Gary Johnson
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Gary Johnson has worked at the Leader-Telegram since 1986 as a reporter and editor. He was a reporter in the… Read More

Blog: Man spent life pursuing passions

posted Oct. 3, 2016 11:31 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Gary Johnson

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    - Ron Larson of York in Jackson County wanted to be a farmer since he was a small boy. He died recently at age 57 after battling cancer for more than two years.Contributed photo

Ron Larson never wanted to be anything but a farmer.

My childhood best friend died recently at age 57 after living his life on a picturesque farm north of York in Jackson County, right where he always wanted to be. 

He persevered through cancer treatments for more than two years, climbing back onto his farm equipment to work the land as often as his health would allow. That farm was his special place.

Family members recall how Ron loved his farm toys as a child. He was farm wise even back then, rotating his toy farm machinery just like his father, John, did as the seasons changed.

Little Ron plowed and planted with his toys in spring, baled hay in the summer and used his tiny harvester to bring in his make-believe crops in the fall. He probably rotated his crops as a child to protect the soil.

Ron and I were both farm kids, but as we grew older it became obvious we were going in different career directions. Ron was a lean, strong teen who studied agriculture and mechanics courses at Whitehall High School so he could be a better farmer; I was a scrawny kid who preferred advanced English and writing classes. 

Ron loved the smell of fresh-cut alfalfa; I had hay fever that made my eyes swell shut. Ron won awards at a young age for his mastery of operating farm equipment; my father worried that I might back our manure spreader into the side of the barn. Ron always wanted to live his life on the farm; I couldn’t wait to get off of it.

While most of us who were raised on dairy farms in the 1970s grew weary of the long hours and demanding physical labor of the rural lifestyle, Ron embraced it — especially planting, nurturing and harvesting his crops on the land he loved so dearly. Nothing made him happier than sitting atop a piece of John Deere farm equipment on the rolling hills of Jackson County, looking down the valley at the golden corn crop he’d grown. 

He loved raising his family on that farm, and sharing that passion for rural life with his grandchildren when they visited. Ron never turned away friends who stopped in to experience farm life for a day. He knew he had the privilege of experiencing it for a lifetime.

How many of us can say we spent our entire lives doing what we loved the most? Ron did that every day. His life was too short, but it truly was the life he always wanted to live.

— Gary Johnson, editor