Larry’s Story

I was born January 31, 1942, in our family’s home in Dubuque, Iowa on a 30-degree-below-zero night. I was the fourth of five children born to Douglas and Cecile McGehe. My dad managed an auto parts store in downtown Dubuque only two blocks from our home, and my mom did all the wonderful things stay-at-home moms do.

Larry at age 2

When I was 4 years old, our family moved to West Third St. in Dubuque. Lincoln Elementary School was a short walk away, and later I attended Washington Junior High School.

Younger brother Keith balancing Larry

At age 10, I clearly recall standing at the candy display at the local grocery store, where I noticed they were selling candy bars for 5-cents each or six bars for a quarter. I quickly realized that if I bought six candy bars and sold them for a nickel each, I could make a profit of 5 cents. I hurried home to ask my mother if I could open a candy store on our family’s enclosed front porch. Thinking this would be a good experience for me, my mother said, “Yes.”

That day, “Larry’s Sweet Shop” was born. I paid Mom to make fudge, divinity, caramel apples, and popcorn balls. I sold enough candy bars to buy boxes of 24 bars from a local wholesaler, increasing my profits. Soon, I added novelties and school supplies to my inventory and had quite a customer base of students who passed by our house walking to and from school. Adults would call late into the evening to see what I had available!

Snow days were the best in Dubuque. Not only did my brother Keith and I build incredible snow forts, but I also made good money shoveling massive amounts of snow from the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways.

Snow fort building in Dubuque

Continuing as a young entrepreneur, I successfully sold about everything you could imagine going door-to-door. Although I did whatever I could do to make a little money, one of my greatest loves was playing sports at the neighborhood park.

Mom’s help taping up for football

At age 14, my family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. I attended Champaign’s Edison Jr. High School in 9th grade but finished my high school education as an Urbana High School Tiger. I was thrilled to be asked to be the announcer for all of the football and basketball games. I served on the student council as the Parliamentarian and especially enjoyed dancing to 50s music at the Tiger’s Den on Friday and Saturday nights.

The same year we moved to Illinois, I began working at Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Company in Champaign, earning a whopping 75 cents per hour as a 14-year-old. I remember thinking that if I could ever make $100 a week, I would “have it made.”

In 1962, my best high school friend, Jim Beaty, and I went to the Billy Graham Crusade at McCormick Place in Chicago. At the crusade, we both went forward to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Jim went on to become an ordained Lutheran minister.

While studying engineering at the University of Illinois, I also worked a 20-hour week with my brother, Del, at his start-up business, Arrow Glass Company, in addition to working as a pin-setter mechanic at Arrowhead Lanes on the weekends. I suppose you could say that I have never minded working.

High School Graduation 1960

I proudly served for six years in the United States Navy Reserves. Two of those years were on active duty during the Viet Nam era aboard the USS Grapple ARS-7, a rescue salvage ship of only 80 men. In addition to being the personnel man aboard the ship, I was also captain of our ship’s softball and basketball teams. We succeeded as the Pearl Harbor Champions in both sports. After returning from the Navy, I rejoined Arrow Glass Company as Vice President in 1965.

USS Grapple ARS-7 in 1964

One of my greatest thrills and achievements was pitching my softball team to 3rd place at the 1972 National Softball Championships in St. Louis, MO, and being named to the All-American Team. In later years, I seized the opportunity to try out for the Olympic Baseball team at age 42. While I did not make the team, I had a great time trying out.

All-American 1972

On July 15, 1978, I married my amazing wife, Carol, the love of my life. I encourage you to click “Carol’s Story,” if you haven’t already, and then “Our Story” to learn more about the exciting ride that began on that mid-July day in 1978.

Carol in 1978

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Larry McGehe
Larry McGehe
Larry is a lifelong entrepreneur, who has put his skills to valuable use by mentoring young people, business owners, and sales teams. In addition to mentoring in the U.S., he seized the opportunity to mentor other new entrepreneurs in Honduras, Brazil, and South Africa. Larry is a man of strong faith and encourages everyone he meets. He has unselfishly poured his wisdom, knowledge, and skills into the research and writing of the "In Search" series.