Joseph Harlin Larson
  • 89 years old
  • Date of birth: May 14, 1925
  • Place of birth:
    Ludington, Michigan, United States
  • Date of passing: Jan 1, 2015
  • Place of passing:
    Farmington Hills, Michigan, United States
There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate. Robert Frost

This memorial website was created in memory of our beloved father and grandfather, Joseph Larson, 89, born on May 14, 1925 and passed away on January 1, 2015.

Memorial Service: A memorial service will be held on Sunday January 11 at 4:00 at Birmingham Unitarian Church, 38651 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304. A reception will be held afterward at Buddy's, Joe and 'Rene's favorite restaurant, on Northwestern in Farmington Hills, where   you can feel free to wear your favorite sports team apparel, in honor of Joe and his love of sports.

Donations: If you would like to make a donation in Joe's name, we suggest the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. Joe loved his property on Lake Michigan near Pentwater. He wanted to preserve the beauty of the woods, dunes, and beach as much as possible.  Joe and 'Rene put "Fridem" (Swedish for "peaceful home," the name they gave to the lake property) in a conservancy easement, which protected the property from development. The Land Conservancy protects Michigan's natural assets by assisting landowners with the administration of conservancy easements, accepting outright land donations, and purchasing natural areas to preserve.  

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Sharon J on 1st January 2016

"My thoughts are with Rene and Joe and the entire Larson, Payson, Bizer families as you gather and reflect on Joe's life and passing. My love to you all. Sharon Johnson"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 15th May 2015

"Spent Joe's 90th birthday with family, sharing Buddy's Pizza and a Rob Roy.  We love you, Joe."

This tribute was added by Ellen Koehler on 14th May 2015

"Remembering Joe and his sweet smile on his birthday."

This tribute was added by Chris Lomaka on 21st January 2015

"Dear Karen, Mar and Linda, Jim and Bill, Seth, Ian, Liz and Jordan: There is nothing to say that can ease the pain of Joe’s death. Not for you, not for anyone who knew him. He was a kind, gentle soul who knew how fortunate he was to have the life he and ‘Rene had created, and was more than happy to have us all be a part of it.

Joe always made me feel special. When I came over, his eyes would light up and he’d say “Chris!” with a huge smile on his face; when I called, I could hear his smile over the phone. It was as though my presence made his day brighter. Likewise, his greeting had just improved mine. The first time I met him, when Mar and I were freshmen in college, Joe asked me about my family.  I told him that my dad had died when I was a baby, and he commented on how sad that was. I always thought that he wasn’t just talking about my obvious loss, but also about my dad’s: he hadn’t had the chance to watch his daughters grow up and had lost out on time with his family. Joe had all of that and knew how lucky he was to be here, living his life with ‘Rene and his daughters. You all gave him such delight. You made him so happy!

You all are blessed to have had so many years with Joe and ‘Rene; in fact we all are.  They showed us just how happy two individuals can be, how happy a couple can be, and how happy a family can be, no matter the struggles. I am so, so sorry for your loss but glad for the memories that we all will carry for the rest of our lives. My heart goes out to you all."

This tribute was added by Rebecca Ellens on 14th January 2015

"I remember Joe as being a very kind and generous man.  I will always treasure the times our families spent together.  I am sure that he is resting peacefully now."

This tribute was added by Beth Berger-Lieberman on 13th January 2015

"Feeling for and with you all....
Listening to the waves steadily lapping onto shore
The rhythm as that of an everlasting heartbeat
Remind me that through the shock and sadness of loss
There lies beyond the greatest power of all.... His master plan.
Though not there in flesh, my heart and soul wrap around the love that transcends time and distance of our idyllic years throughout childhood.
This news is such a reminder of how long and far away our lives have been yet radiates the eternal greatness of the treasured memories we have.  
We are truly Blessed to have had,held, and grown with one another in the safety, comfort, and wonderful love bestowed by Joe and Rene.
Never have the Larsons been or ever be far from my thoughts in my daily walk.
Our years were those that shaped us in order that we could move through our journey(s) bettered by the guidance gleaned from the dedication, devotion, and deep faith offered by Joe and Rene.
It is the powerful impact from these rooted within that we carry forth into our eternity.... the beauty of true, pure love and goodness we were so very fortunate to have known.
Agape' my "sister" friends....
Bufferino.... per Joe"

