(as read by Leslie Wilde Lindquist)
Larry told Leesa he wanted me to give his life sketch. I am certain this was his last joke on me. He always had to one-up me. My only consolation is that at least I will get in the last word. Knowing how hard this would be for me to do, Leesa and L.J. told me it was simple, just look out and imagine everyone is naked. So if smile, you’ll know why.
Larry Thomas Wilde was born August 2, 1956 to Boyd Peterson Wilde and LaFern Rowberry Wilde in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He joined three older siblings, Sherrie Lynn, Dennis Boyd, and Leslie Kay. Another sister and brother were born after him, Corinne and Michael Dee. Larry’s birth weight was less than any of the other children, but he turned out to be the largest in love, personality, body and soul. Larry and I always had a special relationship. When Mom was gone, she left Sherrie in charge. My job, after Sherrie and Dennis grew up and moved away, was to take care of Larry, Corinne, Michael, and Anita our adopted sister. As my little brother, Larry’s job was to annoy me. Sherrie had taught me by example how to handle younger siblings. When I provoked her, she used the broom on me. When Larry provoked me, I’d hit him with a clothes hanger. Larry spent most of his young years locked in the bathroom, avoiding me and the clothes hanger. Larry may have cowered from me, but he was willing to go to bat to help a friend.
While our family lived in Idaho Falls, our backyard-to-backyard neighbors were the Fager family. Larry and their son Vance were inseparable, always up to mischief. Vance had a limp from polio. When the two of them were in about the 4th grade at Eastside Elementary, a bully constantly teased Vance about his limp. Says Vance, “I must have talked to Larry about it. I learned years later that Larry had told his mother he would be late getting home from school one day because he was going to have to stay after and beat up a kid who was making Vance feel bad. Larry did not even tell me he was going take care of me. He just did it, not expecting any recognition or thanks. He simply and purely wanted to help his friend who was having a hard time. He never told me about this incident. I only remember that the bully’s comments to me suddenly stopped one day (Imagine that!). I learned about it from our mothers years later. Even at this age, Larry had a heart and a gift of charity beyond his years.”
In 1967, when Larry was about to turn 11, Dad took the job of managing the B&W Market, a grocery store once located across from the old Jackson State Bank. It was a struggle for Larry to leave his friends in Idaho, but his charming personality won him many new Jackson Hole friends.
Larry loved to ski, and he appropriated an old pair of Dennis’. But Mom wouldn’t let him go until he’d cleaned his room. From his room, he could see Snow King. He’d stare out the window and watch the skiers until the day was about gone. Like all of us, he hated to clean his room. And like all of us, he cleaned his room by throwing everything into his closet and shutting the door. But Mom was no dummy. She’d check the room and make him start over. He missed a lot of good ski days that way.
As a teenager Larry worked at the B&W Market, cleaning up the meat shop. This is where he learned to cut meat. By this time, Larry had reached his full growth, and he was a force to be reckoned with. Kent Grover, who worked with Larry at the B&W, remembers how tough Larry was. Says Kent, “When the delivery truck brought meat to the store, Larry would throw a 180-200-lb. quarter of beef over his shoulder like a giant turkey leg. None of the rest of us, including the truck driver, could even attempt that.”
Larry loved anything fun and adventurous. Jim Thomas tells of when LeGrand Richardson introduced him to Larry. “LeGrand took me over to Larry’s house, saying he knew we’d hit it off right away. As we pulled in behind Larry’s house, we heard a motorcycle start up. I saw a homemade ramp up against an old car. All of a sudden, the bike came into view with a guy on it that dressed out at about 290 pounds. The motorcycle was a little125 Suzuki and and this guy made the bike strain a bit. All of a sudden he took off, hit the ramp, jumped the old car, and cleared it. When he landed, I knew that bike was toast, but by some miracle it held together. I had never seen anything like it. I turned to LeGrand,and he looked at me with a big grin and said, ‘That's Larry.’ LeGrand was right. We hit it off right away.” Larry liked to drive fast,” says Jim, “and as a consequence, he got a lot of tickets. Most of them he got in Rexburg where he was going to college. After the last ticket he got there, he had to go before a blind judge. I assume Larry had appeared before this judge a few times, because when he spoke to the judge to let him know he was there, the blind judge sat up in his chair and said, ‘Is that you, Lawrence?’ ”Larry had a gift to make people laugh and feel at ease,” says Jim. “My grandfather called him a true Christian gentleman. Larry was all that and a good friend. The world will never be as warm as it was when he was here. I will miss him.”
