I was living on the Northwest Side of Chicago at the time, and the closest shows were all run by Fred Copp. I quickly became a regular at just about all of Fred's shows. One of my first regular customers at that time was Larry Loss.
I remember Larry was working on a 1960 Topps set in those days and I regularly supplied him cards for his set. Larry did not spend much money. I would get three or four crumpled dollar bills from him but after being out of the game for a while, I appreciated the attention.
Larry was out of work, and at each show we would talk about his struggles to find a job. I was out of work as well but had put some money away. I also had just started selling on eBay and was bringing in some money from shows and eBay.
So, since 2001, I have been setting up at card shows just about every weekend. I got to know Larry and his girlfriend Carol. I always looked forward to seeing them because they were such nice people.
Larry would tell me that his mother was having health issues. Between his job struggles and taking care of his mother, he seemed down much of the time. When his mother died, I could see the sadness but at the same time I could tell that a huge burden was lifted from his shoulders.
Suddenly he had more money to spend and he was noticeably happier. Occasionally, he would sell me some old cards and some old publications, never charging me much money. I began to sell him cards on credit. He always paid.
He started to bring me gifts like a keychain with a Bears logo. There were sports related refrigerator magnets that are still on my refrigerator. Eventually, I gave him my home address and he sent me Christmas cards every year. After 20 years, I considered Larry my friend. When he did not appear at any card shows this year, I grew concerned.
Nobody seemed to know where he was. The last I heard from him was the Christmas card I received in December. I even asked aloud in this blog if anyone had seen him. No response.
I feared the worst. I finally learned of his death through happenstance. It was almost like Larry reached out to me from beyond the realm.
At last month's Madison show, I met a couple of really nice guys who offered to sell me some autographed Bears and White Sox cards. I initially decided against the purchase but the more I thought about it, I wanted the cards for my personal collection. The guys brought the cards out to the last Oak Creek show where I purchased a stack. I passed on an album of more cards.
I was considering purchasing the album but I wanted to make sure that the stack of cards I purchased was real. The guys told me they purchased the cards at a live auction in Illinois. I contacted my pal Willie, an autograph expert and asked if he would look over the cards to make sure they were real.
I told Willie about the guys who sold me the cards and that they purchased them at a live auction. Turns out Willie was at the same auction. He viewed the collection and saw a binder of 8 X 10 autograph photos of Chicago athletes. Also, pictured in many of the photos was Larry Loss. Willie, who also knew Larry for as long as I did, told me he believed the collection sold at that live auction was Larry's and that our old friend had died.
If you ever met Larry, you would see right away that he was completely genuine. Honest. Child-like. A kind, generous, good soul.
He loved sports. He loved sports collecting. He loved card shows.
At the old Gonzaga shows, in Oak Creek, and Woodstock, Larry and Carol were always the first ones at my tables. They always arrived early and would patiently wait for me to set up.
It is so strange. I literally saw Larry every single month for the past 20 years or so. It has been so strange not to see him. Even stranger to know that he is gone. Even stranger yet is that some of his prized aut0graphed sports cards found their way to me.
One of the reasons I love card shows is that I get to regularly hang out with guys like Larry. I need to track down Carol to find out what happened. Larry was one of the good ones who I will never forget and will always miss. Thanks for being my friend, buddy.