This tribute was added by Gail Gruenwald on 12th January 2015

"Dear Karen, Mary Jo, and Linda,
I am so sorry I was not able to attend Joe's service yesterday. You know I love you all and think of you as my family. As you know, dear friends of ours lost their daughter last week. Our family has been devastated. My daughters feel like they lost a sister. This group of friends remind me so much of the Gruenwalds and Larsons as we grew up a family of six girls, all sisters. I imagined the heart ache if we would have lost one of you. I couldn't leave my girls to attend the service.  Joe and 'Rene were a second set of parents to me. 'Rene always there to share a laugh and Joe to support and guide in his wise way. I will miss them both. I know you are grieving Joe's loss but right now it feels like both of them for me. Joe taught me to love the lake at Epworth, a love I will never lose. Thanks to all of you for sharing him with my sisters and I. Hugs and kisses to all of you. XO Gail"

This tribute was added by BUTHAYNA TAHA on 12th January 2015

"Dear Sister Karen, Mary Jo, and Linda,

Uncle Joe was everything a mother, a daughter, a grandkid, a brother, a sister, and a friend would wish for.  Even though his flesh is gone, his light will continue to sparkle on Lake Michigan.

I will always wonder how a grim face would look like on Uncle Joe’s face, for he never once displayed such a face.  His genuine smile of love and welcome never left his face whenever I was in his company.  His unconditional love will be forever remembered and missed.  I love you Uncle Joe.  It was a great privilege knowing you.  But I will always remember the 8:00 pm of almost every Christmas Eve when you and Auntie Rene open your door and shout Merry Christmas, give me your coat, what do you want to drink…. The daughters and grandkids you left behind are true testament of your love and gentleness.  I will always see you in them.  Rest in peace with auntie.

With much love.
Buthayna Taha"

This tribute was added by Patrick Dengate on 12th January 2015

"Regrettably, I never got to know Joe very well—we just didn't see each other that often. But I can't think of him without seeing in my mind's eye that big toothy smile of his. He always remembered my name, even though we might only see each other once a year, and he always made me feel like he was so happy to see me! At first, I thought he was just a very polite guy, but eventually realized that he was completely genuine in his pleasure seeing me, and with just being with anyone who was around. It's impossible not to have warm feelings for the man. He is someone to emulate."

This tribute was added by Ellen Koehler on 11th January 2015

"Karen, Mary Jo, Linda, and all the family,
It's with warm memories that I think of your dear dad and mom. Many years ago, Joe and Rene allowed us, as friends of Karen's, a young couple with two very little ones, to come to the lake so that my husband Paul could build a fresh set of stairs down to the lake in exchange for a stay in the brown house. With grace and a generous spirit, they shared their beautiful, natural space with us. I still remember Joe's smile and his warm, kind greeting when we walked into the room.  I remember Joe asking questions of us with genuine interest. As I watched, I realized he was like that with everyone and that he had a way of making people feel welcome and wanted. It was also very clear how much Joe and Rene loved and treasured their family including their sweet grandchildren. I see in each of their daughters and spouses and in each of the grandchildren the same sort of kind, open spirit. The legacy of Joe and Irene Larson clearly lives on, but there is no doubt that this strong, sweet couple will be truly missed.  You are each in our thoughts and prayers. Ellen Koehler and family"

This tribute was added by Fred Bernson on 11th January 2015

"Karen, Mary Joe and Linda,

My arms extend to you and hold you in the love of our wonderful family. Uncle Joe has been a significant part of my life for the past 60 years as well as your mother. I watched you grow up, spent wonderful moments with you all. The Joe Larson family will always be special to me.

My first memories of Uncle Joe is when he would pick me up to go golfing with him at Lincoln Hills. I did not play but found every golf ball he hit (some were not straight) and many more. Then a burger at the A  & W. Adventures at Epworth Heights with the girls.

After graduating from the University of Oregon in June of 1968,
I worked at the new Pentwater home in the summer painting and fixing as I waited to be drafted. The draft board gave me a pass but my love of that property was formed.

Jan and I spent the majority of the summer  over the first four years of our marriage in a tent on our property next door that Joe sold to us. We walked across the horse wagon bridge to visit with Joe, Irene and Tom & Judy. You were there too to make it more special. What a great time we had -memories that are the best.

