The Luckey Fall Festival didn’t just lose its longtime president when Larry Swartz succumbed to cancer on Feb. 21 at the age of 61.
The popular community event, which has become synonymous with autumn in these parts, also lost its champion, a workhorse and according to one board member, its heart and soul.
Born in Toledo, Larry graduated from Eastwood High School in 1969. On July 3, 1976, he married Sharon Runion in Genoa. A member of Zion Lutheran Church in Luckey, he worked as a mechanic for the State of Ohio, and as a maintenance person for Troy Township.
According to his Sharon, Larry devoted every spare moment he had to loving his grandchildren and to planning the next Luckey Fall Festival.
Larry served as president of the festival for 19 years and had been in charge of the gas engine activities since the festival’s second year. (This fall’s festival will be the 31st.).
“We’ve always been into gas engines and when the first festival was going on, we were walking down the road and someone asked if we wanted to get involved, and if we’d bring some friends with their engines too,” Sharon recalled.
“The next year, that’s what we did,” she said. “And that’s how everything got started.”
Over the years, the festival grew in size and popularity, due in large part to Larry’s enthusiasm and oversight, according to Dan Reitzel, who has also been involved with the festival for 18 years.
“Larry meant everything to the Luckey Fall Festival,” he said. “He did everything ¬– the rest of us had our duties, but he tied everything together and made everything flow.
“He was the brains of the whole situation,” he said. “And the festival really took off after Larry took over as president, in fact, it has quadrupled in size.”
Working on the festival was a labor of love for Larry, Sharon said.
“After each festival, we’d take a couple of months off and then start holding meetings to come up with new ideas for the next year.” she said.
“Throughout the year, the phone would ring with food vendors, flea market people and others calling about the festival,” she said, adding that she kept her husband’s cell phone number so those inquiring about the festival can be directed to the information they need.
“When the festival was going on, we’d often be down there from about 6 in the morning to midnight,” Sharon said. “It was rough the last two years, when Larry was fighting colon cancer.”
“On the day before he died, the funeral director was here setting up his arrangements and she asked him where he wanted his memorials to go,” Sharon said. “He told her he wanted them to go between the American Cancer Society and the Luckey Fall Festival.
“He as very determined to make sure the festival continued on so that area families could come and enjoy some good, clean fun,” Sharon said.
“Though Larry will be really missed, we’re going to continue on with the festival,” Reitzel said. “That was his dream and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Plans are under way for the 2013 festival, which will be held Sept. 27, 28 and 29 at Basic Park, located between Krotzer Ave. (SR 582) and Gilbert Road on Adams Street. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.luckeyfallfestival.com.
Larry Swartz, who had been president of the Luckey Fall Festival, lost his battle with colon cancer on Feb. 21. As a final tribute to the man who hated to dress up, and who wanted everyone to e comfortable, his family requested those coming to offer their condolences wear jeans and casual attire.