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In Memoriam: K. Donald Larson (March 9, 1943 – Jan. 9, 2024)

K. Donald Larson passed away from lymphoma in Silverton, Oregon on Jan. 9, 2024. The world lost a generous and kind man who was modest about the remarkable life he lived. He was known for his faith in God, strong moral compass, dependability, empathy, consistency, and strong work ethic.

He was born in Salt Lake CIty, Utah on March 9, 1943 to Rhoda Lee (Barclay) Larson and Sterling Emery Larson while his father was fighting in World War II. He didn’t see Don until he was
two-and-a-half years old. He was the oldest child and big brother to his two sisters, Nancy and Janet. As a top student of Highland High School, he was one of three students in Utah to receive a congressional nomination to attend The United States Military Academy/West Point, New York.

Don was 18 and working at the Willow Creek bowling alley when he met his sweetheart, Karen. After he graduated from West Point in 1965, the couple married the next year, on July 29, in Salt Lake City. Only a year after being married, he was deployed as a 2nd Lieutenant artillery officer in the Vietnam War where he served until 1968. He rarely spoke about his time there and his family only recently learned about his Purple Heart award. His exposure to Agent Orange while fighting in Vietnam led to his battle of three different cancers throughout his life. Without complaint, he bravely faced his health challenges and never let them define him.

Karen and Don welcomed their first son, Don E., while he served as an Army Captain at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas in 1969. Don then resigned his military commission to attend dental school at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon from 1972-1975. Their daughter, Sonja, was born in 1973 and their second son, Eric, in 1976. Don opened his dental practice in Silverton in 1976 and retired in 2008 after 33 years.

Don volunteered in many community roles; as Rotary president, Scoutmaster, school board member, soccer coach and many positions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the Scoutmaster for ten years, he was known for leading the annual 50-mile hike.

During their 57 years of marriage, Karen and Don enjoyed long bike rides, including an annual tradition of riding nearly 100 miles from Silverton to the beach at Lincoln City. His other interests included reading, camping, hiking, cross country skiing, traveling, wood working, quilt square cutting, snorkeling, gardening, and his dogs. His happiest times were the precious moments spent with his children and grandkids.

Don is survived by his sisters, Nancy Larson-Powers (Joe), Janet Larson Barrus (Tracy); his wife, Karen; three children and their spouses: Don E. Larson (Tiffany), Sonja Barsky (Troy), and Eric Larson (Jill). He also leaves behind his nine grandchildren and their spouses: Hailey Larson Andreason (Caleb), Bennett Larson (Skye), Eliza Larson, Jonah Larson, Grant Larson, Alana Barsky, Ryan Barsky, Zola Larson, and Ella Larson.

Don wanted to be remembered with a celebration of life at a beautiful time of year. His family looks forward to gathering to honor him this summer. 

Contributions can be made in his honor to The Wounded Warriors Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org/donate/.

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