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Home > Magazine > Culture > RIP Uncle Les -- a Real Ripsnorter

RIP Uncle Les -- a Real Ripsnorter
October 21, 2013

I grew up around wild uncles on both my mom's and my dad's sides. My mom's side was wild in a westcoast jazz Citroen kinda way. My dad had 6 brothers and a sister. They were, and still are, a high-energy country kind of wild. Untame-able. I grew up around hunting and fishing and wild-rumpus stories from them. And they grew up in a one-room shack down by the river. 3 were firemen, one was a cop, another a railroad wreck foreman, another a preacher -- and my dad the professor. He's the only one who escaped early from Grand Rapids and venison as "eat it to get by" table fare. The firemen were all cooks at their firehouses, often serving wild game. My uncles had many famous run-in's with local game wardens. (When you hunt/fish 24/7 your whole life as subsistence something's gotta give... They were always good on conservation, tho.) I have 42 first cousins over there! About half moved away after we were kids, but GR still has a lot of us around. My family ran an orchard and several fruit-stands around town. Still does. When I was a teen I'd pick peaches for a week in the summers. It was so crazy that I talked friends into coming along with me a couple times just to see if they could take it. We worked hard, alongside migrants, for cheap. And when we took breaks we'd hoot'n'holler with the cousins and uncles and have peach eating contests. I learned from my uncles how to eat a huge peach in ONE BITE. (Turn it inside out into your mouth...)

Well, the wildest uncle of all, Uncle Les, died a couple weeks ago. Heart attack in his easy chair with a beer in his hand. He made it to 71. Pedal to the metal all the way. Infamous in various locales. Loud and sharp as a whip. An enthusiast of history reading. Mighty as mighty could be. Champ arm-wrestler among the firehouses. And more a bear-hugger than a puncher in the pubs. A very good farmer. A scrapper and hustler to the end! Not health aware, you might say, but I'd call it more a matter of quality over quantity in terms of lifespan. He may well have packed about 3 lifetimes in there.

It was neat seeing the cousins again at the memorial events, and also seeing some of Les's cohorts -- bikers and vets.

I could tell stories, but I suppose the best ones aren't for public consumption. Here are a few pics that I think do a good job of capturing the Uncle Les Spirit -- as well as the unstoppable Potter Spirit. And perhaps the spirit of Wildness in general.

(I'm hoping to get scans. These are just pics-of-pics off of the memorial poster of photos.)


Sis didn't make this pic but she can keep up with the boys. Still.


In the orchard in later years.


One more on the way.


Three brothers were top fast-pitch pitchers in the era when it was big in GR (and other rural places nationwide).


Liked a good story.


Bliss.


The energy level.


An early trip out west.

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