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Larry M Ludwig

Larry M Ludwig

05/02/1949 – 01/14/2024

Larry Michael Ludwig, 74, of Tampa, Florida passed on January 14, 2024, at home with his loving wife of 32 years, Joan, and beloved Cavapoo, Freyja. He is survived by his sister Lyn Conery, nephews Eric and Matt Aarli, and niece Melissa Hartline. He is predeceased by his parents Virginia Klauser Ludwig and Wilbur Glenwyn Ludwig, maternal grandparents Emily and Henry Klauser, and paternal grandparents Ida and Elmer Ludwig. Larry lived in Wisconsin during his early years. He often voiced fond memories of time he spent with his grandparents who passed on their family traditions to him such as making brats from scratch. When he was in eighth grade the family moved to Rockford. After high school Larry initially pursued a pre-seminary program in college focused on philosophy and religious studies. He later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Larry was posted stateside and in Thailand and Guam. Larry had a soft heart for his dogs all of whom he and Joan dubbed with Viking names. He was devoted to his large, gentle Weimaraners and during the last five years doted on tiny Freyja with her calming influence. Larry had a life-long passion for music. He was a self-taught guitarist, bassist, pianist, and drummer and played enthusiastically with several local bands over the years. Later in life he realized a long-standing dream and was ordained as a pastor with the Universal Life Church, championing its values of religious freedom, social justice, and spiritual expression. Larry was always ready for lively discussions and particularly enjoyed debating religion, philosophy, history and of course music. Nourishing family relationships and friendships was rewarding to him. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was endearing to all who knew him. Larry will be remembered for his kind, generous heart and accepting nature, believing deeply in the inclusion of all individuals. Larry will be sorely missed by his family and friends. He and Joan would be happy if all who knew him toasted and celebrated his life.

Joan’s Tribute to Larry

Larry was an incredibly special, talented, unique person, but he didn’t let many people close enough to see and know the “real” Larry. My hope is that by sharing my tribute with both our families, friends both old and new, some may come to understand there was so much more to this man I fell in love with. Larry had such a big heart, a beautiful soul and will always be the love of my life and my soulmate!

Our journey begins when we met at work and eventually started dating. When it became clear that our relationship was getting more serious, it led to a company decision that one of us had to leave. At the time, Larry was not very happy there, so it was an easy decision for us to make. This decision allowed Larry to make an even bigger, major life-changing decision, which turned out to be one of Larry’s greatest accomplishments in his life. He enrolled in college, at 42, to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, specializing in several computer programming languages. He graduated top of his class with a 4.0 GPA and was included in the “Who’s Who Book of College Graduates!” WHAT A GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT! I was so impressed and proud of him! Larry & I had so much fun, love and always laughter in our life together! We would have long conversations about anything and everything. We loved each other for who we were inside our hearts. Then, the more we were together we fell in love with each other. To Larry & I, to love a person and to be in love with them were two different things. We felt blessed that we both loved each other and were also deeply in love with each other! Before getting into my memories of Larry, that I feel made our relationship so special, I would first like to take a few minutes to share two very magical events that happened to me within days of Larry’s passing. Both events took place while I was transferring all our years of pre-digital photos & memorabilia from cardboard boxes (5 or 6 to be exact) into plastic containers for safer keeping. Then I would put all the Vietnam Veteran donation items into the cardboard boxes for pickup. I was just randomly grabbing handful after handful and transferring them to the new plastic containers. During this process is when the two magical events occurred. I personally believe the two events I will be sharing were meant to happen and were, in fact, communications to me from Larry. However, everyone reading this tribute, please continue reading about these events with your own beliefs….. The first magical event was when I eventually got to a box of photos and memorabilia Larry brought with him from Rockford. Suddenly ONE single photo slipped from the very middle of the handful I was currently holding. As I bent to pick up the photo, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I do not believe Larry ever remembered he even had this photo. It was a normal family photo, but there, right in the front, stretched out Regally on the grass, his head held high, was ODIN! I could not believe it! After