I so love you three and all your current families. Joe was a second father to me, helped shape my life and showed me how to raise my girls. How blessed I have always felt.

Our paths have not crossed as often after we moved to New Mexico almost 30 years ago but every time we did meet, it was special. That special smile and that warm embrace, it never changed.

I will miss your dad - he was my "special" uncle.

Love to all and please celebrate his life tomorrow. I will miss not being there."

This tribute was added by Susan Brooks on 10th January 2015

"My dear friends, I have postponed trying to write down words that can adequately pay tribute to kind, loving, warm, gentle, patient, smiling Joe.  I admit I am incapable of summing up all that he and Rene have meant to our family over the past four decades.  It all comes out in a rush---birch trees, cherry pie, Nelly, coffee, sand, crossword puzzles, wood fires, outdoor weddings, beaming welcomes, the family song sung before meals--"dear Father in Heaven we thank thee," stories of your yearly Day with your Dad, his dislike of Mexican spices (so I think of him every time I use cumin,) his presence in the corner armchair at the white cottage with newspaper and radio, the wise and generous stewardship of an unspoiled expanse of Michigan forest and shoreline.  Joe shared Ben's birthday.  That made Ben doubly precious.  
We are glad we had dinner with you all in October--and Joe was his usual dear self.  Yet so clearly missing Rene.  
Like Sharon, I believe they are reunited in some way that is a mystery.
Thank you, Joe."

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 9th January 2015

"So many feelings and memories come flooding into my mind as I think about your dad -- all of them so positive and good.  What a wonderful, wonderful man and life!  Two facial expressions of his are so easily recalled: his pure smile; and one of thoughtful, peaceful contemplation.

Just before Carolyn's dad passed away, he was told that death would be like walking from one room into another.  I would guess that Joe's passing was as comfortable and natural as it could be for anyone who has walked this earth.  He probably feels quite at home.

I love him, and I feel honored to have known him, your mom, and all of you.  I wish I could be there to share in the celebration of his life.  I will be thinking about you a lot this week.

With love,
Dave Sharette"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 8th January 2015

"Joe and Rene along with their wonderful daughters have marked countless beautiful memories for me and my family. A wise, authentic, gentle, loving man, Joe is the epitome of Kindness for me.

My spiritual path has taken many turns. The "Jesus" and God that Joe taught me about has come around back to me as the Real Thing. I remember vividly sitting on the beach, your Dad and 15 year old me, Joe said that I "can pray anyway I want."  To view the Divine as someone (Thing) so accepting was a far cry from Gram's urging my pleas for forgiveness.

Perhaps you remember our Youth Group sitting on the beach, and after your Dad's prayer we looked up and saw the Northern Lights , an ultimate reality experience for me!

AIR sat around to listen to Joe explain how our business could be structured, so patient with all of our wise-ass remarks. Pseudo Co was born, much to Jim's satisfaction :)

So, so many wondrous and happy memories!

Love and hugs to all of you,
Ric Sharette"

This tribute was added by Amanda Pinkerman on 7th January 2015

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

My road choices were clearly influenced by Joe and Irene.  They both watched over me upon my entrance into this world and they forevermore changed the course of my life.  Words cannot express my love, my gratitude or my sorrow for both of their passings, but my heart knows that the soul is eternal and I know that I will see them both again when my times comes to cross the vast expanse from here to there.  Until then, I will listen for their words of wisdom, feel their warmth of love and forever love the smell of fresh brewed coffee as this reminds me of so many mornings visiting at the house white.  All of my love, my prayers and my thoughts are with you during this difficult time.  Know that you are not alone in your grief for Joe, as he was as much a father to me as to you although for me I called him my Godfather and that he was, and will always be . . . with deep sorrow and love,  Amanda"

