Not just another day

For Ed Larson, Dec. 12 is special in many ways as he turns 100


The three surviving Larson siblings posed for a photo on the Larson family home in front of the home’s summer kitchen. Ed is on the left. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)

Cliff Buchan
Staff Writer

Ed Larson is not big on going to parties or having one thrown for him. Never has been. That’s his nature.

But the Columbus man will consent to one on Saturday, Dec. 8. Yes, it’s a party for Larson.

And it’s a party for good reason. On Wednesday, Dec. 12, Larson will turn 100.

There is special uniqueness for Larson this Dec. 12 when you look at the raw numbers. His 100th birthday will fall on the 12th day of the 12th month of the year 2012.

It’s a trio of numbers, much like 100, that warrant a party, according to family members planning the event at the Crossroads Church Activity Center from 2-5 p.m.

And it also marks the second time that Larson has experienced the unique set of numbers. His birth, of course, fell on the 12th day of the 12th month in 1912.

Fifth of Nine

John Edward Larson was the fifth of nine children born to Emil and Edna (Anderson) Larson at their farm home on the western border of Columbus where Ed Larson still lives today. Emil and Edna Larson bought the 160-acre farm in 1906 after living three miles to the west on Emil’s home place where his parents had homesteaded in 1872.

The Larson siblings in order of birth were Henry, Ralph, Marion, Margaret, Ed, LeRoy, Willard, Irene and Verlo. Of the nine, just three remain. Verlo and his wife Kay live in Columbus while Irene Anderson has a home in Linwood.

Farming is deeply rooted in the Larsons and the family continued to work the home grounds and other rented properties for decades. It was in 1987 when the Larsons gave up farming and gradually sold off land parcels.

Ed Larson has never stopped calling the farm home and today lives in the same place where he was born. “I never figured on living anyplace else,” Larson said, calling Columbus and rural life the “best place” a man could be.

Larson never married but his siblings had 23 children and to many of them, Larson was like a second father and a constant in their life. Many of the nieces and nephews and their children will attend the birthday party at the Columbus church on Saturday.

Farm Raised

Ed Larson grew up on the farm and learned the value of hard work early in life. He learned to drive in 1926 Ford Model T and the first vehicle he owned was a 1927 Chevrolet.

John Edward Larson’s confirmation photo from the Coon Lake Mission Church. (Larson family photo)

Like all the Larson kids, he attended a one-room country school located a mile from the farm. He completed the eighth grade but would go no further. Only Verlo (Forest Lake High School class of 1943) and Irene (class of 1935) finished high school.

There was too much to do on the farm, Larson said, and schooling was not part of his plans. He worked the family farm as a young man and found outside work with other area farmers and eventually the state when the nearby Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area began to take shape in 1933.

He went to work at Carlos Avery in 1936 and was involved in raising game birds – quail, partridge and pheasants — that were released into the wild. His stint with the state lasted four years before he returned to the family farm.

When World War II broke out, brothers Harry and Willard were soon called to serve. They were gone for most of the war years and brother Verlo would depart for the Army in 1944 and be gone for the next two years.

Ed Larson received a farm deferment and stayed behind to work the farm with his father. “I had to be home when the other guys were away serving their country,” he said

After the war, Verlo and Harry took over operation of the farm. In 1946, Ed Larson took a job as a heavy equipment operator working road construction in Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. His work would take him away from the farm but there were occasional trips home during the work season and for extended stays during the winter.

“I liked road construction,” Larson said. “I liked the chance to meet different people.”

It was a 30-year career for Larson. Around 1976 he retired and settled permanently on the home place. He continued to help farm for the next 11 years and also served many years as the sexton for the Victor Hill Cemetery in Linwood.

Larson has stayed busy the past quarter of a century “doing whatever he wants to do,” said his brother, Verlo.

Ed Larson still enjoys playing cards, splitting wood, sipping a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, watching sports on TV, trapping gophers and taking a Sunday drive to Crossroads Church or simply cruising the country roads near his home. When it comes to playing cards, Ed Larson has a “poker face,” family members said.

He renewed his driver’s license this past summer at age 99.

As he approaches 100, Larson says he takes life “one day at a time.” In his near century on Earth, Larson says little about the changes that have taken place. He was on the farm when electricity, telephones and televisions arrived. He has also witnessed the dramatic changes in Columbus from a farming community to a bedroom setting.

A simple man, Larson says there is little that he is hankering to do. He has traveled to California twice but has no desire to see other places. His travels for road construction were enough to fill a lifetime, he says.

His love of sports and the Minnesota Twins has produced one idea for the summer ahead. “I’d sure like to see that new stadium (Target Field),” he says. “I’ve never been there yet.”

Why the Party?

For two of Ed’s nieces, LaVonne (Peterson) Radtke and Lois (Larson) Knutson, the party was something that just had to happen.

Radtke calls her uncle the “patriarch” of the family. “He’s just always been there,” she said. “He calls us kids which is nice to hear.”

The party on Dec. 8 at Crossroads is a mere expansion of a family tradition to gather for a meal on birthdays for aunts and uncles, moms and dads. “This one is going to be a little bigger,” Radtke said of the event that is open to the public. There won’t be a meal but there will be cake, coffee, punch and stories to share.

“One hundred years is something to celebrate,” she said.

Lois Knutson agrees that Ed Larson is much like a second father to many of the nieces and nephews. Verlo and Kay Larson and their three daughters lived next door to the original Larson home where Ed put down stakes. “He was there my whole life,” she said. “We were his family for every birthday, every holiday.”

“He was like a grandfather to our three kids,” said Lois’ mom, Kay Larson.

When she was young, Lois Knutson said the family would always look forward to the 4th of July holiday when Uncle Ed would return from his job in North Dakota or South Dakota with “contraband” loaded in his trunk. “We would have wonderful 4th of July celebrations shooting off those illegal fireworks,” she said.

A party is a must, she adds. “He’s the first [in the family] to make it to 100,” she said. “He was always there.”

On Saturday, Dec. 8 it will be other members of the Larson clan who will be there for one special brother and uncle.