Irene Larson
  • 90 years old
  • Date of birth: Feb 20, 1923
  • Place of birth:
    Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Date of passing: Dec 29, 2013
  • Place of passing:
    Farmington Hills, Michigan, United States
A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.

Visitation:  Visit with the family at the home of Mary Jo Larson, her "middlest" daughter, in Bloomfield Hills, on Thursday, January 2, 2014, any time between 6 and 9 pm. Parking will be by valet, so please drive right up to the house. Call 'Rene's niece, Marge Sorge, at 734-578-6507, if you need the address or directions. Flowers may also be sent here. 

Memorial:  A memorial service will be held at Birmingham Unitarian Church, 38651 Woodward (behind the northwest corner of Woodward and Lone Pine), Bloomfield Hills, MI, at 11 am Friday, January 3, 2014.

This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Irene Larson, 90, born on February 20, 1923 and passed away on December 29, 2013.  Anna Irene Larson, or simply ‘Rene, brought much happiness into the world in which she lived and remains an example of how one should embrace life and unabashedly live it to its fullest.  She profoundly touched everyone who had the privilege of knowing her with her innate kindness, acute acceptance and infallible strength.  She lived her life by believing in the doctrine that human beings are intrinsically good and welcomed people into her home with open arms.  The world will miss her dearly.

We would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a tribute, story, or picture on this website.

If you would like to make a donation in her name, the family suggests Hospice of Michigan or the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.

Hospice of Michigan:
Without hospice 'Rene's last year of life at home would not have been possible. If you ever need to care for someone at home, we urge you to check it out. It's not just for those nearing their last breath. Hospice of Michigan provided unbelievable support from the moment 'Rene was diagnosed with cancer.

Land Conservancy of West Michigan:
Irene loved her property on Lake Michigan near Pentwater. She wanted to preserve the beauty of the woods, dunes, and beach as much as possible. She and her husband Joe put "Fridem" (the lake property) in a conservancy easement, which protected the property from development. Irene felt very strongly about cherishing and keeping as much of the natural beauty of Michigan as possible. The Land Conservancy assists landowners with administering a conservancy easement, as well as accepting outright land donations; they also purchase natural areas to preserve. 

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Denise Martin on 31st December 2015

"Thinking of all of my Larson friends and wishing you a blessed holiday season. I hope your Christmas was filled with the love and joy that Rene always brought to our lives. Miss you Rene and Joe."

This tribute was added by Cindy Boyer on 29th December 2014

"I'm thinking of your family today, and although I don't know you; I want you to know that I care about your sad loss. Acts 24:15 gives much comfort. Recently, I lost my very precious and beloved Mom, and I look forward to seeing her again, as the Bible holds out this hope to us!(Revelation 21;4, 5; Psalms 37:10, 11, 29) Take care, Sincerely, Cindy"

This tribute was added by Rev Dr. J. Harold Ellens on 20th February 2014

"Irene always expresses the most brilliant intellectual aptitude, the heartiest affective generousity, and the most engaging social interests. She loved the work of Teilhard de Chardin, is a good lay-theologian and a profound thinker and believer."

This tribute was added by Chris Lomaka on 29th January 2014

"Life is forever changed with ‘Rene’s death, but her presence will always be felt at her homes in Farmington Hills and at the lake. There ‘Rene and Joe created a strong, loving family, and then made room for many of us as an extended part of that family. I met Mary Jo at K College during freshman orientation. She’d left a note on the grease board on her door that she missed her sister (Kar) who hadn’t yet arrived and invited anyone in who cared to visit. I knocked on the door and ended up hanging out with Mar all afternoon silently (imagine that!) while we sat and read, I in her rocker and she on her bed. Two weeks later I spent the weekend at the cottage in Pentwater, beginning my relationship with the Larson family. It’s notable here because Mar welcomed me into her life in the way that ‘Rene welcomed those she met into hers: ‘Rene saw the best in everyone, made room for us all, and always always showed us her true self, smart, generous and trusting in the goodness of the world. Three memories stand out: 7 year old Seth in 1989 wearing his reversible Superman/Spiderman cape while ‘Rene discussed with him the causes of the standoff at Tiananmen Square. Another: morning coffee at the lake with her and Joe, when we lucky ones would pile into bed with them, drinking coffee, talking about our dreams, the day before, the day ahead, life, anything at all. And food: dinners that started after sunset and lasted late, always grateful for the good fortune we had to be together sharing a meal, at the lake, alive. ‘Rene knew how precious life was and lived every day in that wisdom. It is hard to imagine the Larsons without ‘Rene, but it’s because of the way she lived her life that we will always feel her in the places and the people she loved."