Larry and his high school buddies’ misadventures occasionally got them in trouble with the law.
One lady in town had a toilet for a yard decoration, with flowers growing out of it. The boys decided to steal the toilet. But then, what should they do with it? Why not drop it off in front of the Cowboy Bar and stick some M-80’s in it? Yes, it blew up. Fortunately, a young police officer who had taken a liking to this group of delinquents was first on the scene. He told them if they could clean up the mess before another more antagonistic police officer could find them, then they would have no case against them. They were able to retrieve it before getting caught.
This brush with the law didn’t stop them, however. One night, these young men, along with their female counterpart, Robin Baker, staged a “kidnapping.” Robin joined a group of people standing in line for a movie at the Teton Theatre. The boys drove up in one of their cars, grabbed Robin--who kicked and screamed as if she weren’t in on the ploy--and stuffed her into the trunk. Then they squealed around the corner, a police officer in hot pursuit. After being pulled over, they tried to explain that it was just a joke and that Robin was in on it with them. When they opened the trunk, Robin was crying. They barely escaped incarceration that time.
After Larry graduated from Jackson Hole High School, he enrolled in Ricks College to become an auto mechanic. Following a semester of classes, he realized his skin was allergic to grease. That dream was short lived. He struggled to decide on a vocation. His dad was in the middle of building the new Western Thriftway in the Grand Teton Plaza. Our mother was very sick, and I was married by then, so Dad asked if Larry would come home and help cook, clean, and take care of Mom and the younger siblings. This is where Larry learned to love cooking. He had a gift for it.
Larry decided to go on a mission later than most young LDS men. He was almost 21 when he left for the Scotland Glasgow mission, which encompassed Northern Ireland and part of Scotland. He served a year in each country.
With all the civil unrest in Ireland in the late 1970s, Larry had many close calls. His brushes with the law in Jackson Hole were nothing compared to being forced to the ground and having the barrel of a gun held to the back of his head. That’s what government agents did to the missionaries, who, dressed in dark suits and ties, must have seemed like spies or members of the IRA.
Larry wrote of one incident in his missionary journal:
“Elder Johnson and I had a really spiritual experience coming home the other night. We were almost to our flat, and there were a bunch of kids across the road, and I glanced over and saw that one of them had a gun. I didn’t think too much about it until he started to walk toward us. He stopped at the edge of the sidewalk, and we saw him raise the gun above his head, and point the gun at us. When he did that, the Spirit of the Lord came over me and Elder Johnson really strong. He really wanted to shoot us, in fact I think he tried but the Lord wouldn’t let him hit us. The Spirit was so strong, I have never felt it so strong before. I knew the Lord really protected us.”
Larry has had a very special purpose in this life. He has profoundly affected many lives. He always treated all with respect and friendship.
After his mission, Larry was still trying to decide what he wanted out of life. He went to work for his dad as a meat cutter, with Hazen Cotterell as his boss and teacher in the meat department. After being home a year from his mission, he returned to visit the many people he had known and taught in Ireland and Scotland.
When he got home, he was involved in the LDS Young Adult program. At the first gathering that summer, Larry and Leesa got their first glimpse of each other. As Leesa tells it:
“When Larry walked in, several girls were all excited. They yelled, ‘LARRY!’ and ran to give him a hug. I had been warned about Larry, since my sister, Kate, and Larry’s sister, Corinne, were neighbors and were trying to be matchmakers. When I saw all the other girls making such a fuss over him, I thought, “Oh well, that’s too much competition.”
After being introduced, Larry didn’t make the first move. At a Young Adult Dance, I finally asked Larry to dance. He accepted. Then when the song was over, he thanked me and walked off. Ouch! I let it slide, but later, when Larry was sitting by himself, I went over and asked about his new Honda 250 motorcycle (That’s the way to get to a man’s heart!). Eventually, he did ask me to dance. As we were dancing, Larry told me that sometime he would have to give me a ride on it.”
