Jun. 10—The first thing you need to know about Lucky Larson is that yes, Lucky is his given name — or one of them.
“Leonard Lee Lucky Larson,” he said the other day. “I have a grandson named Lucky as well.”
As it stands, the 62-year-old’s professional career has lived up to his name. He feels fortunate that, after four years of college baseball, then a stint in the Coast Guard, he was able to take on two careers that kept him in and around his home town.
The first was law enforcement, covering 22 years including four as the Lake County Sheriff. The latter was 10 or so as activities director at Ronan High School.
Now he’s retired, and not for the first time. Roughly five years as the AD had been enough for Larson. A couple years later Mark Johnston took over as Ronan’s superintendent and came calling again.
“It took me about two seconds to answer him,” Larson said.
Let’s back up. Before all this Larson was a standout athlete who, among other things, was a sophomore on Ronan’s last state championship football team, in 1974.
His Legion baseball career predates the Mission Valley Mariners, so he commuted daily to practice and play for the Missoula Mavericks — unless there was a road game against the Kalispell Lakers or Glacier Twins. Then the Mavs’ bus would pick him up in Ronan.
He played collegiately at North Idaho, then Whitworth.
“After I got done with that, I threw a wrench to my parents and said I’m joining the military,” Larson said. “Realizing that playing professionally for the California Angels wasn’t realistic.”
That more or less sparked his career in law enforcement, first as a detention officer, then as deputy, then sheriff.
After 22 years as an officer of the law — “It was kind of weird putting all that stuff away after that long of time” — Larson could have kicked his Galls up, but apparently that’s not his style.
“My kids were out of the house, and it was my wife and I,” he said. “I still needed something to do. It was just a great opportunity, and just to watch what these kids are doing, it was just wonderful to see them flourish.”
Being AD can be one of those thankless jobs, right there with, say, coaching and law enforcement and sports writer. It was a fit for Larson, who’d already spent many years as the D.A.R.E. officer at the school. And it was plenty busy.
“We hosted a lot of things here, this little town of Ronan, Montana,” he said. “Our facilities, our football field and gymnasium — it’s an amazing complex. I don’t know any AD that would have turned the job down, just because of the facilities.”
Larson admits it: He bleeds orange and black. He remembers 1974 well, and knows that Ronan has made one football title game since, a loss to Sidney in 1989.
“That was pretty fun back then,” he said. “You don’t think about how important that is to a community at the time. And then you get out and about and you realize it.”
If the titles haven’t piled up, the good times and grandkids have.
“High points were the kids,” Larson said. “The student athletes and the teams. I made a lot of great friends with the coaches of other teams. I really enjoyed being manager of that facility.
I’m a people person anyway. My father taught me that when I was way younger.
“My community service makes it so that I’m around people I like. I’ve always been involved.”
It was during a summer break from college, playing a slow pitch game at Fort Missoula, that Larson noticed a girl watching and found his way over to talk. Turned out Teresa grew up 7 miles away, in Charlo. That was 36 years of marriage and eight grandkids ago. What’s in a name, anyway?
“Now it’s the wife’s, and my kids’ and my grandkids’ time,” Lucky Larson said last Friday. “We’re going fishing this weekend. The bobber in the pond. It’s precious.”
Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463, or [email protected]
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