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After Her Husband Died, Neighbors Didn't Let This Farm Widow Down

Carla Royer

Some heroes wear blue jeans and drive tractors

When he died in June, 61-year-old Larry Royer left behind his wife of nearly 20 years, four daughters, eight grandchildren, his mother, two sisters, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He also left behind fully-planted fields – acres of crops to be cared for and harvested.

An Illinois native, Larry had “farmed in the Virden area his entire life,” according to his obituary in the State Journal-Register. Four months after his death, his widow Carla – already feeling “lost” without her partner – was faced with managing the harvest on her own. “I wasn’t sure how I would ever get all the crops out,” she said.

Then, help arrived. Area farmers showed up at the Royer farm with combines, carts, and semi-trucks. The 25 farmers worked tirelessly until they had harvested all of Carla's crops.

Carla was moved by the kindness of her neighbors, not just because they helped her in her time of need, but because they did it out of respect for her husband.

“They all told me it was a honor to have been a part of helping me and honoring such a great man,” she recalled in a Facebook post, which she subsequently granted Legacy permission to quote along with her photos.

“I felt so much happiness today knowing what a wonderful man my husband was… I love you forever and always Larry!”

Carla’s story is not an uncommon one. Just recently, the Chicago Tribune reported on another Illinois farmer who died just before the harvest and the community’s efforts to help his widow reap the crops. Steve Hemp, “a third-generation family farmer and the neighbor you could always count on for a shot of Southern Comfort and a practical joke,” died in September at 64. Hemp “was the last in a line of family members who chose to keep the fields running,” and his death marked “the end of a legacy.” “Many things have changed about farm life,” according to the Tribune. But one thing that hasn’t changed: neighbors coming together to help each other in tough times. 

In these tough times, when kindness, empathy, and selflessness are hard to come by, I am thankful for stories like these of communities coming together to support one another, of people helping their fellow human beings.