This tribute was added by Sharon J on 5th January 2015

"My lasting memories of Joe are how he always made me feel--so cared for, appreciated and loved. Every time I would come over to the house or drive up to the lake, I would hear a BIG resounding HI SHARON--with a radiant, welcoming smile and a delivery filled with exuberance. I could shout out loudly and clearly across the beaches and the entirety of Lake Michgan how much I loved your parents -- they exemplified for me what loving meant. I loved they had a coffee pot in their bedroom to begin the day together. I hear your mother's enthusiastic FAR OUT!  It is almost impossible to think of your father without thinking of your mom and both of them together--so passionate, so filled with the awe of life, so connected to their land in Pentwater.  As I wrote to you two, Mary Jo and Karen privately, I do not really believe in the afterlife, yet that being said, I am convinced that your mom and dad are reunited, as strongly and passionately in love in flesh and blood as they now are in spirit. It comforts me to imagine them together, sharing their extraordinary connection through time and space, endlessly. Such spirits, death can not take from us as they will live on, through time and space, and in the sites that they loved so, that they created in making the Larson family, that was extended so beautifully to include precious Ian, Seth, Elizabeth and Jordan.  What comforts me too--if I ever get back to the lake, I will have a lovely conversation with Rene and Joe, describing the beauty of their homestead, and how the communion of family and friends at the table with a bounty of food continues on with them ever present in mind and body. How their cherished land is honored by family and friends and how grateful we are for the beautiful world of love and life that they cultivated through their example of joyousness. With love and gratitude for all the Larsons, Paysons and Bizers! My thoughts are with you all as you grieve this inconsolable, untimely loss, unfair loss (yes, death will claim us all, but it comes as a surprise) again, during the holiday season. Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of your incredible, loving family!   I honor you all and beloved Joe Larson--89 years young."

This tribute was added by Emily Tait on 5th January 2015

"Karen and family,
So sorry to hear of your dear Dad's passing...losing both of your parents in the past year must be unimaginably difficult, yet it is a testament to how inextricably linked your parents' lives were that they needed to be together again.  I have enjoyed hearing many stories about both of your parents over the years and hope you find comfort and peace in their long lives, well lived.  Thinking of all of you at this time.

This tribute was added by Ian Payson on 3rd January 2015

"A great man is moved
and leaves all the rest
for us to live through
his lessons there grow
our branches his tree."

This tribute was added by Marty Rapp on 3rd January 2015

"Love to Karen, Mary Jo and Linda
I have been so fortunate to have shared family life with you, Rene and Joe. We will always celebrate the beauty of the Lake, love and memories that life has given to us through our friendship and times together."

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 2nd January 2015

"Our hearts go out to you and Karen and your families. It is a double grief that you father passed away almost on the anniversary of you mother's death. We remember both of them with hearty sense of blessings for their life and sorrow for their loss. We shall see you Sunday for more of a personal sharing in the grief and celebration.
Harold Ellens"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 2nd January 2015

"Hi all,

No Christmas Eve goes by without memories of the special people we/I have spent time with. My parents, grandparents, brothers, their families, the Grunyons and St. Stephen Singers of course, and the Swedish meatballs and Grogg at the Larson's on Christmas Eve are all part of the memories. (Linda corrected me one year when I was 12 "It's LARSON not LarsEn" as I looked at a poster of Gordie Howe on her door and had to stay another night due to an ice storm.)  

Childhood memories of sharing so much with the Larson family and our Youth Group are so much a wonderful part of my memories. The family that allowed us to be kids and teens going through so many changes; the trips to the lake (some planned and at least one I remember that was not! :), getting picked up on the last day of school to go to the lake and getting out of the car, van, and station wagon to ride on the hood or hang out the windows, and then once we reached the cottage, getting out and running into the lake with our clothes on; me and Linda left at the stable and had to walk back (she said "If I can get to the lake, I'll know where I am.") and no one missed us! 'Rene was making food in the kitchen when we got back and had no idea! That was pretty funny -- to be so insignificant or at least so trusted in a way that grown-ups really thought we could figure things out was wonderful! When MJ, Linda, and I did the March of Dimes Walk and MJ and I had to stop to dry our clothes from the rain (I think I was 12 but MJ wouldn't leave me even when Linda had to stop), and Linda had stopped at 10 miles (I think) but 'Rene was in tears when MJ and I got to the 20 mile mark cuz she said "Linda made 10 miles and we didn't even know when she was born if she would ever walk." These are treasures I will never forget! I love you, Larsons -- Linda, M.J., Karen, and our entire Youth Group family! Love you, Mr. Joe Dad and Mrs. Mom! You all mean the world to me!! I will never forget!

Denise Sharette, 1/2/15"

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This memorial is administered by:

Mary Jo Larson


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