Ret Richard Latta was born in Iowa on December 2, 1905, the son of Amy Melvina Jones and John Richard Latta (1878-1952), a farm laborer. He grew up in Orange, Guthrie County, Iowa and graduated from Coon Rapids High School in adjacent Carroll County in 1924. He married Ada Bell Mercer (1908-1999) in October 1930. Ada loved the color lavender and decorated their entire home with that color, rugs, dishes, bedspread, drapes, towels, flowers, clothes, everything!
Ret worked in Rockford, Illinois as a machine and lathe operator for the John W. Barnes company, and also as real estate agent and appraiser for Moore Realtors in Rockford. In the basement of his home on Highway 10, at 1009 Oakmont Place, he had a mineral and lapidary shop, called "Ret Latta's Rocks," and after retiring he went full-time into the mineral and lapidary business. Ret and Ada sold their home on the north side of Rockford and moved to a more central location at 2336 Broadway, where they had a walk-in shop attached to the house.
A 1969 ad in Lapidary Journal (v. 23/n.5, p. 745) describes the establishment as a "complete rock shop … mineral specimens from around the world," as well as the usual cutting material, lapidary equipment, ultraviolet lights, etc. He later (at least as late as 1994) changed the company name to "Latta's Gems & Minerals."
Ret built a nice mineral collection, the nucleus of which he had purchased from someone he always referred to as a preacher. He had one of the best sphalerite-chalcopyrite specimens ever collected at the Ballard mine, near Treece, Kansas. The sphalerite crystals were a deep, translucent, reddish color and nearly three-fourths inch in size. He also had some nice Michigan copper specimens and a number of other classic pieces from the great localities. He made several trips to Southern Illinois with Les Fry (a collector from Belvidere, Illinois) to purchase fluorite specimens. They were there shortly after the great pocket of heavenly blue fluorites were found, and purchased some killer specimens. Ret also had some wonderful yellow fluorites he picked up on an earlier trip.
Ret Latta died of prostate cancer on March 22, 1996 in Rockford, Illinois. His wife Ada lived at the Broadway address until her death in 1999.
Social Security Death Index.
Coon Rapids-Bayard Alumni page.
Iowa State Census collection, 1925.
U.S. Federal Census, 1920, 1930.
DSM IA Fillman related.
SCHLEPP, E. (2008) Personal communication.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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