Seizing her opportunity, Leesa demurely told him she had tomorrow night off. Their first date was the next night. They rode the motorcycle to Jackson Lake Lodge. After four months of dating, Larry asked Leesa to marry him. They were married in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple on November 14, 1980.
Larry had always wanted to be in business for himself, so when Dad sold the grocery store, Larry decided to strike out on his own. Larry and Leesa bought a business in Burton, Idaho, which they called The Wilde Place. Larry learned to butcher beef, pigs, and sheep. He really enjoyed it. While they were living there, Larry Thomas Wilde, Jr. (L.J.) was born, June 9, 1984. Many mishaps occurred while they were there. Larry broke his ankle, which required surgery, a metal plate, and screws. The metal plate is still in his ankle.
Deciding they couldn’t continue to operate the business, Larry and Leesa moved back to Jackson in 1985, and Larry worked for Broulim’s and then opened the meat shop in the Westside Store. Their second son, Nathan Scott Wilde, was born April 6, 1989. Larry’s sons have been his greatest treasure. That year, Larry and Leesa bought his parents’ house on Redmond Street. Helping build the little house next door for his parents to live in, Larry learned a few things about being a carpenter, enough to realize he didn’t want to be one.
Larry went to work for Fred’s Market in 1990 and made many friends. I’d come in to shop and yell my pet name for him, “Lerdsey!” He would just shake his head every time and say– “You just have to do that in front of everyone, don’t you?” My daughter, Courtney often said, “People could never believe Mom & Larry were brother and sister because he was so nice.”
But on Larry’s 40th birthday, he got back at me. He was working at Bar-T-5. Courtney and I surprised him by entering the kitchen dressed as Grim Reapers. We were so convincing, he wasn’t sure who we were at first, but when he realized it was me, he made his infamous birthday comment– “I’ll never be as old as you are!” So you see, he wasn’t that nice!
Larry was always a hard worker, giving any undertaking his all. He and Leesa decided to add an apartment onto their house. While working all day at Fred’s and then spending late evenings insulating and helping to wire the addition, Larry wore himself down and contracted spinal meningitis. After being hospitalized a week, he came home but still had to be on IV antibiotics. The day after he finished his antibiotics, he went back to work. He was a dedicated employee.
When Fred’s decided to sell, Larry and Leesa went to work for Teton County School District, driving school bus. Larry also worked for Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides in the winter and cooked for Bar-T-Five in the summer. He held various jobs, sometimes working several at the same time, doing whatever it took to make a living for the family he loved. To allow Leesa to be a stay-at-home mom, they started Wilde Distributing, delivering groceries to dude ranches in the summer.
When Larry was Elders Quorum President, a man in the ward who had gotten into trouble with the law asked Larry if he would come to see him in jail. When Larry went, he learned there was a need for someone to teach and discuss the gospel with inmates who wanted to hear. Larry offered, and was told he could only come if he made a year commitment. Larry promised he would. He missed going only once or twice that year when he was sick.
In 1995, Larry was called as the bishop of the Jackson 1st Ward. While he was bishop, the church was remodeled, and services were held at the middle school.
In 1996, Larry decided he had worked three jobs long enough and went to work for Frito Lay. It became a family operation. He worked so many hours that Leesa and the boys helped him load his truck and sometimes delivered with him to help him get home quicker.
Larry continued to look for an opportunity to be self-employed. It came when they were able to buy Park Place Market in 1999. They renamed it Creekside Meats, Market & Deli, and added fresh cut meats and many other items to the menu, including Larry’s own Breakfast Burrito, which many of you have had and miss to this day!
Larry loved to cook, and he continued to expand his talents by catering private flights’ dinners and then wedding dinners. If he had never made a dish someone requested, he learned how to do it, and they never knew it was his first time! Larry loved people and loved to please them. Feeding them was his way of making people happy. Even last month he offered to do what he could to help with a nephew’s wedding reception.
