A man of faith. A patient listener. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and uncle. A pillar of the community. A caring pastor and spiritual leader. A community volunteer. A faithful friend. A story-teller. Rev. Luther J. Larson was all of that and more. When he made his journey to heaven on Monday, July 6, 2020, he left behind a glimpse of what all of our lives should be: humble, caring, and accepting of all of God’s children. His family will forever miss his sense of humor, his love of nature, and his occasional Norwegian phrases thrown into everyday conversation. When we see a beautiful sunset, we will think of him. When we agonize over the inequities in our world, we will remember his passion for justice. When we sit in quiet prayer, we will feel him praying with us. When we laugh or sing, we will hear his voice loud and strong.
Luther was born in a farmhouse near Brockton, Montana on December 14, 1930. The midwife was brought to his home through a blizzard and friends joked that the next time, his parents ought to time things better! He grew up during the Depression in poverty, but rich in family heritage which included a deep faith in God. He attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he earned a degree in Sociology. While singing in the college choir, Luther noticed a cute, curly-haired girl in front of him. He met Janice, the love of his life, and they married on June 4, 1955. Luther attended Luther Seminary in Minneapolis and was ordained in 1956, the same year daughter, Donna Lou, was born. Two other children followed, Deborah and Daniel, as Luther served in parishes in Larslan, Montana, and Malta, Montana. During these years he enjoyed hunting elk and antelope in the mountains, spending time with his extended family, and singing in a barbershop quartet called the Chordials. A recording of this quartet is one of the things that brought him the greatest comfort as he approached the end of his life. Luther then served at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, for 11 years, followed by 19 years of service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sparta, Wisconsin. When Luther retired in July, 1995, he and Janice decided to remain in Sparta where they had made so many friends. His family and friends highly approved of this decision! Luther remained busy doing interim work for awhile, riding his motorcycle, and continuing his active membership in Kiwanis, as well as working with the Ambassadors. He loved going to coffee at McDonald’s as often as possible to talk with “the guys”. He was an active member of Fit for Life, working out at the gym several days a week until October, 2018. Anyone who knew Luther knew how proud he was of being able to do over 100 pushups!
Luther was devastated by the loss of his wife, Janice, on April 23rd, 2013, and he never quite got over that loss. He lived the final years of his life at home, being cared for by daughter, Deborah. But in spite of having Alzheimer’s for 12 and a half years, having a bad heart, and being diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread to his bones, he lived a full life up until the end. Although he was in home hospice, he received the Distinguished Senior Member Award in person from the Sparta Kiwanis on June 16th. On June 24th he attended one last coffee with his friends in the park. He was visited by several of his grandchildren during his last three weeks of life. Luther’s last week was very peaceful. He was surrounded by the love of family and friends. The family was assisted by the loving care of Gundersen Hospice. Luther was aware of his surroundings until the end, giving a thumbs up only a moment before he took his last breath.
In addition to his three children, Luther is survived by his son-in-law, Dave Jonasen; his daughter-in-law, Sherry Larso; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Aaron (Sara and daughter, Cecilia), Kyle, Karli, Micah, Noah (son, Kai), Erik, and Annika (Josh and son, Robert). Luther added some grandchildren and great-grandchildren when Daniel married Sherry: Anna Schimmel (Anastasia, Andrew, and Alana) and Heidi Ortega (husband Aaron and children Vada, Ezra, Quinn, and Skyler). Luther was also dearly loved by many nieces and nephews. Luther’s legacy is his family and the loving community that benefitted from his grace-filled presence. He has left a deep imprint on the hearts of many, and he will be greatly missed.
The service will be recorded for viewing on the Trinity Lutheran Church, Sparta, website. Thank you to Pastor Mark and to the Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home for helping with arrangements. In honor of Luther, memorials may be given to ELCA World Hunger, to Trinity Lutheran Church, or to Hope Ministries—a ministry for the homeless coordinated by Donna Lou in West Allis.
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