Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vernon Maitland Larson

My father-in-law, Vern Larson, passed away the morning of December 4, 2012.  He was 91 years and 10 months old, in good spirits, good mind and good health.  We don't know exactly why he passed or what.  We know he went to breakfast that day in his assisted living home, Bradford Square, but he did not go to lunch ad he was found, passed, on the floor in his room.  Cameron and his sister, Karen, opted to not have an autopsy done.  They didn't see what good it could possibly have done and didn't want to further disturb him or them.  I agree with that.  91 years well lived, through much sadness and adventure, did not need that kind of ending.

Here is the biography of Vern I wrote for the memorial services program:

Born in Little Cedar, IA, to Hans Larson, owner of a creamery, and his wife, Anna, Vern was one of 5 children and one of 4 very busy and athletic brothers. 

He attended high school in Riceville and went on to attend Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, until the winds of war took him and his brothers to faraway places.  While his brothers all served in the Pacific, Vern went to Europe with the Army Air Forces, being among the first to enter Paris and Berlin after VE Day.

After the war Vern and his brother Wendell found sunny Southern California.  They both attended UCLA and Vern’s love of UCLA continued for the rest of his life.  Vern transferred to UC Berkeley to finish his Engineering degree and started his career at Factory Mutual in San Francisco.  He also met his wife, Doris Termes, there.

Vern and Doris had two children – Karen and Cameron.  Doris passed away from cancer in 1961.  The young widower found love again with Mae Loucks, whom he married in late 1962.  They moved the family to Southern California in 1964 and eventually settled in Placentia.

Karen married Frank Bello and had two children, Christine and Michael.  Frank passed away in 2003.  Cameron married Joanne Whitbread and had two children, Anna and Eric.  Cameron divorced in 1990 and married Katie Kimbell in 1999.  Vern delighted in his family and their successes, and he loved being a grandfather.

Vern retired from Factory Mutual in 1983 and spent many days on the Alta Vista golf course.  He had two holes in one and shot his age several times – great accomplishments for a golfer!

We lost Mae in 1998 and Vern again settled into being a widower.  At age 82 Ruth Schroeder walked into Vern’s life and he was like a love smitten teenager.  Ruth and Vern married in 2005, at age 84.  We lost Ruth in 2009 and Vern moved into Bradford Square.  He threw himself into life there, delighting in Bingo games, cribbage, Wii Bowling and each and every meal.  We are grateful for the love and care they gave him at Bradford Square.

Throughout his life Vern remained passionate about golf, family and UCLA.  With his quick chuckle and twinkling blue eyes he touched lives and made friends wherever he went.

And here is my eulogy I read at the service on December 10, 2012:

With his matinee idol mustache, his sparkling blue eyes and his passion for all things UCLA, I loved my father-in-law, Vern Larson.
We first met at “The Club”, Alta Vista Country Club in Placentia, where Vern delighted in playing and in treating his family to Sunday brunch.  Cam had brought me out to meet the family for the first time.  Vern was warm and welcoming to me.
As my relationship with Cameron deepened, I grew closer to Vern.  I grieved alongside him at Mae’s passing and then was overjoyed at becoming his daughter-in-law.
As many of you know, Vern never forgot a birthday or an anniversary.  Like clockwork, always in time, a card would arrive in the mail for us with a sweet note and a generous gift.

He loved UCLA and what fun we had watching games – like the USC game with the Farmers – and listening to him talk about the Bruins.  As soon as a game would end our phone would ring and he would be calling Cam to talk about it.  The last one they had a chance to talk about was this year’s Bruin vitory over the Trojans.  Thanks, guys, for giving him that.  He loved the Bruins so much he named Cameron after a UCLA football player and his email address was “Bruin 49er”.
In 1999, shortly after Cameron and I were married, Vern came out to visit us in Illinois.  After a couple days Cam had to go back to work and I drove Vern from our home to the annual Larson family reunion in Cresco, Iowa.  For more than 5 hours Vern talked and talked, and talked.  He told me about his growing up in Iowa, about his brothers, World War II, moving to California and his family with Doris and Mae.  I was given a crash course in the Larsons and he wanted to make sure I knew everything I should know about my new family.  I was a Larson now!

When we arrived in Iowa that year I had the rare treat of seeing all four of the Larson brothers together, Harold, David, Vern and Wendell.  That year was the last time they were all together.  I also got to meet all the cousins and really felt like a Larson, afterall I’d had my 5 hour crash course!  I could not have been happier to have joined this family.

Vern’s visits to our Illinois home the week before the Larson reunion became annual events we looked forward to and we had fun taking him to Arlington Park for the horse races, cooking for him and just visiting.

After Mae no one expected him to find the love and life he found with Ruth.  Their love was tangible and they were as affectionate as teenagers.  She brought Vern to life.  Those sparkling blue eyes danced when they looked at Ruth.  Her vigor, golf game, faith and cooking made him happy, incredibly happy.  She also brought him here, to Brea United Methodist Church.  He and Ruth found love at 82 years old – may we all be so lucky.
The last 3 ½ years since Ruth’s passing we’ve watched Vern make difficult decisions, but he made them independently, with forethought.  He moved into assisted living at Bradford Square.  He gave up golf and he gave up driving.  He eventually gave up walking much and just used his scooter.  He rode that thing around Bradford Square, down the sidewalk to the drugstore and to our last outing last month at The Whole Enchilada with Karen, Michael, Christine, Cameron and me.

Just as in golf you play it as it lies, Vern played his life as it lay – working with whatever life threw at him, in sad times and in good times, with integrity, perseverance and focus.
“So, anyhow…” was how Vern segued conversations and “Love you” was how he ended them.

So, anyhow, Vern, love you. 
And we miss him every day.

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