almost 34 years, I finally got to SEE Odin! OH, how I wished so much that I could have found and shared this photo with Larry! I will cherish it always! Larry absolutely loved his first Weimaraner, Odin, and missed him dearly. I asked him many times over the years if he was sure he did not have any photos of Odin. He always answered, “no, he didn’t remember ever taking any photos of Odin”. Since this was before mobile phones with cameras, it was believable. So, Larry started telling me story after story of Odin’s humorous antics, adventures, and all the funny and special things Odin did. I started to feel like I almost knew Odin. It was at this time I also realized how much more love Larry had in his heart to share. It was an awesome reality to learn about the man I fell in love with! The second magical event was a brief time later that same day, still working on my photo transferring project. This time, a small card, like one from a florist when they delivered flowers. This small card also just fell out of a handful mixture of photos and memorabilia I was currently holding. On the left side of the card was a partial picture of a rose bush. This immediately brought back the memory of our first Valentines Day together. Instead of sending me a dozen red roses delivered from a florist, which would eventually die or at least start wilting within a week or so, Larry personally delivered a whole rose bush in a 5-gallon bucket to me! A rose bush could be planted and provide me with roses for years to come. But even more important to me than the gesture of a rose bush, were the words Larry wrote to me on the card. YOU MAKE ME SMILE,
YOU HAVE MADE ME WHOLE! I LOVE YOU! Such simple, beautiful and powerful words! Please…..take just a minute to think of these two seemingly random events. The ONE photo that had clearly slipped through my fingers by accident, was a photo of Larry’s dearly loved Weimaraner ODIN. Larry would have given anything to have had this photo, offering him comfort, during the last several years that were his most difficult. Then the rose bush card from our first Valentine’s Day, with such a beautiful sentiment for me, written in his own hand, also clearly slipping through my fingers by accident, (OR WERE THEY BY ACCIDENT? YOU DECIDE…..)! ON TO HAPPY STORIES AND SPECIAL MEMORIES…. In our earlier days, Larry was always home from work before me. But no matter what time I turned into our apartment complex, there he’d be, with a big smile, sitting on the top beam of the wooden entrance fence, sipping a cold Bud long neck, barefoot as usual, with another cold Bud long neck in his back pocket just for me. It gave me such a warm, fuzzy feeling to know the man I loved really cared about me and was always so excited to see me come home! Larry, as only Larry can be, was always doing little silly things to make me laugh. He made it his life’s mission to keep me smiling or better yet, laughing! This was an endearing trait to me. He would do silly things, like ducking into the fitting room at a store in the mall, where I was trying on new blue jeans. He would sneak in quickly, grab me and kiss me silly, while we both tried to be quiet and not laugh aloud so we wouldn’t get caught! We had no table to eat on in our tiny apartment, because musical instruments took precedence, and covered the entire dining room, from end to end. So, dinner was always served on a blanket (we dubbed it as our “Cancun Blanket” because that’s where we were hoping to go on our honeymoon) laid on the living room floor. Once we borrowed my mom’s homemade pasta maker and started making big bowls of angel hair pasta with just butter and Parmesan cheese. Then we sat on the blanket, the bowl between us, and fed each other! However, after several months of eating homemade angel hair pasta several times a week, we noticed our clothes getting a little tighter, so we quickly returned the pasta maker to my mom. We did, however, make it to Cancun for our honeymoon. Since Larry was still in college at the time, the only time he had available to get married and be able to have time off for a real honeymoon, was during spring break. It never occurred to us “old folks” that families not only allowed, but paid, for their 18–20-year-old kids to fly to Mexico for spring break. But the joke was on us, because when we walked out on our balcony, overlooking the beautiful Caribbean waters and sandy beach, the first thing we witnessed was a wet T-shirt contest on the beach just below us! We cracked up laughing hysterically! Although, honeymoon or not, I’m sure Larry enjoyed the view. The first time we went for a ride in his truck, he slipped in an Oldies cassette, and I started singing along with the music. He stopped the truck, turned to me, looking totally dumbfounded, not believing that I even knew these oldies songs, or that I knew the words well enough to sing along with the music! He assumed, being 7 years older than me, I wouldn’t know any of the oldie songs he loved so much. I just laughed at him, reminded him that 7 years was not that far apart, and even more importantly, I still grew up in the 60s and 70s, just a little bit later than him. Although Rock N Roll was the most predominant