OKARCHE, Okla. (KFOR) — Many rural families in Oklahoma were hit particularly hard by COVID-19.
The Annuschat family of Okarche, was decimated. Half of the 10 siblings lost their lives to the virus. Larry Annuschat, the youngest surviving son, buried five siblings within three months:
- Ron Annuschat, 58, died Oct. 30, 2020.
- Paul Annuschat, 68, died Oct. 31, 2020.
- Nick Annuschat, 59, died Nov. 6, 2020.
- Vicki (Annuschat) Marks, 66, died Nov. 20, 2020.
- Denise (Annuschat) Meyer, 62, died Feb. 12, 2021.
There are three surviving siblings: Sandy (Annuschat) Raupe, Jackie (Annuschat) Walta and Larry.
The Annuschat homestead sits in the shadow of an industrial wind farm on the Kingfisher County side of Okarche. Everyone in the county knows the Annuschats.
Art and Ruth Annuschat raised ten kids on the farm, a sprawling 800-acre dairy northeast of town. The Annuschats farmed wheat, milked cows, bred sheep and ran cattle.
For almost a half century, four Annuschat brothers ran the LLC that was the farm’s business: Stan, Nick, Paul and Ron.
Stan Annuschat died in 2017. The surviving brothers, along with Larry Annuschat, kept the business alive after Stan’s death. Together, they operated the bustling family farm until COVID-19 wiped them out.
Nick, Paul and Ron all got COVID-19 and died in the span of a week. Larry is the baby of the family, child number 10. He has always worked on the farm, but never officially joined the LLC. When his brothers died, the farm went to all surviving beneficiaries — six family members who could not agree on how to divvy up the assets.
The inheritance went to auction on April 23. The entire estate was sold off in lots, including six tracts of land, the house, pickup trucks, trailers and tillage. The spoils of this dairy-farming empire were auctioned off piece by piece to the highest bidder.
It was heartbreaking for Larry, who wanted to keep the farm in the family. The night before auction, he prayed for a sign. He asked for courage and clarity to honor the legacy of his big brothers.
“I don’t know what God’s up to,” Larry said. “He’s up to something. It’s not over yet.”
Larry walked into that auction barn with his son by his side, steadfast and hopeful, determined to buy back the farm.
What Larry Annuschat didn’t know was that the town of Okarche was pulling for him. Many community members had decided not to bid against Larry in his attempt to re-purchase some of his property.
His family’s lot is quite attractive to buyers, too. The price of land in rural Oklahoma has skyrocketed in recent years, shored up by oil and wind power. The auction was expected to fetch more than $1 million because it included some valuable tracts of land and dozens of pieces of well-kept farm equipment.
“We were expecting 1,000 people the day of auction,” said Chris Cameron of Lippard Auctioneers, which organized both a live and an online auction for the Annuschat property.
“There was a lot of talk at the auction that people from overseas were going to bid online,” said Robert Medley of The Okarche Warrior, a local paper.
Medley is the managing editor the Warrior, and had been covering this family tragedy since October of 2020.
“This family has lots of roots; a lot of people knew them,” Medley said.
But out-of-state buyers had no idea what the Annuschat family had endured. A couple from South Carolina opened the bidding on the homestead.
As the bid price for the homestead inched toward Larry’s limit, the auction went silent.
“Supposedly someone went outside the shed doors and told someone bidding outside, ‘Let it go. He’s got it.’ And it was over,” Larry remembered.
Larry bought the farm that day.
“When we did finally sell it, the whole barn cheered for Larry,” said Cameron. “It was a good day.”
“That place went nuts,” Larry smiled. “People clapped and cheered. I had people coming up to me giving me a hug.”
Larry had bought the most important portion of the ranch to his family: 160 acres including the livestock barns and his childhood home.
“I didn’t buy this for me,” Larry cried. “I bought this for my mom and dad and my four brothers. (I bought the farm) because of that bond.”
Running the family farm by himself is a monumental task.
“They’re still here (with me). They’re watching me. They know it’s too much for one person. They do,” Larry said. “But they’ve got more power now than they did when they were here. They really do. and I believe that.”