In Search of Lash LaRue - Page 1
Updated: October 15, 2021
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
|Off and on over the past fifteen years or so, I've documented family history and early years of Lash LaRue as his real life was an enigma (at least, to me). Books and biographies on our whip crackin', B western hero have him born in various states but the most prevalent birth place is Gretna, Louisiana. And he was a hairdresser before Hollywood ... and he sang and played guitar at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans ... more. All those stories rekindled my interest and I made a decision to devote a chunk of time for further research on our black-garbed movie cowboy.
Can't blame past researchers for misinformation as they didn't have access to all the info now available on the Internet in old newspapers, trade publications, fan magazines, census, marriage records, birth records, death certificate, etc.
A few years ago, I hit the proverbial mother lode with online information at the Coloma, Michigan Library. Coloma is a few miles from Watervliet, Michigan, the birthplace and childhood home of Lash. There's a dozen or so articles on Lash as a youngster as well as later articles with local citizens remembering him and his family. The library has free online access to the Coloma (Michigan) Courier and Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspapers. You'll find a link to the library below.
In 2018, I obtained a copy of Lash's 1996 California death certificate ... along with a surprise. There was a second document - an amended / corrected death certificate which was filed in 2002.
In 2019, I obtained Lash's birth certificate from the State of Michigan. "Reu Alfred Wilson" was born June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan. The birth certificate is below.
In September - October, 2021, I hit paydirt! Lash's World War II draft registration has him born on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan. Also found a January, 1966 interview with Lash in the Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper. In that interview, Lash confirms he was born Reu Alfred Wilson in Watervliet, Michigan in 1917. Link to that article is at the bottom of this webpage.
A brief summary of Lash's birth through 1940:
|There's a bunch of info on Lash, much of it relatively new. And coverage is on two separate webpages.
This page is a summary of the main findings on Lash and confirms that:
Lash LaRue was born Reu Alfred Wilson on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan.
Webpage number two is a comprehensive (very lengthy) list of facts, dates, records, et al. There, you will find more on Lash as a hairdresser ... his first wife was Wilda J. Cruthers ... most Lash bios incorrectly report his birth place as Gretna, Louisiana ... doubtful that he played guitar at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans ... there were lots of marriages ... his death certificate, amended death certificate, and cremation ... more.
The Coloma, Michigan Library has an online archive of the Coloma, Michigan Courier, Watervliet, Michigan Record, and Tri-City Record newspapers. There's a dozen or so articles on Lash as a youngster as well as later articles with local citizens remembering him and his family. Below are a few of those newspaper reports:
Link to the Coloma, Michigan Library and their Coloma (Michigan) Courier and Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper archives: http://22.214.171.124/colomas.html
Bobbi Ann Johnson Holmes was a friend of Lash's late son Ronald Alfred Wilson (1937 - 2007) who later changed his name to Ronald Alfred LaRue. She did an interview with Ron, and there's lots of details on Lash and Ron's mother Wilda J. Cruthers. Ron and his first wife Marleen traveled the carnival circuit with Lash for about three years.: https://bobbiholmes.com/ron_larue/
Following are excerpts from the article (I've capitalized several names to highlight them):
"Ron LaRue was born RONALD ALFRED WILSON on October 24, 1937, to parents ALFRED WILSON and WILDA CRUTHERS WILSON, in San Francisco California. Ron's parents were about 18 years old, in love, and Alfred, like Alfred's mother, was a hairdresser. Alfred had not yet become an entertainer, and hadn't yet changed his surname to LaRue."
Lash's son Ronald Alfred Wilson / Ronald Alfred LaRue passed away in 2007 in Lake Havasu City, Arizona: http://obits.arizonagravestones.org/view.php?id=41014
In June, 2019, I sent for Lash's Michigan birth certificate, and below is a crop from the full page document. He was born Reu Alfred Wilson on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan. Parents were 22 year old Sara Louise Bussell [sic] (born Canada) and 31 year old Charles A. Wilson (born High Seas).|
As to the spelling of Louise's last name being Bussell or Busselle: on her 1913 marriage license to Charles Wilson, she signed the license as "Louise Busselle".
If you'd like a copy of the full page birth certificate, send an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmeister.
ProQuest Military records had the World War II draft registration dated October 16, 1940 for 23 year old La Rue Alfred Wilson. He was born June 15, 1917 in Watervalette [sic], Michigan; lives at 454 South Norton, Los Angeles; occupation is Self employed. His contact is uncle Menard E. Harp in the Wilmington neighborhood in Los Angeles County. (Menard E. Harp was the husband of Virginia Ruth Busselle, the sister of Lash's mother Louise Busselle.) The reverse side of the registration card (not shown) has Lash at 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 145 pounds.
His death certificate: 78 year old Alfred Lash LaRue was born June 14, 1917 in Michigan to Charles A. Wilson and Sara Louise Busselle. His residence was 10050 Toluca Lake Avenue, Toluca Lake, Los Angeles County, California; he was married; a self employed actor; and informant was wife Marion LaRue who resided with him at that Toluca Lake address.
Lash passed away May 21, 1996 at St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, California. Immediate cause of death was shock due to Ischemic Cardio Myopathy, Coronary Artery Disease, and Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease. His other medical conditions included Severe COPD and Renal Failure. Also listed is a March 1, 1996 coronary artery bypass operation. Funeral director was Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
Plans were for Lash to be cremated followed by a funeral service. But there was an error at Forest Lawn and he was cremated early, prior to wife Marion viewing his remains. A lawyer for Forest Lawn confirmed their mistake. There was no funeral service for Lash ... Marion had questions about Lash's cremains ... and she threatened a lawsuit. The November 27, 1996 Napa Valley, California Register newspaper has an article and the headline is: "No rest yet for the remains of Lash Larue" : https://www.newspapers.com/clip/88888235/the-napa-valley-register/
About six years after Lash's death, there was an amended (corrected) death certificate. Dated February 22, 2002, the change was to box "40. Place of Final Disposition" of Lash's cremains:
from: Marion LaRue, 10050 Toluca Lake Avenue, Toluca Lake, California 91602
If you'd like copies of the two death certificates, send an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmeister.
In the 1960s, Lash was battling various issues including depression and money problems. In January, 1966, he had 35 cents in his pocket and was jailed on a vagrancy charge in Miami, Florida. He had been working the carnival circuit and a carny employee bailed him out.
Soon after that incident, Lash did an interview which was published in the January 11, 1966 Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper. In that interview, Lash confirmed his birth name and birth location - quote:
"The former cowboy star admits his real name is Reu Alfred Wilson. He also admits to being 48 years old. According to Larue, publicity has always had it that he was born in Gretna, La. 'But I wasn't, I was born in Watervliet, Mich., he said.' "
Link to that January 11, 1966 Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper interview of Lash: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86350463/the-tampa-tribune/