music I listened to during and after my high school years, it didn’t mean I wasn’t familiar with, liked, or listened to tunes from Motown, Oldies, Blues, or any other 60s & 70s music. But I think we both drew the line when Disco came out, followed by Rap then HipHop! We just couldn’t get into any of them the way we did OUR music! We both had a lot of fun singing all kinds of music together, especially when on a road trip. AH…..road trips; another thing we had in common & both loved! FAMILY…..We Should Never Forget How Precious They Are? Larry only had one sibling, Lyn, two years younger. Over the years, Lyn & Larry had grown to form a special bond between them. Their bond continued to grow until it was a genuine love and understanding of siblings, the way families should be. When Lyn’s 3 children were born, Larry brought a small stuffed teddy bear to the hospital for each new baby born. When his nephews grew up, married, and started having their own babies, Larry made sure they understood that as the NEW UNCLE, they needed to continue to carry this tradition into the future, and they did! They were his only family, and they ALL meant the world to him! He adored them all and spoiled his two nephews and niece, as only an uncle can do. They were his entire world, until I came into his life. But even then, his love for his family never wavered. As the boys got older Lyn allowed Larry to take Eric and Matt for the day. He taught them how to fish, in the Kishwaukee river, where it was always “catch and release.” Eventually Lyn gave in and allowed her brother to take her only daughter, Melissa, along, not sure how her brother would do with a little girl. Larry also had a few reservations at first, but then he treated her just like the boys and she loved her uncle for that. Larry also made sure the boys knew it was also their job to help watch out for their little sister. They still remember the teachings and traditions their uncle taught them to this day, and they still talk about their experiences with their “kick ass” Uncle Larry! They all really missed each other when he moved to Florida. But we flew to Rockford for every high school graduation, wedding, birth, and as many events as we could. He was at every soccer game, and no doubt Larry was the loudest one in the bleachers, punching his fist in the air each time as he shouted out the chant he created, which was their last name (Aarli, Aarli, Aarli), whenever they scored a goal. The chant can still be heard today, only now it is for his great nephew, 17-year-old, Aidan, following in his father’s footsteps. I can attest to this, as I recently was able to attend a national soccer tournament, in Florida, where Aidan was selected to play on one of the teams, while the college scouts sat on the sidelines watching. However, Larry was there in spirit, as my best friend, Penny, and I were there to be sure to continue Larry’s long-lived Ludwig tradition, the “Aarli, Aarli, Aarli” chant with fists pumping in the air as we yelled each word. An especially funny Christmas story comes to mind and is definitely “Typical Larry”. Those who really knew him, knew he was just a big kid at heart, but he had a canny way of being able to put his mindset into whatever age his niece or nephews were at any specific time, and somehow always found the perfect gifts for all 3 of them. One Christmas, Larry’s “perfect gifts” were automatic water guns for his two nephews, which required batteries to work, and his niece Melissa received a “hand pump water gun”. To give Mellisa a fighting chance to get back at her two older brothers, his solution was simply to wrap the batteries required for the boys’ automatic water guns, separately, addressing the gift to his sister Lyn. Lyn caught on quickly, taking her time giving the batteries to her two older sons, therefore, giving her daughter the chance her Uncle Larry wanted her to have. She came out fighting with her hand pump water gun to soak her brothers before they could get the batteries from their mom and into their water guns to start fighting back. It was a perfect solution to Larry’s way of thinking, until we called Christmas Eve when they were opening their gifts, and the first thing Lyn said was “Geez, thanks a lot Larry, you do know I now have water all over my living room, furniture, floors, windows, me, everywhere” but, she was laughing as she said it, because she knew her big brother! Family memories and traditions taught, big or small, that are continued today. What a wonderful legacy he left with all of them.
Larry taught me how to love dogs of all kinds, but especially big ones like Weimaraners. We got our first Weimaraner, “Brisco Blue Persuasion” aka Brisco, at 8 weeks old. He had such huge paws and grew big very quickly, to 110 pounds and 3-4 inches taller than the breed typically gets. Our Vet started calling him a mutant. He was a gentle soul but oh so protective of me! Two years later we got our second Weimaraner, Aarli – no addition to the name necessary, the name said it all. By that time, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the breed. We had 5 Weimaraners during our years together, usually two at a time. BRISCO, AARLI, THOR and RIKA.
