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     September 11, 2017      #62-253 a2z

Collecting good luck: Sheridan man collects four-leaf clovers

Kate Reynolds

Sheridan resident Al Rucker found his first four-leaf clover when he was 5 years old.

Today, there are about 4,445 dried four-leaf clovers in a collection he keeps in containers throughout his home.

Sheridan's Police Chief Chuck Bergeron first noticed Rucker, bent over, looking for something in his yard. He wasn't quite sure if there was anything wrong, so he stopped to see if he could help with anything.

"On my patrols, I used to see Al in his yard, bending down and looking for something on his lawn," Bergeron said. "After a couple of weeks, I pulled into his drive and asked him what he was doing or if he needed any help. I was a little worried that something was wrong. That's when he told me about his four-leaf clover collection.

"I thought it was amazing."

Rucker grew up in Cresco, Iowa. There he first discovered he liked four-leaf clovers.

"When I was 5 years old, I found my first four-leaf clover in my neighbor's yard," Rucker said. "I thought it was pretty lucky for me to find one. I guess I just always liked them from that day on."

Little did he know back then the practice of collecting clovers would later help and carry him through a difficult time.

When his wife, Marlys, was first diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer in 1999, he began to collect them in earnest. He had faith those clovers would be Marlys' lifeline.

Rucker first met his future wife in Cresco at a movie theater where she was an usher.

"My cousin and I went to the show and that's when I first saw Marlys on the second floor balcony. I turned to my cousin and said, 'I'm going to marry that girl.' I didn't know her, that was the first time I ever saw her. But I knew we would be together."

He kept calling and she kept saying no. She finally said "I do" when they got married May 1, 1954.

They moved several times after they were married. They lived in Lemont, before they settled in on Pleasant Street in Sheridan. But it wouldn't be their permanent home.

Rucker built a large brick ranch home in 1971 and they made their last move to Dwight Street. He found a job at International Harvester and worked there most of his life.

"And in my spare time, I built three other homes in Sheridan," Rucker said with a laugh.

Rucker and Marlys had three girls, their names all beginning with the letter K. One lives in Plainfield, two others in Florida.

"Their names are Krystal, Kim and Karlyn," he said. "Oh sure, there's a story behind each name. Marlys and I loved listening to the singer Krystal Williams, so we named our first daughter after her.

"Kim was named after (the actress) Kim Novak.

"And I knew a man named Jim Karlyn who was a fire captain on the Tulsa Fire Department. He was such a nice guy, I wanted to name our third daugher after him."

Rucker kept busy, not only with his job and building homes but with politics too. He served as Sheridan's mayor in 1990 before being elected a trustee. He stayed on the village board throughout the event that would change the lives of both he and his wife.

At the age of 44, Marlys was diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer. She began treatments at the Mayo Clinic and that's when Rucker's faith and belief took over.

Finding four-leaf clovers became a daily ritual with a spiritual purpose.

"They called her 'Miracle Girl,'" Rucker said. "They never even referred to her by her name, to everyone at Mayo she was simply the 'Miracle Girl,' because she was one of the very few that survived pancreatic cancer.

"I told them she was a survivor because of my clovers. It was not because of them. Of course they disagreed, but I knew better," he said and smiled.

Marlys was truly a miracle girl. Not only did she survive pancreatic cancer. Over the next few years she was able to survive bladder and colon cancers as well.

"The amazing thing was that Marlys didn't die of cancer," Rucker said. "She passed away from dementia."

His wife had hospice care and she died at home Aug. 23, 2014.

Rucker said it's been difficult over the last couple of years.

"I miss her very much, I miss the companionship," he said. "But we had a good life. I'm grateful I was able to share a good life with a remarkable woman."

Rucker still goes to church every week. While he has slowed down in his search for four-leaf clovers, he hasn't given up entirely.

"I just found three," he said, "but I don't look for them that often anymore. She's gone now and I think I've collected enough."

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