LaRue's official historian dies at age 94

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James D. 'Jim' LaRue was the 'go-to guy' for all things dealing with LaRue County history

By Linda Ireland

 James D. “Jim” LaRue Jr., LaRue County’s official historian, died Aug. 11, 2014, at the age of 94.

He had battled cancer for some time, according to family.

Mr. LaRue had an encyclopedic knowledge of local history, which earned him the official title from the county. He held an extensive collection of documents and photographs relating to the county’s – and his own family’s – heritage. 

He freely shared his knowledge and research with anyone who showed interest.

He embraced technology as a nonagenarian, learning to navigate the Internet and use email.

“Jim’s passing is a tremendous loss for our community and those that knew him,” said LaRue County Judge/executive Tommy Turner. “Few communities have someone with the knowledge and passion for the place they live as Jim did. He was a true scholar of our area’s history and heritage. He was also a true gentleman and a joy to be around. Those of us that knew him and worked with him have lost a true friend.”

He was honored by nearly every entity in the county for his service. He was named a 2012 Distinguished Alumnus of Hodgenville High School, a Paul Harris Fellow from Rotary International for 53 years of service, a charter member of The Lincoln Museum, a founding member of the LaRue County Historical Society, a longtime columnist for The LaRue County Herald News, a former city councilman, former director of Sunrise Manor Nursing Home and Bank of Buffalo, a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church and a keynote speaker for five Lincoln Days celebrations.

He was an Air Corps veteran of World War II, serving most of his time in India and Burma as a communications specialist, and an alumnus of Lehigh University.

He opened a tax service on Lincoln Square in 1957 and later became founding partner in LaRue Insurance.

In 2013, he published a collection of notes and research into a biography about Mary Brooks, his family’s matriarch.

Mary Brooks: Portrait of a Kentucky Pioneer, Granny Woman, Family Matriarch, covered the life of one of the earliest pioneers of this area. She arrived in Kentucky in 1784 with her husband John LaRue, and her sister-in-law Sarah LaRue Hodgen. They settled in Phillip’s Fort near present day Hodgenville.

He told the Herald News that he had spent years “searching various courthouse records here in LaRue County as well as Hardin County for interesting items of history – estate settlement books, wills and deed books as well as county court minutes. Instead of searching any one thing, I found myself making notes of history not related to my project. My files are loaded with those notes.”

“Occasionally you find interesting things on Google,” he added. “But unfortunately sources are generally not listed.”

He was preceded in death by his wife, Frances Bond Enlow; his parents, Marie Dye and James D. LaRue Sr., two sisters, and a daughter, Julia Brooks LaRue Orwig.

He is survived by a daughter, Paula Varney; and six sons, John, Alex, Will, Philip, Ben and Steve; six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Bennett Bertram Funeral Home in Hodgenville is handling the arrangements.