When we started the downsizing process, preparing for our retirement, we still had Thor & Rika – two Weimaraners we rescued. It was quite a challenge to bring an 80-pound and a 95-pound Weimaraner from a house with a huge fenced in backyard and two doggie doors so they could come and go as they please, into an apartment environment with no yard to run in and where they had to be walked on a leash. So, I started working on convincing Larry that in our “golden years”, as much as I loved and would miss big Weimaraners, being in an apartment environment wasn’t fair to them. Weimaraners needed a place to run free and chase squirls, etc. It wasn’t easy or quick, but after (Thor 11 & Rika 13) both had crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I finally convinced Larry our next dog should be a small one. He always teased me that Freyja, a Norse name for a female Valkyrie meaning “Goddess of Beauty”, our new “little” Cavapoo was my dog and not his, because she was such a little thing, maybe 8-10 pounds when we got her, and now at 5.5 years, she is only 16 pounds. I was the one who usually walked the dogs, but when Larry walked with us, I could tell him the neighborhood dogs Freyja was just ok with or even disliked, which happened to mostly be the little ones, like her, the big dogs, like labs, labradoodles, Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners, etc. she loved best, and they were really her best dog friends! Our Vet says that’s because SHE IS A BIG DOG AT HEART!
However, Freyja really loved Larry & despite her small size, there was no way in the world that Larry could convince me he did not love her back just as much as our Weimaraners. Every time she saw him, she would run and make a leaping jump into his lap, her tail wagging as fast as it could, licking his whole face. There was no way he could deny her love for him or his love for her! FRIENDS…..Where would we be without our Best Friends?
I can’t write a tribute to Larry without mentioning his longtime best friends. Best friends for 50+ years, who all came when he really needed them, just from a phone call request from me. All I asked was for them to help Larry get through the roughest few years of his life. They all immediately jumped right in, with no hesitation, giving Larry exactly what he needed. They lifted his spirits, made him laugh and smile, reliving shared memories, and before long Larry was telling his own stories, memories, jokes, etc., until they were laughing together. They allowed Larry to forget, for a time, issues in his life he had no control over, but was having a tough time dealing with the loss of that control. This also allowed me the time I needed to hang on to my #1 goal, watching over the man I loved to ensure his total health was taken care of properly, which wasn’t as easy of a task as it should have been. Jim Peterson, Jim Purdin and Larry all met their freshman year in high school band, Fall of ’63. Jim Purdin & Larry played Cornet until Larry switched to Timpani. These two long-time special friends, with their love of music a common theme, and as Jim Peterson put it, “the rest is truly history.”
Then there was Johnny Schiro. He and Larry met at a party in 1970 and immediately became friends. Again, with music a common theme, Larry played keyboard while Johnny played bass, in Johnny’s Dad’s Country band on a weekly radio show, along with playing at various clubs and bars. They became best friends throughout the years, and we never missed visiting Johnny and his family every time we were in town on vacation, or when they vacationed in Florida.
I must include Carl Fortunato in this group of best friends. It was an incredibly special friendship, created by a bond that grew from being thrown together, always looking out for each other, trying to find and keep humor and joy in their life, while in a foreign country in the middle of the Vietnam War. You can’t get much tighter than that!
These four incredibly special people continued keeping Larry’s spirits up, keeping him laughing and smiling through the last several and most difficult years of his life. It was a precious gift that neither Larry nor I will ever forget!
