Larry Eugene Fie was born on May 24, 1938, to Ralph and Florence Ver Steeg Fie in Alta. He was the beloved husband of Jackie; dad to Julie, Barney, Angie, Jeff and Chris; grandfather of five; and great-grandfather of one.
He had two older siblings, Robert (Linda) Fie, of California, and Marlys (Cleber) Meyer, of Nebraska. He was the uncle to many nieces, nephews, and a friend of everyone he met.
He passed away peacefully in Sarasota, Fla., on May 23 in home-hospice, with his family at his side, after a full and rewarding life.
Larry grew up in Spencer and graduated from Spencer High School in 1956.
He loved to play sports, excelling in basketball, baseball, football and track. He attended Iowa State University on a basketball scholarship and played for the Cyclones from 1957-60. Larry was team captain for the 1959-60 season, when ISU won the 1959 Big Eight Holiday Tournament Championship. He was a double letter winner at ISU, playing baseball well enough to be offered a pitching contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but later injured his pitching arm. So he went on to teach high school economics and geography.
Larry also loved to coach sports, mainly basketball, with stints at high schools in Cresco, Sibley and Jefferson.
In the summer of 1966, he began his career in marketing and sales at American Athletic Equipment Company (AAEC) in Jefferson, and rose quickly through the ranks. By 1973, he was named CEO and board president.
In the fall of 1980, he attended the 84th Advanced Management Program, an accelerated program for business executives at Harvard Business School, thereby becoming an alumnus of Harvard. In 1986, Larry and his investment team acquired AMF American in Jefferson and renamed the company American Athletic Inc. (AAI), saving hundreds of jobs in the surrounding central Iowa counties and communities.
At that time, AAI specialized in designing and manufacturing gymnastics equipment, while also building products for volleyball and track and field.
Larry’s energy and innovative spirit propelled AAI — an equipment manufacturer in a rural town in Iowa — into a major force in the world of international sports.
After recognizing that training injuries in gymnastics were soaring, the company created a host of new products designed to protect the athletes while enhancing their performance: a spring-cushioned floor exercise system, fiberglass uneven bar rails, fiberglass rings, the leaf-spring vaulting board and many more. These innovations soon became the industry standard.
Over the years, AAI branched out to other sports, manufacturing Heavy Hands, the hand-held exercise weights that became a phenomenon in the 1980s.
Under Larry’s leadership, AAI became the premier gymnastics equipment manufacturing company in the world. AAI was the official supplier to the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games, the 1979 and 1991 World Championships, 1987 Pan Am Games, 1990 Goodwill Games, and every annual American Cup since its inception in 1974.
In 1993, American Sports Product Group bought AAI, and Larry stayed on as president and a board member. He retired in 1998.
During his life, Larry held various offices/positions, including: Chairman of the board (Athletic Institute); board member (National Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association); board of directors (Iowa Association of Business & Industry); president (Greene County Country Club, 1976-77); Rotary Club past president (two-time Paul Harris Fellow); city council member and mayor pro tem of Jefferson; as well as a 52-year member of Elks Lodge 2306. Larry was also the 1990 Greene County Golf Club Champion.
Professional accolades aside, Larry’s greatest strengths were his generous spirit, his warmth and his personal character, all of which had an impact on everyone whose life he touched. He truly was one-in-a-million, a real-life action figure. He earned admiration for his actions and his ability to walk-the-talk, to live with integrity, kindness, respect and empathy. His smile and laughter lit up every room he entered. His leadership was unparalleled. His love of family, teammates, students, colleagues and ordinary people was a legendary part of his lasting legacy.
Larry was an unmitigated success in all parameters of life — but he never lost sight of what was truly important. He lived his life with style, enthusiasm, bigheartedness and love. He was an extraordinary human being who made an impression on everyone he met, an impression that those of us who knew him and loved him most will thankfully carry in our hearts forever.
Larry is survived by his wife of 48 years, Jacquelyn (Jackie); his children: Julie Fie, in Phoenix; Barney Fie, in Pleasant Hill, Calif.; Angela Fie, in LaJolla, Calif.; Jeffrey Uphues (Aimee), in Alpharetta, Ga.; Christopher Uphues (Susie), in Dallas; grandchildren Avery, Annie (Barney), Audrie, Ava (Jeff), and April (Chris), as well as great-granddaughter Presley (Chris).
There will be a celebration of his life in Jefferson scheduled later in the summer.
The Slininger-Schroeder Funeral Home is assisting the family.
Memorials in Larry’s name:
• Larry cherished his time playing basketball for the Cyclones, attending games and reminiscing at basketball reunions.
Consider giving to the Cyclone Men’s Basketball General Fund in honor of Larry and his love for the Cyclones.
Donations can be made online or mailed to: Iowa State Letterwinners Club, 1800 S. Fourth St., Ames, IA 50011.
• Larry also valued his affiliation and work for the Jefferson Rotary Club — Service Above Self.
Consider donations to the Jefferson Rotary Club, c/o Tim Heisterkamp, Home State Bank, 115 W. State St., P.O. Box 351, Jefferson, IA 50129.