Steven Larson declared he would never die alone, yet he nearly outwitted us all. He waited until his family had stepped out of his hospice room to give him privacy, and that’s when he tried to make his escape. He never wanted to trouble anyone with goodbyes, and he was always impatient to be on his next adventure. “There’s always more to see,” he said.
In the end, his family held his hands as he breathed his last, and he was surrounded by love and legacy. He died in Sioux Falls on Jan. 9, 2022. He was 73.
Born to Ernest and Martha (Evenson) Larson in Dell Rapids, South Dakota, on September 16, 1948, he was the only boy in a farm family with five children. He survived childhood based on luck, miracle, and the mostly watchful eyes of his older sisters. His homemade rafts should have sunk in the slough, the leech-filled waters of East Pipestone Creek could have pulled him under, and the pond ice might have broken. But it didn’t, and he lived to tell wonderful tales. The stories he cherished most were about his mother and father, whom he loved and admired with his entire soul.
He swore his sisters constantly got him into trouble as a boy, and they swear the opposite. Most of us are inclined to believe his sisters: Dad proudly admitted to having spent his childhood licking his supper plate clean and putting it back in the cupboard instead of washing it in the sink.
He cared deeply for life and nature, beginning with the farm animals around him and his boyhood dog Colonel, who was trained to herd the milk cows. Later he welcomed the dogs Scout, Jasper, Riki, Babu, Charlie, and Simon into his life. Loved like people, his dogs trekked with him across the prairies and traveled with him on his adventures.
He never stopped learning and never let you leave the house without saying, “I love you” or “Learn something,” which we all knew meant the same thing, because love and curiosity are intertwined. He graduated from Dell Rapids High School and then from Augustana College, South Dakota State University, and North American Baptist Seminary.
Mixed with his extensive travels to Finland, Germany, and pretty much every place west of the Mississippi, his broad education helped him uncover beautiful patterns in people and places, and he made friends and served communities wherever he went. After yearlong adventures, he always returned home to the farms and prairies near Dell Rapids, Sioux Falls, and Luverne.
Always a poet, his career is an epic list of professions, and he was despicably good at most of them: artist, newspaper editor, social worker, baker, pastor, delivery man, teacher, genealogical researcher, research interviewer, roofer, organist, construction worker, secretary, line cook, counselor, film processor, and more.
His favorite work was art, and he wanted to be remembered for his time painting and drawing. His detailed line paintings of Blue Mounds State Park and local prairies embed themselves in memory and reveal the landscape anew. His family will also remember all the music he created at the piano and with his trumpet and guitar, and how he trained his dogs to sing along with his improvised blues.
A loveable misanthrope, he chose to sit at the children’s table at parties in order to avoid talking about politics, religion, news and celebrities. The children at those tables loved him because he did not treat them like children but still made them laugh. If he was forced to sit with adults, he almost always spent the time drawing or reading and would sneak away early if he could figure out how to do so unnoticed.
When he wasn’t creating art and music or attempting to escape a social gathering, he was in the garden. His vegetable, fruit and flower gardens became things of lore. Some covered acres, and no matter where he lived, he ripped up the lawn to make the space useful. Lawns, he reasoned, were just a way to get you to waste perfectly good time and soil.
After years of diagnoses that included cancer, liver failure, COVID, pneumonia, sepsis, and more, the doctors started to say, “Statistically speaking you shouldn’t have survived,” and, “I’m not sure you can bring a dog in here.” But he survived because life doesn’t always conform to statistics, and his beloved dog Simon followed him everywhere because you shouldn’t underestimate the stubbornness of a Norwegian, even if they have a terminal illness. Maybe especially if they have a terminal illness.
We are profoundly lucky to have had extra years and adventures with him.
We will always remember him hiking, painting, writing, drawing, gardening, traveling, sharing his music, and sitting with his children and grandchildren. He told the absolute most horrible Dad puns, which means they were amazing, just like the man himself.
He was predeceased by his father Ernest, mother Martha, and sisters Miriam and Joan.
He is survived by sisters Solveig and Becky; ex-wives Colleen and Caryn; children Heidi, Stefan, Christa, Jens, Martha and Frances; and 20 grandchildren.
You can share a memory or condolence with his family by writing to 317 N. Kniss Avenue, Luverne, MN 56156.