STRATTON, Nebraska -- Larry K. "Fritz" Forch, 69, died peacefully Saturday (Nov. 13, 2010), at his home in Stratton.
He was born April 9, 1941, in Hitchcock County, Nebraska on the family farm northwest of Stratton, to Robert Edward and Marguerite Ruth (McAllister) Forch. Fritz attended District 58 country school near the family home until the eighth grade. He then attended and graduated from Stratton High School in 1958. His senior year Fritz worked on a custom harvest crew cutting wheat from Texas to Canada. He went on to attend McCook Junior College for a short time before returning to Stratton where he worked for Roy League at C. U. Lionberger Company.
Fritz and his dad farmed together for several years on both the family farm and rented ground. At the same time, they did custom farming when it was available. To supplement his new farming operation he worked as a roughneck on oil drilling rigs for several years.
On August 16, 1963, Fritz was united in marriage to Charlene A. Yingling in McCook, Nebraska, and to this union two children were born, Larry, Jr., and Tuesday.
In March of 1967, Fritz and Charlene bought a farm west of Stratton and moved their family to what was to be their home place. Fritz also purchased a semi and hauled cattle for area farmers to livestock shows and packing plants in Iowa and Colorado as well as locally.
Fritz developed his farm west of Stratton into a successful operation of irrigated alfalfa. He took great pride in his hay and countless semi loads of it were sold to dairies in Colorado, with the best of the best going to the Denver Zoo. He also sold hay to cattle feeders in the area as well as feeding his own herd.
Never one to sit around, Fritz also drove school bus for Stratton Schools for many years. Charlene also started driving the bus and they enjoyed daily route trips and trips to countless school activities.
In the mid-70s, Fritz started raising catfish and rainbow trout commercially. He loved to fish and the operation was more of a hobby than anything. A series of ponds and a gravel pit served as home to thousands of fish, and many local families enjoyed catching farm-raised fish during those years.
The 70s and 80s were hard times for those who farmed, and in 1981 Fritz started working for Kugler Oil Co., delivering propane to area residents and businesses. In 1982, he started his own propane business known as Country Gas. Fritz and his family quickly developed the business adding farm fuels and anhydrous ammonia to their products. In 1985, they opened Stratton's first convenience store and combined it with Harold's Sports-n-Spirits. In 1987, Country Gas expanded to Trenton when they purchased the Soo Paw station and café. Through it all, Fritz remained a farmer at heart and longed to return to that way of life. So, in 1995 he sold the Trenton location, and the Stratton location closed in 1998. Fritz soon found that he missed the people, and he and Charlene bought the Dairy King in Stratton in 1999. They closed the business in 2008 due to failing health.
In addition to his farming and business endeavors, Fritz served on the Stratton Village Board, and the Stratton Rural Fire Department. He later served on the Fire Board where he served as President for many years, during which time he was instrumental in helping the Stratton Ambulance and Rural Fire Department become one entity.
Fritz grew up attending Community United Methodist Church and was always quick to organize and help a friend or neighbor in need or to support a community project. He loved his family and was proud of their accomplishments. He custom farmed for SKB Ranch north of Stratton for many years and in 1990, he and Charlene purchased part of the ranch and helped his daughter raise cattle and farm. He also helped his son purchase Jones Funeral Home in Stratton and Benkelman in 1998, all the while enjoying the light of his life, his granddaughter, Jyssica.
All of his life, Fritz worked hard and played hard. He enjoyed welding and working with metal and was always working on a project or tinkering with something. He also enjoyed collecting old John Deere tractors and farm equipment.
He was a man of his word and always willing to help someone in need. His family was his greatest treasure in life and he will be deeply missed.
Preceding him in death are his parents, Robert and Marguerite Forch; father-in-law, Harold Yingling; and numerous aunts and uncles.
Those left to mourn his passing include his loving wife of more than 47 years, Charlene Forch of Stratton; his children, Larry Forch, Jr. of Benkelman, Nebraska, Tuesday Forch of Stratton; his granddaughter, Jyssica Forch, also of Stratton; his "kid," Shannon McAdams of Benkelman; sister, Linda Husa and husband, Norm of Barnston, Nebraska; brothers, Paul "Jamie" Forch and wife, Patricia of Trenton, Nebraska, Robert Forch, Jr. and wife, Joyce of Stratton, David Forch and wife, Mary, also of Stratton; three nieces, Kim, Mandy, and Maggie; six nephews, Jeff, Brian, Chris, Mike, Brad, and Kevin; four great-nieces; six great-nephews; mother-in-law, Adell Yingling; several aunts and uncles; his life-long friend, Larry Baker and wife, Nancy of Denver, Colorado; along with numerous cousins, other relatives, and countless friends and neighbors.
Funeral services are Saturday, 11 a.m. CST, at Community United Methodist Church in Stratton with the Rev. Brian Fong and the Rev. Kathryn Bullard officiating. Services will conclude at the church. The family will gather for a private committal at a later time.
Visitation is Friday with the family being present to receive friends from 2-6 p.m. MST at Forch Funeral Chapel in Benkelman.
A memorial has been established in his name.
Forch Funeral Chapel of Benkelman and Stratton is in charge of the arrangements.