Local Business Icon Retains Bullish Spirit, Despite Serious Health Ailments

Merry Jo Larsen On the Road to Recovery

Trevor Phipps

For several months, the well-being of  one of Woodland Park’s most infamous business icons and local personalities has commanded much concern among  residents and fellow store owners.

In fact, the welfare of Merry Jo Larsen, who fell ill several months ago, has gotten more inquiries than any political subject or even the latest coronavirus news bit; and yes, even the national presidential soap opera.

During a city council meeting about a month ago, Woodland Park City Council Member Robert Zuluaga made the topic public when he asked everyone tuning into the meeting to “pray for Merry Jo Larsen.”

Normally, Merry Jo can be seen just about every day operating her popular business the Cowhand, located in downtown Woodland Park, and conversing with customers, local residents and even TMJ journalists. Larsen also spends much of her time volunteering for various organizations, including serving as the president of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Ute Trail Stampede Rodeo Board.

However, Larsen hasn’t been around lately due to a serious medical condition that started in mid-September and got much worse. However, on the upside, she still has retained her bullish, optimistic spirit.

“It started out as shingles and then it turned into a multi-virus attack on my joints,” Larsen said. “I have been on antibiotics since October 23 and I am coming along physically very well. I’m standing. I’m starting to walk a little bit and I am doing stuff with my arms. They had to scrape a lot of my joints. They had to scrape the infection out of there and that is what is taking me a little longer. Anyway, it’s coming along good and I am hoping maybe in three or four works I’ll be up and going and in better shape than I was.”

Larsen said that she initially caught shingles on September 14. But then, her condition got worse on October 23 when she had to go to the hospital. Currently, Larsen is at Forest Ridge Assisted Living in Woodland Park and she is going through the rehabilitation procedures.


Store In Good Hands

Since she has been ill and not inside the Cowhand, a number of community members have reached out to Merry Jo to offer their thoughts and prayers. “People in the town and my friends have just been so gracious,” Larsen said. “I can tell you, I really appreciated that. It got me through some rough times. It has been quite an ordeal.”


During the process, Merry Jo has had multiple surgeries and three different MRIs. “Anyone who has had to go through an MRI deserves a medal,” she said of her experiences.


Larsen conceded that the last two months have been a tough battle physically and mentally. But  she believes that the prayers coming from the community helped her overcome the worst part of her illness. “A lot of people have been praying for me and I can’t say how much I appreciate it,” she explained. “It got me through it. I was a goner a couple of times. But then I said, ‘no I’m not ready yet.’ I just decided, no I gotta’ see how this play ends!”


In the meantime, Mary Jo’s daughter, Marty McKenna and a few others, have picked up the slack at the Cowhand. While some are concerned when they didn’t see Larsen at the store, her daughter and employees kept the popular western clothing store up and running full time through the holiday season.

The Cowhand is a staple in town, gaining a niche as the city’s longest operating business. In fact, it has been running in the heart of downtown Woodland Park since the 1940s.