Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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About two weeks ago, I paid tribute to one of the greatest people and trap shooters that ever lived, Leo Harrison III. Harrison passed away on August 22, 2013 due to health complications and even though I had only met the man once, he still changed my life for the good. I knew that Leo had made an impression on me, but after becoming the most popular article in the history of ‘Our Sports Report’, being featured on two other trapshooting websites, and garnering a multitude of testimonies from others that also loved Leo, it became quite clear that Mr. Harrison had a significant impact on everyone he met and was well respected all across the world.
As I received comments throughout the week, I noticed that everyone referred to Harrison as a tremendous trap shooter, but just as much a wonderful man. Gary Hollingsworth referred to Leo as just that, “a great guy… and a great trap shooter’, while Joe Whitehurst went a step further claiming, “In 61 years (of trapshooting) I have NEVER met a Better Shooter, Person or Representative for the Trapshooting Community.”
Joe’s comments struck a cord with me because he was able to say everything that I couldn’t put into words. He went on to say that he had met a few of the superstars from the sport over the years and some of them needed help on their people skills, but not Leo. After getting a chance to talk to him for a few minutes in Tucson, AZ, Joe was impressed by how much of a nice guy he was. Whitehurst even ended it perfectly by saying, “Leo Harrison III will always be a HERO to most of us.” Thank you once again Joe, you captured a fine shooter and person not only as a legend, but as a HERO as well.
I never figured that many people would read a blog about a fairly unknown sport like trapshooting, but after the record setting views and kind hearted comments, it all made sense. Everybody in the sport of trapshooting looked up to and respected Leo not only because he was their idol, but because he was their friend too. Those friendships were also shared from those that personally knew Leo. Charlie Stevens shared that, “I was lucky enough to have grown up in NE Missouri and my Father & Brother shot trap with Leo. RIP big man, you will be missed.” I was able to compare Charlie’s comments to my own personal experience with Leo. I never got to shoot with him like my family did, but knowing Leo was just as amazing.
Not only did I never figure that anybody would read this blog, but the fact that it would hit back home in Missouri seemed very unlikely. But like my expectations with this piece, I was proven wrong once again. Mary commented that, “I didn’t know him, just knew him as my neighbor’s son-in-law and his wife, Karla, grew up with my children in Paris, Mo. and I know he was a very nice person. Karla and her family have my deepest sympathy.” As I read that comment, I was in complete shock. When I wrote the blog, I used it as my tribute to Leo and the trapshooting community, but the more I looked into it, it was a tribute to his home, his upbringing, and most of all, his family. We at ‘Our Sports Report’ continue to send our deepest condolences and prayers out to the Harrison family, especially his wife Karla. She is just as kind of a soul as Leo was and trust me Karla, Leo was just as much family to the trapshooting community as he was to you.
Growing up with the sport, I always figured that trapshooting was primarily competitive in the United States and the different countries never crossed paths. This is becoming a reoccurring theme, but once again, I was wrong. The passing of Leo Harrison III even made it’s way “across the pond” into the United Kingdom where he continued to receive high praise. John Haas from the United Kingdom stated that, “Here in the UK, trap shooters have a lot of respect for Leo. Many, like me, have seen his videos and found them very educational. RIP Leo.” Wherever you may grow up, you sometimes think that only your country or your culture embraces certain sports. I look at that comment from John and not only do I see remorse for the loss of a legend, but I see the love for trapshooting worldwide. The popularity that my tribute to Leo received in Australia, United Kingdom and Canada was unreal. The foreign countries that love the sport also loved Leo because just like to us Americans, Harrison was the face of trapshooting and everybody loved him for it.
I have enjoyed so many things with writing my first piece about Harrison, but my favorite thing of all has been the comments that I have received. Of all of those comments, there was one that outdid them all. A man by the name of Milt Palasota posted this comment that tugged at my emotions and did it in one short poem.
“Leo was buried on the crest of a hill in Hannibal, MO on August 26,2013.
UP ON THAT HILL Lies a cherished friend One to be admired Not for earthly accomplishments But what came from within Oh what a rare soul That shined like gold Loved by all he touched The truth be told The loss of one so rare To be never replaced Leo would care That we continue his race The race for excellence in all we do Caring for others And winning too So goodbye Leo And until then You’ll remain my hero ’till we meet again.”
I learned a lot of things from this amazing experience. I learned that trapshooting is much more popular than I ever gave it credit for and that the people that love it truly care about the sport and those within it. From the testimonies for Harrison that I received, Leo was called a gentle giant, an ambassador, a humanitarian, an extraordinary person and even a hero. Leo Harrison III was all of those things, but above all else, Leo was a man who mastered his craft and gave trapshooting a friend and an idol for all. I selfishly thought that I was one of the few that Harrison made an impact on, but I was quickly mistaken. Leo Harrison III made an impact on the entire world of trapshooting and due to the love and respect that he earned, there will never be another like him. Rest in peace Leo, god bless you!