according to a Sept. 16, 1994, Observer story. He slept where he could find shelter, unrolling his sleeping bag under a bridge when it rained and under the stars when it was clear.

Known as a "walking encyclopedia,'' Maloney is an avid reader and was a fixture at Eastern Oregon University's library.

"I guess I'm a hobo or a tramp. An educated one. I used to spend so much time in the college library (at EOU), some people thought I was on the staff,'' Maloney said in the 1994 Observer article.

A Catholic, he worked at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in the early and mid-1980s, cleaning and doing maintenance. Several years ago Maloney moved into an apartment in La Grande.

Funds are needed to help with Maloney's funeral arrangements. Donations may be sent to Loveland Funeral Chapel, 1508 Fourth St. People should refer to Maloney on any checks they send in.