Artist completes his promise to dying wife

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CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) — Larry and Judy Glaze started their bucket list in the hospital, immediately after she was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.

They used a yellow legal pad, as in the 2007 hit movie they both loved, which features two terminally ill men escaping from a cancer ward and heading off on a road trip with their wish lists, The Joplin Globe ( ) reported.

The difference was, their bucket list, though five pages long and containing more than 80 goals, didn't include things such as "skydive" or "see the Great Wall of China" or "create a masterpiece."

They already had done much of that. Glaze and his wife already had traveled abroad. They owned and sold a successful company. Their trips had taken them from Italy and Spain to the coast of Dauphin Island in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing home a morning's catch to fry up for lunch. And the high school sweethearts had purchased 180 beautiful Ozark acres and built their dream home there, where they counted as neighbors their daughter and their son.

And Larry's art business had landed sales to Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, country music superstars such as Blake Shelton and Toby Keith, and even actor/director Clint Eastwood.

The first item: "Turn our home into a gallery."

The last: "Build a treehouse in the front yard."

This fall, Larry checked off that final item on the list that he said Judy largely directed.

"She knew I had to live here without her," he said. "And she knew me well enough to know that I would have to be busy, to have something to keep me busy."

Larry, now 73, says theirs was "a love story from the beginning."

They both grew up in Carthage from humble beginnings. His dad, one of 11 children, was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps that built many of the buildings and trails at Roaring River State Park.

Both Larry and Judy subscribed to the mantra, "God, family, country."

But it was Larry who always longed for a creative challenge, who was fueled by new experiences, who had a bit of wanderlust. When he graduated from Carthage High School in 1959, he joined the U.S. Navy.

"I wanted to get out of Dodge," he said.

Judy agreed to wait for him.

He trained at San Diego, California, at an underwater demolition school for frogmen, and soon found himself on the U.S.S. Lexington in the Gulf of Siam as tensions began mounting in Southeast Asia. He was discharged, but reactivated during the Cuban Missile Crisis and served on board the USS Thetis Bay in Panama Canal and Guantanamo Bay.

Finally, when he was discharged a second time, he came home to Carthage, bought a 1959 Corvette, picked up Judy and began making wedding plans. They tied the knot on Nov. 30, 1963 — her birthday — at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Carthage.

Nine months and three days later, they traded in the Corvette for a sedan when daughter Lisa was born. Son Mark rounded out the family.

As the decades passed, Glaze would have a successful career owning a dental and medical prosthetics lab in Wisconsin, making ears, lips, noses and other facial features for cancer patients and burn victims. He also did a stint working for Stanford University on a sleep apnea project, and for a time raised cattle for an area doctor. His resumé also includes working in an auto body shop and a greenhouse.

But in 2000, it was time for the family to return to Carthage and build a permanent home and a workshop for what Larry discovered to be his second true love: Antler art.

"I just look at them and see what they have the potential to become," Glaze said of the sheds he orders from around the world. "Moose antlers become eagles' wings. Caribou and deer antlers become chandeliers and lamps."

He developed it into a lucrative business, picking up wealthy clients across the nation.

Judy set about taking on her own project: designing on paper her dream kitchen — a vintage looking one that would fit with Larry's love of rustic, Southwest-inspired decor.

"She never got to see the kitchen installed," Glaze said.

Judy was diagnosed with brain cancer on July 4, 2009. She had three tumors, one the size of a tennis ball in her frontal lobe, the other two golf ball-sized. She spent 10 days at St. John's Regional Medical Center and doctors determined the tumors to be inoperable, with no hope for any other treatment.

"She said, 'Here's what we'll do,'" recalled Larry. "'Let's go home and enjoy what time we have left.'"

Each night when Larry sank into bed, he'd tie their arms together with a ribbon so that if she jerked or needed to get up, he would awaken.

They watched "Bucket List" a few more times. And Judy directed the creation of their own:

. He was to install the vintage-inspired kitchen she had dreamed about.

. He was to restore the classic Plymouth coupe his dad bought in 1940 and that Larry drove to high school.

. He was to build a cozy, light-filled room where he could retreat.

. He was to donate work to charity and get involved supporting causes.

. He was to remember her during the Maple Leaf Festival, when the Ozarks begin their peak color.

Less than two months after her diagnosis, on Aug. 22, 2009, Judy died.

After building a butterfly bush garden near his workshop, installing an inscribed stone there with her name and scattering some of her ashes, Larry got busy tackling the list:

He transformed their home into a gallery — not just for his art, but for other noted area artists the couple admired and supported, and he punctuated it with slab furniture he crafted out of burl mulberry and hedge and his trademark antler sculptures.

He built a "Judy Room" — dedicated to paintings by Judy, a hobby artist, and the Gerry Richman sculptures Larry gifted her through the years.

He hired off-duty firefighters to help him build his "Santa Fe" room, which includes a loft for their grandson and a stone fireplace he helped stack.

He welcomed — and still welcomes — art and garden clubs, nature groups and other organizations for tours.

He restored that Plymouth coupe, painted it purple, and began taking it to area classic car shows.

He gave antler art pieces worth thousands of dollars to area charities to auction at galas, from Spiva Center for the Arts to the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, and began holding fundraisers for those groups in his home.

During the Maple Leaf Festival, he held a memorial for Judy on their acreage.

And he built that treehouse.

If anything comes out of sharing his story, Larry said, he hopes that it will be an inspiration for people to "focus more on who they married and find ways to let the candle burn. Because you never know how much time you'll have, and 46 years wasn't enough."

He also hopes it inspires others to create their own bucket lists and get going on them "pronto."

"The bucket list has been my survival, because of our situation.

"But there's no reason to wait."

A carved rock near the butterfly garden Larry Glaze built memorializing his late wife says, simply: Judy Glaze: 1941-

He will not put a date after the dash, he said.

"I'm done with the bucket list, but not done living for her," he said. "We're still living the dash."


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe,

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Joplin Globe

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