This tribute was added by BUTHAYNA TAHA on 9th January 2014

"My Dear Larsons,

So much pain has already been felt in my heart for my beloved beautiful Auntie Rene since her passing.  I do believe that her soul is eternal and watching all over us.  But what is painful is that we will always miss her presence, her voice, her laughs.  The first year we got to know Auntie, she invited us for her signature Christmas Eve party.  Every year afterwards, she called and made sure that we come to her party at 8:00 pm.  She also made sure that the invitation is for life, and that even if she forgets to invite us the year after, we are still invited.  Wow.  Thank you Auntie.  It was one of the most beautiful days of the year for me.  I used to look forward to it.  It was the reason why we fell in love with the beautiful Farmington Hills.  When we arrive in the bitter cold day, we knock on the main door.  Here she is Auntie with her beautiful red cloths greeting us with full long hugs, greeting us warmly, uncle Joe besides her, giving us the same dose of love, welcomness.  He immediately asks us what to drink.  I remember the punch, the great Swedish authentic food, the samba bread, all other dishes that I know when I see and tastes them but never got their names right quite yet.  Then we eat and eat and eat, drink and drink and drink, then we sing and sing and sing, open presents, then dread to go home.  I remember even when it wasn’t Christmas Eve, whenever she invited us, she made sure her best china was used.  Whenever Auntie came to our house, she had beautiful flowers in her hands.  I think not only she couldn’t be somewhere without flowers, the thing was that flowers couldn’t seem to ever leave her.  Flowers can’t disassociate from their own kind I guess.  The few times I saw Auntie angry and upset, it was also about something or someone she loved or felt passionately about.  Either the environment or someone she dearly loved.  I do regret not spending more time with her.  She always made me feel good about myself.  She often cried with me or even before me whenever I talked about the suffering of my family back home.  Her heart didn’t have boundaries or limitations.  It was a heart encompassing all.  In the recent years, I became more spiritual.  And when I attended her funeral church service in her memory, I was reading between the lines of what was read about her by her family.  Auntie Rene indeed was representing what spirituality is all about; Oneness and Unconditional Love.  She lived her life just like that embracing oneness and loving unconditionally.  A well-lived life Auntie. Here is what I remember when I think of Auntie:

Her Joe
Her beautiful daughters; Karen, Mary Joe, and Linda
Coffee, yes coffeeeeeee
Lace and tenderly-knitted clothing
Delicious chocolate
Beautiful Flowers
Thanksgiving at the lake
Lake Michigan
Light houses
Swedish food
Great company
Big smiles
Hard laughs
Tender compliments
Delicious food
Love for all animals
Helping people
Farmington Hills
Beautiful, one of a kind family
Nice China
Ready, beautiful dining table
The best Christmas Eves

Miss you greatly Auntie,
Much Love,
Buthayna Taha"

This tribute was added by Denise Martin on 4th January 2014

"As the Reverend said yesterday of so many she asked, "there are so many memories, where do I start?" Though I have so many treasured memories of this family, I will try to focus on my memories of Rene.

The first was when I was 12 and my mom took Ric, Dave, and me to drop my brothers off for their first Larson's cottage Youth Group trip. I was jealous that they got to go but I could not because I was 1 year too young. Linda and Beckie were going and they were both my age but Linda was the daughter of the hosts and Beckie was the daughter of the pastor. As mom and I prepared to leave, Rene said to my mom "Just let her go. She's the same age as Linda and Beckie." My mom replied, "Yes but she has no clothes." Rene responded, "It's OK, Linda has plenty." So, off I went!

Then there was the year Linda and I were left at the horse riding stable up north and had to walk home. Linda said, "If I can get to the beach, I can get us home," which she did. We walked into the cottage and Rene was making supper. We told her what had happened and she said "Oh, I didn't realize you were missing," and continued to prepare the evening meal.

Then there was the time Linda, MJ, and I did the March of Dimes Walkathon, a 20-mile walk. It was chilly and raining. At one point, MJ and I stopped at a laundromat to dry our clothes. Linda was such a trooper! She didn't make the whole 20 miles but I remember a tear in Rene's eye when she said, "Linda walked 10 miles. That's a miracle!" (related, of course, to Linda being born with spina bifida and that just her being able to walk was a miracle).

There were many days and overnights I spent at the Larson home. I remember when Linda got to be St. Lucia and we slept all night with candles burning in the room only to wake up to soot markings under our noses in the morning. I really felt special to be able to share such a sacred family tradition with them and my good friend!

