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Books on First owner Larry Dunphy, 81, dies at home

Larry Dunphy, longtime owner of Books on First in downtown Dixon, died at his home today of natural causes. He was 81.
Larry Dunphy, longtime owner of Books on First in downtown Dixon, died at his home today of natural causes. He was 81.

DIXON – Downtown Dixon lost a big chunk of its soul today.

Larry Dunphy, beloved owner of Books on First and a staunch supporter of all things Dixon, died at his home this afternoon of natural causes. He was 81.

Dunphy never stopped working at the store he owned for 21 years, and in fact worked Wednesday, said Brenda Spratt, his employee for 19 years, who likened his sudden death to losing a father.

In an interview with Sauk Valley Media in November 2015, Dunphy was adamant: Retirement was not in the books for him.

“I’ve never had the intention of ever retiring,” he said. “What would I do in retirement? I’d be bored. I’ve just always worked.”

Spratt plans to open the popular bookstore and coffee shop at 202 West First St. on Friday morning, as always, although the hours for the next few days may be restricted. She’ll post updates on Books’ Facebook page.

Dunphy grew up in Amboy, and held a variety of jobs before opening Books on First, on the corner of West First Street and Hennepin Avenue, on Oct. 4, 1998. It was his wife Carolyn’s idea, and it appealed to his sensibilities.

“Book stores, barber shops – they’re traditional places of discussion,” he said. “It was my wife’s idea. She said she wanted to make it a destination. … and I thought ‘Sounds good to me..’”

Over the years since, there’s been a steady stream of customers into what Dunphy proudly noted was one of the few independent Illinois bookstores west of the Chicago suburbs.

The locals say, “I’ll meet you at Larry’s.” They come for a good read, they come for the coffee and the treats, they come for the live music, the chatter, the cameraderie.

They kept coming, in large part, because of Larry.

Among others, he is survived by his wife, Carolyn Chin, daughters Kelly Dunphy, of Walton and Chicago, and Laurie Dunphy of Chicago, and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, James.

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