I would like to honor all four of these incredibly special friends, along with a few new Florida friendships created along the way (Ed, Brad, Bob & Mel) with a few special friendship quotes that hold the sentiment of how Larry and I feel. FRIENDS GIVE HOPE WHEN LIFE IS LOW
I LOVE YOU! BEST FRIENDS ARE THE FAMILY WE CHOOSE WITH OUR HEART! THANK YOU FOR BEING SUCH AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF MY STORY! MUSIC…..Larry’s Passion Larry & I also loved slow dancing, anywhere and everywhere. One day I came home from work with a new cassette tape. I asked Larry to put it in the tape player so we could slow dance. Then I shocked him when I sang the entire song, whisper soft, into his ear while we danced to the entire song. Afterwards he kissed me, thanked me, and said he was so moved by my gesture because NO ONE had ever sung to him before. He was so thrilled with the song I chose because the lyrics were powerful and meaningful to us, it instantly became “OUR” song. Whenever times got tough or we butted up against new challenges in our life, which we had our share, as do most, we would say to each other NGSUN and sing the lyrics and somehow, they always gave us the strength together to get through whatever we were facing. Therefore, Larry and I would like to share these lyrics that explain how deep and committed our love for each other was.
Please click the link below OR copy the link and paste it into your internet browser. It should open YouTube directly to the song & lyrics. Close YouTube and return here afterwards to continue reading “Joan’s Tribute to Larry.” https://youtu.be/cxNHLZymgJk?t=2 To Larry, music was like ambrosia! He loved ALL types of music. Since he could both read sheet music and play by ear, he could play or enjoy listening to anything he wanted. Classical, Jazz, Motown, Blues, Rock n Roll, Country, Oldies, and anything in between. He’d even jump up and run to the keyboard when a TV show or Advertisement had a theme song he liked. He would listen for only a few seconds or more and then he’d be playing along with the TV. It was amazing to watch him in action and see how easy and natural it was for him, and best of all the smile it put on his face! It was beautiful! The first time I learned of Larry’s passion for music and all his natural talent was obviously in our first apartment. As I mentioned earlier, his dining room was wall to wall music, instruments, speakers, tape decks, you name it. He didn’t have a drum set, but only for lack of space, but he did have a drum machine. What hadn’t sunk in was that “all his natural talent” meant that Larry could play every single instrument he had, fluently. He handed me a cassette to listen to one day. It was a standard song everyone would have known. When the song was over, I told him I liked it, and it sounded great. He asked me if it sounded like the “real” band playing? I was confused and didn’t understand what he was asking, until he said, “It was all me.” I started feeling like I was really missing something important. He then pointed to a stack of dual cassette decks, 3 high. Explaining how he used them to create an “overlay” of each individual instrument over the others until the entire song was completed, leaving him with a song on the tape in which LARRY played EVERY single instrument in the song. Any “normal” person (like me) listening, wouldn’t have any idea that the song was all Larry and not whoever the original band was. Talk about all that natural talent and passion for music and wanting to share his enthusiasm! WOW! It boggled my mind! Larry was an extremely talented musician and could have taken his life in various and different directions, had he not chosen to start college in the pre-seminary program. Then after college he was drafted for the Vietnam War. PLAYING IN BANDS…..Larry’s Enjoyment Larry played in many different bands throughout his life, mostly for the pure enjoyment it gave him as well as others. Since we proved early in our relationship that I obviously couldn’t carry a tune or play an instrument, I was delegated to be his roadie, except when it came to his bass amp, that thing was major heavy. Good thing I used to lift free weights at the gym and had a few muscles  before I met Larry. It was typical for Larry to play bass guitar and keyboard, whenever playing in a band, so there was always a lot of equipment to haul around! One particularly funny “band” memory that also showed off Larry’s musical talent and his sense of humor that was always there, was when he agreed to play in a Country band with two much too serious musicians. One played lead guitar & vocals and the other played fiddle and backup guitar. The problem was they needed a rhythm section. They didn’t know Larry all that well, other than his musical talent, but they asked him if he would play with them (bass and keyboard) and did he know of a drummer that would be interested in joining them. Since Larry loved to play music for the sheer joy of playing and the joy it gave him to see the smiles on the audience’s faces, he agreed to join the band and brought his “drummer friend” Paul to join them. So, the result was a Country band with a Rock N Roll rhythm section. Those poor