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Larry Wilcher

On Monday March 14, 2011 Larry “Heavy” Wilcher lost his battle with cancer. He was 52. Larry fought hard and he was giving it the fight of his life. But the cancer never quit, it was a strong opponent.

But Heavy, as his friends called him, was a fighter and he never saw quitting as an option. He was a big man over 6’3” and he was the type of guy who would go fight a grizzly bear with a switch and come out the winner.

I knew Larry for almost 9 years and we had many similar interests. Larry worked as a printer at R.R. Donnelly. I had sold printing presses similar to the ones Larry worked on. We both liked history, guns, black powder and most of all we had a mutual friend in Melanie Kuntz. But Larry took that friendship to the next level, and fell in love with the woman from Salem, Indiana.

I watched their story book romance evolve. It would have made a great movie. And I wish I could say they lived happily ever after. But life got in the way. They were traveling together, going places and making plans for the future. The only real obstacle they faced was the distance between Salem, Indiana and Junction City, KY. I hate to think how many miles they logged but each having a good job in their respective cities it was a detail they never really got around to working out. But they were making it work.

When you talk about Larry you have to talk about Melanie because in so many ways they were as one. It was two years ago in February at one of the Fireside Chats at Fort Boonesborough that Larry told us he was sick. He talked to us and to Bill and Anne Farmer and a few others. It was not long after that he began chemotherapy and began to loose weight. It was noticeable, for after all, we had all been at Boonesborough throughout the fall for the Siege and winter trade days, and Larry had looked great.


Larry had always kept busy. Not only did he have a full time job at RR Donnelley but he had driven a school bus part time. He mowed lawns and of course there was The Rolling Fort Trading Co. the business that brought him in contact with the 18th century re-enacting world. And there was family - his daughter Chloe had just finished high school. His mother and sister lived close by and there was Melanie.

I’m sure it was not an easy situation. Larry was determined to continue on with his life. They continued to show up at events side by side and manage the Rolling Fork Trading Co. Like many people, I knew Larry and Melanie well. When I had surgery several years ago - I wanted no visitors. But when Kathy had to leave for an appointment in Lexington, Melanie drove in from Salem to spend the evening with me. The hospital brought my dinner of some kind of fish. It wasn’t long after eating it that Mel noticed I was turning green. Only a true friend sits with you while you loose your dinner. I’ve thought about that evening often and how good she must have been with Larry through the final stages of his illness.

And I have stories about Larry too. One year at the Siege of Boonesborough I noticed my hand swelling. Must have been a bite, I thought. I ducked into the cabin where they had set up shop (it was air conditioned!) and asked if I could sit a few minutes. Now Larry was a tobacco chewing fellow. He took one look at my swelling hand and before I knew what was happening he pulled a plug of tobacco from his mouth, slapped it on my hand and without missing a beat, reached over and took a clean linen cloth and was wrapping my hand. He told me not to take the cloth off until the tobacco was dry. I can tell you now with some certainty that even in 90 degree heat it takes a good hour and 45 minutes for a wad of tobacco to dry out! But it worked.

Re-enactors far and wide have purchased gear from Larry and his trading company. Both Larry and Melanie always took the time to help, answer questions and make sure that the buyer was getting exactly what they needed. From a knife to a kettle to a handful of dried peas, I venture to say 85% of the local re-enactors bought from Larry Wilcher and were happy that they did. They got the product they wanted and a bit of history along with it.


It is tragic that Larry Wilcher has left this life way too soon. I will miss the laughter, and miss seeing him spit tobacco juice in a bottle. I mourn for all the things he still wanted to accomplish in this life. I am sad for his family and friends. But Larry would not want us to grieve for him too long. In the end, death is the journey that man must make by himself.

To all of his family and friends, you have lost a giant of a man. Not only in size but in heart and spirit as well as grit and determination. And to his band of brothers - Carl, Tommy, Tony and all the members of the Salt River Longrifles you must carry on without him.

And to his daughter Chloe and to Melanie you have lost the most. But he gave you the most too - his love.

It is certain that all of us in the end will also face death. Take solace in the fact that Larry will be waiting to greet us. We understand death the first time God puts His hand on one that we love. Death and love are the two wings which carry man from earth to heaven.

Larry is gone, but it is up to us to keep his spirit alive. He leaves a giant hole in the fabric of many lives, but it is our job to carry on.

Larry you will be missed,
Jim Cummings

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Thoughts on Life
by Jim Cummings

Oh spring day,
I sit beside the bubbling brook
I close my eyes and listen to the flow of the water
I hear the birds chirping and singing,
I open my eyes and follow a falling leaf until it hits the flowing brook
As I watch it flow downstream I know it has it’s destination.

And as I look around the woods that I used to hunt
I see a deer not too far off.
It reminds me of the days gone past of my hunting the deer and squirrel.

Oh spring day so wonderful and clear, I feel the soft breeze that blows
across my face and beard
So full of gladness, so full of pain,
I will never pass this way again.
There will soon be a gravestone upon my head, and the pain and anguish will
soon be gone when I pass on.

Like those who have passed on before me and
to those who will pass after me , time is no more.
Nor will I be able to kiss springs early light or see the mist upon the pond.

Oh spring day, the beauty of a spring day,
You are my last landmark and my last domain.
So do not let this day pass, enjoy the moment, enjoy the day.

Take time to smell the spring wildflowers and feel the soft breezes
and most of all tell the ones you love - that you love them.

You will never know when that pale white horse and the rider in the black robe will come for you.

I wrote this today from my heart. And as I look at my final draft there are teardrops upon the pages. There is a sadness in my heart as I know I will never hear that booming laughter again. I will miss Larry Wilcher as will we all. His passing will leave a great void in our re-eancting community.

Remembering our friend Larry Wilcher - in words and photos !

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