Published: January 2, 2018
For those who knew J.R., born September 7, 1940, he was an extraordinary man with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of rare firearms and military items.His knowledge, however, was surpassed by his extraordinary passion for arms and their history. “Even more importantly, J.R. was a great patriot and dedicated his life to his country for 22 years in the US Air Force,” said James D. Julia of the firm’s chief firearms consultant and cataloger. “He was a humble man but also extraordinarily knowledgeable with an incredible ability of recall. He was affable and made friends with almost everyone he met and always made time to talk to them. He was also extraordinarily strong, determined and for most of his life, able to overcome almost every adversity. J.R. was generous to a fault.”
J.R. grew up in the Ozarks, specifically in the town of Metropolis. His family was poor but his roots were extremely important to him throughout his life. In 1957, he joined the US Air Force, eventually attaining the rank of master sergeant and distinguished himself throughout his career. He was selected for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, distinguishing himself on multiple occasions and was highly decorated.
In the early 1980s, J.R. was stationed at Pease Air Force Base where he dealt in firearms in his spare time. After 22 years in the Air Force he retired. In 1986, he opened LaRue Firearms in New Hampshire. His shop was the go-to place for any sportsman in the area. He closed his store in the early 1990s. Shortly thereafter, said James Julia, “It was my great fortune, pleasure and honor to have met and begun doing business with him. J.R. and I had the greatest respect for one another. He was a man of great integrity and we both shared a common interest in doing business in a fair and honest way.”
When J.R. took a gun apart or read some information about a gun, he was likely to remember it many years later. He developed an extraordinary breadth of knowledge for all types of firearms and military items. His assistance and expansive knowledge was critical in the early days in Julia’s firearms auction business. Regardless of how diverse the collection was or what it consisted of, J.R. had at least a general knowledge and thus could talk and deal intelligently with anything that he might pick up.
“J.R. was one of my very best friends and also a colleague,” said Julia. “My association with him was critical in helping to grow my firearms auction company’s reputation to the finest in the world for honesty, fair dealing and expertise. J.R. had an amazing breadth of knowledge about so many things and was a great companion on trips. He loved to hunt, spend time with family and friends, and live life on his own terms.”
Over the last year, J.R. was challenged with cancer, congestive heart failure and many more obstacles but he absolutely refused to change his lifestyle despite the many new challenges and was looking forward to one last trip to Argentina for dove hunting. Following a December quail hunt with members of Julia’s firearms team in Georgia, in which he insisted on participating despite his illness, he traveled to Montana, met with a friend and closed a great deal, including some fabulous firearms. “He called my cell phone that night and left a message,” said Julia. “His voice was filled with enthusiasm and passion about the guns he had just gotten. The next day, I tried to call him and congratulate him and left a message. Unbeknownst to me, he was already in the hospital in a coma and within a few days, he passed. A terrific hunt, a bunch of friends, closing a deal on a fabulous collection of guns; that is exactly the way my amazing friend would want to spend some of his last days. As I said, he lived his life on his own terms and died on his own terms.”
J.R. is survived by his wife Diana and her family, including Toni Jo Coppa of Windham, Maine, Gina Clark of Skowhegan, Maine, Joseph Coppa of Southwick, Mass., and grandsons Michael Coppa and Steven Giles, both of Skowhegan. He leaves his only son William LaRue and daughter-in-law Leanne of Lincoln, Alabama, and his only daughter Jeanne Pryll and husband Raymond of Kittery, Maine; grandsons R.J. and Mark Pryll of Kittery; granddaughters Virginia Clark of Dover, N.H., and Abageal Freeman of Munford, Alabama; sisters Vera Kirkpatrick and her husband William of San Angelo, Texas, and Verneita Simmons and her husband Donald of Butler, Penn.; sisters-in-law Earlene LaRue of Balch Springs, Texas. and Linda Boucher and husband Richard of LaFollette, Tenn.; great-grandchildren Lucy, Evan, Adylene, Ruby, Sadie and Zander and countless nieces and nephews.
He is also survived by his second family (as he called it), all the employees and consultants at James D. Julia Auctioneers.
A special Celebration of Life will take place at the James D. Julia in March in Fairfield, Maine. Details will be announced soon.
Condolences can be sent to Diana LaRue, Diana LaRue, P.O. Box 70408, Knoxville, TN 37938-0408.[Editor’s note: A longer tribute about J.R., written by James D. Julia, will appear in the next print edition of Antiques and The Arts Weekly.]
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