Initiative. The ability to be present. Joy in the community of others. These traits are a part of the legacy Burton Alfred Larson created for his family. Burt, 89, died in his Ellsworth home on Sunday, December 13, 2020. His wife, Lila, daughter, LuAnn, son, Lauran, and dog, Maddie, were at his side.
Born August 13, 1931, the youngest of three, to and Esther and Elster Larson, Burt spent much of his youth on the rolling farmlands above the Mississippi River near Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. It was here he met his childhood sweetheart, the young girl who would grow up to become his best friend and wife, Lila Fay Peterson. They were married for 69 years.
When the Korean conflict broke out, Burt didn’t wait to be drafted. He took initiative and joined the Navy – but first he married Lila on June 23, 1951. They wouldn’t see each other for two years.
Burt completed basic training, ultimately serving in the communication corps in the Middle East. While in the service, he took initiative, at one point telling his commanding officer that he needed more to do so he thought he’d take on the extra project of fixing cast-off and broken technology. The officer approved and Burt’s effort earned him new opportunities and promotions.
Four years later, he returned to civilian life, but continued taking initiative to improve his life and the life of his young family.
He would start two businesses, earn both his teaching degree and a master’s in business and work as both a teacher and high school principal. While principal of Ellsworth High School, Burt instituted a program that acknowledged student scholars with an Academic Letter for their letter jackets.
The ability to be present
Burt cared deeply about family. While working as a telegraph operator on the Burlington Northern Railroad, he helped his brother find a job with the railroad.
When aging relatives needed help, Burt and Lila were always there to lend a hand.
When his sister needed to sell her farm, he assisted her in handling many of the details and suggested she move to town – to a house directly across the street from his.
Joy in the community of others
Burt liked a good laugh and enjoyed swapping tales. He loved to visit with everyone, catch up on news, and recall fond events of the past. In his later years he continued conversations over afternoon coffee with the Ellsworth contingent and spoke daily to his sister, Luella.
As a young man, Burt routinely invited his future mother-in-law and future uncle on his movie dates with Lila – not because he had to, but because he enjoyed their company.
When he launched an oil delivery business out of a former railroad boxcar placed near the Mississippi in Maiden Rock, he found himself hosting an impromptu senior center where locals would stop daily for coffee, a card game and a lie or two.
Some of their fondest memories as a couple, were the trips of exploration all across the US and Canada with their travel trailer in retirement years. He enjoyed meeting new people along the way, but mostly Burt loved seeing new places with Lila, his best friend.
As his own family grew and grandchildren and great grandchildren arrived, Burt delighted in spending time with his younger offspring. He took them for tractor rides, hosted them on camping trips and visits to Arizona and even picked out a new red truck so his youngest grandson could have a better view on their drive to “grandparents camp” in the summer.
He never lost interest in those around him and particularly delighted in hearing news of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Burt is survived by his wife, Lila Peterson Larson; his sister, Luella Dettling; three children, LuAnn (Gail) Kopp, Steve(Lorrie) Larson, Lauran (Jan)Larson; seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The Rev. Jeff Smith conducted a graveside ceremony for immediate family on Saturday, December 19, 2020, at Maiden Rock Cemetery in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. A celebration of life will be planned at a later date.