Country guys didn’t know what they were in for. It was hilarious! Larry and Paul were strictly in it for the sheer fun they had playing music together and they both had a similar sense of humor, so can you guess where I’m headed with this story? Two serious Country musicians, and well, you know Larry, he had very few serious bones in his body! Getting back to the fun band memory…..Since Larry had to switch back and forth between playing bass and keyboard he wore a wireless amp attached to his belt with a long cord, allowing him to move around. This worked perfectly for Larry because he could not stand in one place for long while playing his bass. So, when the band started playing a slow song, Larry, knowing how much I liked to slow dance, came over to where I was sitting, unhooked the shoulder strap on his bass and ask me stand up. He then put his bass guitar against my back and re-hooked his shoulder strap, and we started to slow dance while he continued to play his bass. Through all his maneuvering and then us dancing to the entire song, Larry NEVER MISSED A SINGLE BEAT, but he kept getting dirty looks from the two “serious guys”. Larry and Paul just laughed at them as we continued dancing and Larry continued playing his bass. When the song was over Larry & I received applause from everyone in the bar, which just made the other guys madder. They actually “called for a little huddle” to remind Larry and Paul, “They were supposed to be professionals” and “Larry you can’t do things like you just did, it’s not professional”, “and while we’re at it, you both need to stop playing rock n roll song segments every time the band takes a break.” WELL, KNOWING LARRY, WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENED NEXT? If you guessed correctly…. Larry & Paul looked at each other, tried their hardest not to burst out laughing and failing miserably. When Larry could finally keep a straight face, he said “look, Paul and I are here because you needed us, remember, we’re just here to play music and have a little FUN, that’s all. And “what part of playing on a Friday and Saturday night, in a dive bar, for $50 a gig, do you consider professional?” “We’ve played on stages, in dive bars, behind chicken wire and had more fun than playing with you two”. GO LARRY! So yes, Larry was an extremely talented musician, but he played for his love of music and making other people happy. Music was not only Larry’s passion, but it was also his “happy place”, his “Go To” place to forget bad days or rejoice in happy times. He played music for the sheer excitement of it and to calm & center himself when needed. LARRY ESPECIALLY LOVED the BEATLES If you would indulge me one last time, for just a few minutes more, I would like to share Larry’s all-time favorite Beatles song. Even if you recognize the song, it is the lyrics that are important, and that Larry and I believed in. So, I, along with Larry watching over us from above giving his approval, would love to share these lyrics with you now. Please click the link below OR copy the link and paste it into your internet browser. It should take you to YouTube and directly to the song & lyrics. Close YouTube and return here afterwards for the completion of “Joan’s Tribute to Larry.”
https://youtu.be/kyA4YLbAWio The beach, the sand, water squishing through our toes, and Champagne on the beach was even better! Sunsets and Full Moons were our special thing. We were married at Sunset with a Full Moon rising on a deck overlooking Tampa Bay. Larry is now our Guardian Angel. I know he will always be there to watch over Freyja and I, beside him our “beloved pack’” ODIN, BRISCO, AARLI, THOR & RIKA who have already crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. They will all be with Larry watching over Freyja and I until it is our time to join them and “Our entire pack will be together forever!” I will miss Larry more than anyone can ever imagine. We immediately clicked from the first time we met. From the very beginning, Larry unselfishly gave me all of himself, holding back nothing, giving me everything I ever wanted in a relationship. Then he went beyond by giving me so much more that I didn’t even know I needed, or know I was even missing in my life. We were 200% partners from day one. Of ALL the things Larry thought me over our lifetime together, THE MOST IMPORTANT WAS HOW TO LAUGH AGAIN, which was something I didn’t know I was really missing so much in my life, and HOW DEEPLY YOU CAN LOVE SOMEONE AND STILL HAVE MORE ROOM IN YOUR HEART AND MORE OF YOURSELF TO SHARE! I could go on and on about all the laughter and fun we had and all the things we taught each other to love, but there are just too many to count. Larry was my best friend, my husband, my partner, my lover, and my soulmate! The best thing I ever did in my life was to give my heart and soul to Larry! It will always be his to keep & hold dear and close to his heart! Be at peace my Love! You are my one and only, I love you MMB! WE WILL BE TOGETHER AGAIN! As you so eloquently wrote to me from your heart long ago in our beginning, I now give your words back to you from my heart and soul. YOU MAKE ME SMILE,

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