Larry loved his deli business because it gave him the opportunity to associate with so many of you--his friends. However, by 2002, working up to 20 hours a day, he began having health problems. The Wildes sold the deli in 2004. “Larry loved the deli,” Leesa says. “When we had to sell, he cried like a baby. It was like he’d given up a child.”
Larry then worked for the contractor who provided meals at the Teton County Jail. Larry loved cooking for inmates, providing comfort food to help them make the best of a bad situation. He became friends with many of them, but was touched by the sadness there.
In 2006, the Wilde family finally got their girl. L.J. married Jana Burrows on May 10th.
That year, following a total knee replacement, Larry went to work, driving for START. Though it wasn’t his chosen occupation, keeping off his feet seemed to help, and he could still work with the public. Larry continued to try to make each person feel loved. Everywhere Larry and Leesa went, they seemed to run into his jail buddies or his bus buddies. She could see by the way their eyes lit up when they saw Larry that they had been touched by his great heart.
Whatever job Larry had, he did his very best. Says Leesa, “Larry never cared if the house was messy, but he was always meticulous about his job.” He was frequently named top salesman for Frito Lay. At START, he was named employee of the year, and in 2007 received a special award from the Town of Jackson, a “rock” with his name engraved on it, which read: “Provide Exceptional Customer Service, Internal & External – Special Value Award.”
Perhaps one of the reasons Larry had so many jobs was because he had so much love to give and needed to bless so many lives. To do that, he needed to be in many different environments. Everyone was Larry’s friend. He was always willing to listen to them and love them. As Leesa said, “Larry was not big because of weight. If you opened him up you would find a great big heart. He had to be that big to hold that heart!”
Mark Nethercott, a friend who grew up with Larry, said, “I will always remember Larry’s big smile, his happy and cheerful disposition, his ability to make and have fun, his sense of right and wrong, his great work ethic, and his commitment to the Lord.”
2008 was a year of gifts and trials for Larry. In February, he was blessed with his first grandchild, Bela Rebecca. On March 30th, he lost his mother to heart failure.
Then in June, Larry was diagnosed with Colon Cancer Stage D. He underwent surgery in July and started chemo in August.
Larry had always wanted to take Leesa back to Ireland and Scotland where he had served his mission. Knowing his time was short, they planned the trip for Spring Break this year. A week before Spring Break, Larry took a turn for the worse, and they were unable to go.
The thing that was most important in Larry’s life was his family. He treated Leesa like a queen. He loved his boys more than life and always wanted the best for them.
His proudest days were when he became a father and then a grandfather. Bela was great therapy for him during these trying times. Even toward the last, as he lay with his eyes closed, when he heard her squeal with delight or jabber, a smile crept across his face.
Larry is survived by his father, Boyd P. Wilde; and Dad, boy you look good! His wife, Leesa; sons, Larry Thomas, Jr., and Nathan Scott; granddaughter, Bela Rebecca; brothers, Dennis and Michael Wilde; and sisters, Leslie Lindquist and Anita Conan. He was preceded in death by his mother, LaFern Rowberry Wilde; and sisters, Sherrie Kent and Corinne Dalstrom.
Our family wishes to express gratitude to the wonderful, caring staff of St. John’s Hospital’s Oncology Department and PCU, as well as the Hospice Care. Leesa extends a special, heart-felt thanks to Terri Miller, Larry’s personal nurse and Leesa’s personal shrink. She couldn’t have made it without her. The outpouring of service from this community has kept the family well fed and feeling well-loved.
My brother, Larry, had challenges his whole life. Nothing was ever easy, but through it all, he managed to win over every person who came in contact with him. He was loved and respected by his family, and I hope he was finally able to feel the love and respect from everyone in the last eight months. I think I speak for everyone when I say he was a wonderful man. We loved him so much and we miss him so much already. Thank you all for your love and support of Larry and his family.
If I could just tell “My Lerdsey” one more thing, to get my last word in, it would be this: I hope he’s listening. This is your big sister talking, so listen up, or I’ll come after you with that hanger in the next life. You were my gentle giant who never knew your great worth. You were a great man, and the best brother anyone could ask for. We are all better people for having you in our lives. I look forward to seeing you, with or without the hanger.