That is your legacy on this Earth when you leave this Earth: how many hearts you touched. ~ Patti Davis
Ralph L. “Larry” Roberts, Sr., Aug. 23, 1945 – March 19, 2023
By Delores Kuhlwein
Leaving a legacy for others in one industry is a mighty feat, but leaving a legacy for others in each industry he touched paints a clear picture of the man that was Ralph L. “Larry” Roberts, Sr.
Mr. Roberts, who was affectionately referred to as “Sr.,” was born August 23, 1945, in Wilmington, Ohio; he passed peacefully on March 19, 2023, in Ocala, Florida, after a battle with dementia. He was one of six children, and two preceded him in death.
He married Mary D. Snider on Nov. 2, 1963, and he leaves to cherish his loving memory three children: Michelle Carpenter of Ocala, Fla.; Ralph L. Roberts, Jr. and wife Terri of Wilmington; and Roby L. Roberts and wife Jennifer of Ocala, Fla. “Senior” loved and enjoyed his family and grandchildren and is survived by seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. As an extremely private person, Senior requested to be remembered for his legacy and asked that the family not have a memorial or funeral service (Wilmington News Journal).
Though he left this Earth, his love for the horse will live on in the many equestrian venues he created with his wife, Mary Roberts. Most familiar to the horse lover: The World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio; The World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida; and Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.
How he acquired the means to create such equestrian splendor and delight for countless horse lovers remains of importance – not only because it gave him the opportunity to help others pursue the equestrian lifestyle and create memories, but also because he built a respected trucking company from the ground up, one that is still family owned and operated.
An Enterprising Young Man in Wilmington
His role as a trucking industry magnate started out with the simplest means – in 1965, he was a teenager in Wilmington, Ohio, who wanted to start his own business, so he did; he purchased a single Ford truck for hauling furniture and his business flourished through his dedication to customer service, hard work, and a natural savvy for business. He established four core values: family, service, safety, and quality.
According to the R+L Carriers website, the business grew “with the purchase of intrastate and interstate authority from Mayflower Moving and Storage, laying the foundation for the company now known as R+L Carriers.”
Over the next 55-plus years, the family owned-and-operated company grew to over 18,000 employees and expanded to include a fleet of over 21,000 tractors and trailers, in part due to investing in modern technology and infrastructure, with an exceptional commitment to driver safety and an ongoing pledge to customer service. Its coverage extends to the entire US, Puerto Rico, and cross-border shipping to Canada and Mexico, and R+L Carriers offers national and international global transportation services. Roberts’ original values of family, service, safety, and quality still stand as a hallmark of the R+L Carriers overall company culture today.
Establishing the Equestrian Lifestyle
As Roberts’ success in the trucking industry grew, he was able to devote some of his time and money to another passion: horses.
As Roberts began wintering in Ocala, he purchased 1,300 acres and built Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, a luxury golf and equestrian community, considered a jewel in the community.
He also turned his sights back to his hometown of Wilmington to build his first World Equestrian Center in his quest to create a facility others could create memories in for years to come. The flagship center was so well-received, Roberts, who was very much still an enterprising man, developed another idea.
Since Ocala was the Horse Capital of the World, he knew it deserved a horse facility like no other. The concept for the largest equestrian complex in the United States was formed, and in May 2021, the World Equestrian Center of Ocala opened its doors. The world-class, multi-indoor and outdoor venue, often known as the crown jewel of Ocala, was complete with state-of-the-art amenities, including the The Equestrian Hotel, a 248-room resort offering luxury shopping, fine dining, and much more. The WEC of Ocala even includes a well-known chapel for many guests, on a site chosen by Mary, decorated by her loving hand.
Besides the positive effect on the equestrian community, the impact on the economy due to Roberts’ investments into developing Ocala is unsurpassed. The Roberts’ Family purchase of the Ocala Jockey Club in 2021 will continue to benefit both Ocala and the horse industry.
In his lifetime, Roberts, with his wife Mary by his side, left a legacy, not only with the trucking industry as an example of the way to do business, but also as a distinguished and award-winning company for his family. For the horse industry, he did exactly what he set out to do – empower others to enjoy and expand their passion for the horse, and to follow their dreams in the equestrian lifestyle.