When we walk into Larry and Naomi Crepeau’s home, there is jazz music playing and the living room walls are decorated with bright artwork – from their travels to Hawaii and special pieces commemorating their beloved dog, Baci. Larry is quick to share that Baci is Italian for “kisses” – pronounced like “bocce, as in bocce ball”.

Stacy Opitz, marketing + communications director, and I are at their home to hear more of their story about what led them to become supporters of Prepare + Prosper.

How They Met

Larry and Naomi met in their youth – they both grew up in Northeast Minneapolis, in blue collar neighborhoods where Larry says, “We didn’t have fancy cars or clothes but we learned our values, particularly of sharing with others.” Larry’s good friend was dating Naomi and because he had access to a car, they double dated to dances and parties with Larry and his then girlfriend, eventual wife, Sharry.

Naomi shares, “After high school, we didn’t see each other. You (Larry) went off to college, and I started working and stopped dating that fellow. I was thinking about it, I wasn’t even invited to your wedding.” They laugh together.

“We didn’t see each other for 25 years until I was working for a real estate company. I picked up the phone one day and heard, ‘This is Larry Crepeau.’ I said, ‘Oh! This is Naomi Dorso.’ He asked, ‘What are you doing there?’ and I said, ‘Well I work here!’

Larry eventually had to come to the office on business matters and we chatted for a couple of hours, catching up. At that time, he told me that his wife Sharry had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We had a few more brief business contacts and in 1988, I saw Sharry’s obituary in the newspaper, so I decided to go to the visitation.”

Naomi pauses to honor the moment. “This is my favorite part of the story. It was a bitterly cold winter day. I didn’t get out of the office until about 7:45 p.m. and I had no idea geographically where the funeral home was. I was exhausted and it was one of those terrible days you want to erase from the calendar. I turned on my car and put it into gear, and I swear, the car turned itself around in the direction where it was supposed to go.”

“First iteration of self-driving cars,” Larry quips.

“I found my way there 10 minutes before the visitation was done. I went to say hello to Larry,” Naomi’s voice catches at this point in the story. “I looked at him, and my heart just broke for him. He was so deeply grieving. Larry and Sharry had such a wonderful marriage. I had dated and cared about a lot of people, but something just struck me. After we talked for a bit, I told him that I knew Sharry had helped him in his office and I offered to help. I didn’t hear anything until he called me several months later and asked if I would have dinner with him.”

“So we went to dinner, and a year after that on that date, we were married.”

How They Met P+P

Larry first became involved with P+P when he was working in public accounting as a CPA and looking for ways to network and volunteer within the community. He knew Dorothy Martin, who was the executive director of Minnesota Accounting Aid Society (MAAS), which would later become AccountAbility Minnesota and then Prepare + Prosper. He served on the Board, eventually becoming treasurer and then president of the Board.

“While assisting clients in my practice, I recognized the need for low-income people to have access to solid tax preparation,” Larry says.

He continues “It’s more difficult than people understand. It hit home to me when I was doing some pro bono work for a fellow and I had the benefit of a sophisticated software to do some calculations for him. The normal expectation is that if you report more income, you pay more taxes and get a smaller refund. Just the opposite happened because he had earned the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits, and I couldn’t believe it. Having that experience made me well aware that low-income people need help navigating this. People might mechanically be able to go through tax prep software and complete the steps, but they don’t get the insight of someone saying, ‘Have you ever considered this?’ or ‘Next year, save your records.’”

Larry was originally drawn to accounting when he took a record-keeping class. “The teacher was extremely strict – all of our homework was done in ink, and we couldn’t make any erasures. It taught me a discipline for paying attention to detail.”

“Larry has detail in his DNA. We would not have been married on July 29 had it not been for Larry,” says Naomi, “because I wouldn’t have made it to the church on time.”

When asked how P+P has changed in the decades he’s been involved, Larry says, “It’s expanded its scope, and it’s been able to raise more revenue for operations and different services that you’re providing. It’s exciting that it’s gone beyond preparing tax returns because people do have ongoing needs. It’s evolved into quite a remarkable organization.”

A Legacy of Giving

The Crepeaus’ philanthropy is not the kind that announces itself, but it is so clear how much it permeates their life – from stories of helping a friend buy a car and making a stranger’s day on an elevator to cancelling a vacation to put the money toward hurricane relief in Puerto Rico (“If you don’t have water, everything stops. It’s a very primary need.”). You get the impression they’ve made all sorts of deposits into the well-being of others throughout their lives.

“The most important thing to me is to be kind to people in every way, every situation,” Naomi says.

“We believe that it’s in giving – through your time, financially, and from your heart – that you receive,” notes Larry.

Larry and Naomi make it clear that they feel profoundly grateful and blessed for others who have touched their lives, and that motivates them to help others.

Naomi recalls, “I stayed home to help my family until I was 27. When I was working in real estate, I bought a three bedroom condo with the idea that my mom and sister would be living with me. I couldn’t afford it, and another friend I worked with helped me find extra work to supplement my income. One night, my furnace went out in the middle of winter, a bitterly cold time. I was chatting with my boss and told him what was wrong. He said, ‘Well you know, you need a Christmas present.’ He bought me a new furnace, which is a bit expensive for a Christmas present, but that really saved my life.”

Larry begins to share about when his wife was sick and becomes tearful. Naomi asks if she can help to tell the story. She says, “Larry had a client who was associated with the restaurant business. A few months before Sharry died, the client came to the house with a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for the family. It was all prepared and ready. There was also a doctor who was a neighbor and fellow parishioner at Larry’s church. He wasn’t Sharry’s primary doctor, but was very compassionate and would stop by to see how she was doing and give them support from a medical and emotional standpoint.”

This is the kind of do-si-do that Larry and Naomi do together, jumping in when the other is overcome with emotion or with a quip to gently tease each other. It is the kind of relationship to which one aspires – a partnership that is happily settled into a lifetime of giving, service, and humor together.

Larry and Naomi’s giving to Prepare + Prosper has been longstanding and generous, and this year, they made their largest gift ever, a living legacy gift to establish the Laurence R. and Naomi Crepeau Fund within P+P’s endowment.

When asked about their motivation to go above and beyond in their giving, Larry notes, “Our giving has always been a discussion between Naomi and me. For us, it’s about doing as much as we can. It’s progressed to a point where we decided we wanted to have a greater impact upon Prepare + Prosper and other organizations that we support.”

“I’m very excited about Prepare + Prosper – it does the kind of work that we believe in, so it’s tremendously gratifying to be involved as donors,” says Naomi.

If you’re interested in making a legacy gift to Prepare + Prosper, contact Amelia Colwell, development director, at 651-262-2156 or amelia@prepareandprosper.org.