ChloeAlexa Lawrencia Landry led a richly varied life that ranged from operating movie projectors at the Walker Art Center to making pizzas in Bogota, Colombia.
A mechanical whiz, she had a deep interest in steam engines, pipe organs and photography as well as vintage BMWs, Turkish coffee and roller skating.
The Minneapolis resident also loved hats and high heels, a passion she was free to indulge in the last 10 years of her life after she came out as a transgender woman.
Landry died Feb. 10 due to injuries from a fall. She was 80.
She was born in Minneapolis with the name Lawrence Richard Landry. Landry enlisted in the Air Force after high school, serving in the United States and Germany.
When she returned to civilian life, she found work as a movie projectionist, running the projector at the Walker. She also worked at other Twin Cities movie theaters and screened films at movie-in-the-park events. She was adept at repairing projector equipment.
"Her favorite job in the world was working as a projectionist in movie theaters," said her niece Breanne Buzay.
Her son, Carlos Landry, said she once produced screenings of silent films with a live organist at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Later in life, she worked as an usher at the Hennepin Theatre Trust.
"The theater was her favorite place to be," Buzay said.
Landry was also mechanically inclined and drawn to anything with gears or motors. She once helped develop a machine that would automatically fill lip balm tubes, said Carlos Landry. Late in life, she owned a metal lathe.
"She got into welding and lathing," Buzay said.
"She loved to fix things," said a friend, Christopher Yaeger. "She was very proud of her skills."
Landry married a woman, had two children, and for a few years lived in Bogota, Colombia, where his wife was from. That's where he started a pizza restaurant.
"It was one of the first pizza joints down there at the time," Carlos Landry said.
Buzay said Landry lived a sort of bohemian life, someone who loved to dance on roller skates in skating venues.
"A strong cup of Turkish coffee would spark any sort of conversation," Buzay said. For much of Buzay's life, Landry was "my eccentric uncle Rich."
As part of a transgender oral history project for the University of Minnesota Libraries' Tretter Collection, Landry described how she came out as transgender in 2011 after a cancer diagnosis.
During her treatment, she became part of a transgender support group at the Minneapolis VA.
"She was treated so well there as who she was," said her sister, Patricia Medlo.
"The VA was a very big part of her life. She loved that she was a veteran," Buzay said.
After Landry told her relatives that she was transgender, her other sister, Kathleen Clements, took her bra shopping.
"She said, 'Who the hell invented bras?' " Clements said.
While Buzay said Landry "was very sensitive to where people were at in the journey of acceptance," she also wanted people to know the science behind transgenderism and that she was who she was born to be.
"All I know is that the journey was hidden for too long and once you finally come out, it's just … I'm relaxed," Landry said in her oral history.
"We're just happy she was herself," Buzay said. "We're sad to lose her, but it was pretty awesome knowing her."
Landry is survived by her children, Carlos Landry, of Minneapolis, and Tatiana Ormaza, of Texas; and sisters Kathleen Clements, of Maple Grove, and Patricia Medlo, of Mounds View. A memorial gathering is being planned for a later date.
Richard Chin • 612-673-1775