I remember riding the bus home with Linda and walking into the house. There was this odd woman in the kitchen who sort of scooted by us in the hallway without making eye contact. I asked Linda, "Who is that??" She just matter of factly said, "Oh, that's just Lydia," and kept on walking. I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, "OK??"

The Youth Group "meetings" at there home and at the lake were always so special and fun! "Mrs. Mom" (Rene) and "Mr. Joe Dad" (Joe) were so different from the usual parents. They gave us the freedom to be teenagers in a safe environment without being "helicopter parents'" and we always felt so free to be ourselves (listening to Carole King, James Taylor, and Chicago as loud as we wanted). I remember finding Rene and Joe cuddling and kissing on the couch in the front room and thinking, "Gosh, I hope I have a relationship like that when I get older!"

Then there's the lake. Picture this, for all of you that never experienced it...
School's out for summer. We get picked up in vans and station wagons. We drive to the cottages on Lake Michigan near Pentwater. As soon as we get on the long 2-track drive to the property, almost all the kids are sitting on the doors of the vehicles and hanging out the windows, hopping up on the hoods of vehicles, etc. for the ride in. Once we arrive, everyone runs to the shore and into the water with their clothes on! What a great end-of-the-school-year ritual!! THAT, was soooo Larsons!

I love them all so much! You have no idea how much they all enriched my life!!"

This tribute was added by Kitty Buiteweg Foss on 3rd January 2014

"Irene and your whole family has brought so much light into my life.. Across the miles and through the years I so remember her and the light she brought into any life, including mine, and am filled with gratitude for having known her.  I feel for those who have never had the opportunity to see her smile.  My thoughts and prayers are with you, wish I could have been there.   Lots of Love to you all"

This tribute was added by Rol Sharette on 2nd January 2014

"Bev and I will be forever grateful that 'Rene and Joe found us, as we did them -- in a small church with a welcome and creative congregation that brought new ideas and a special acceptance of music and friendship that we and our three (now 50-something) children will always cherish. Our relationship was nothing but heaven-sent, with a melding of ideas, principles and love that our family and the Larson family will ever cherish. They are ours and we are their's -- in this life and beyond. Wherever Heaven is, 'Rene's presence will grace it and us with her bright light and wonderful laughter for as long as eternity permits -- and that's a long, long time. God bless 'Rene, her family and ours in this life and hereafter."

This tribute was added by Paula Buckman on 2nd January 2014

"From fun pool times to Epworth Heights to Pentwater to Empire, we have lots of wonderful memories of 'Rene.  And remember, 'the sun not only always shines in Empire', but in heaven too. Sending thoughts and love to the Larson family at this difficult time.  Love, The Gruenwald Family (Art, Rose, Paula, Lynn, Gail and families)"

This tribute was added by Lisa Lewis on 2nd January 2014

"Linda, remembering Rene, the love she had for her family, the passion for Joe, and her deep compassion for all.  I am thankful for her wisdom she passed on to me, and how she welcomed me.  I am praying that you all may know the deep love of the Father, and the peace that His love brings.  Love you sister."

This tribute was added by Beckie Ellens on 1st January 2014

"I still remember when I turned 10 years old and Irene took me to Hudsons and let me pick out any outfit I wanted (which she paid for).  It was Linda's idea.  I picked out a pair of lavender shorts and a shirt.  I wore this outfit beyond its years.  I also remember the lunches that she would make for Linda and I when we would take a hike down the road to a nice picnic spot.....and all the fun she supported at youth group.  In my world, she is still alive in the all the memories my "mind" carries of her.  She has simply let go of the body.  Irene was/is a woman of generosity, kindness, thoughfulness and love.  Thank you for blessing my life, Irene.  May her light warm all of those who think of her now and who she touched.  With love, Beckie"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Dear Mary Jo,  Just want to let you, Linda, Karen and your Dad know that you are in my heart.  I send you all love and am so glad that Irene brought so much joy into your lives.  She is such a celebration of life.  Love, Beckie [Beckie Ellens, email]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"A long life, well lived, exited in the presence of her loving family. [Eric Sargent, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Rene entered my life when I had so many questions. She showed me that adulthood and parenthood could be so much fun, even exhilarating. Her enthusiasm for Joe showed me that grown up love could be passionate and exciting. She delighted in life and shared her excitement freely. I am fortunate, maybe because of her model, to have and exciting passionate life now. [Randy Bizer, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"'Rene shines so bright in all my memories of her.  She is the epitome of loving acceptance, as you say, Mary Jo.  She is a beacon of this in my life even now.  Words seem way too small to express her magnificence.  I am so blessed to have known her.  I love her.  I love the Larson family.  Bless you all.  Hugs with tears, [Ric Sharette, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Yes.  A beautiful and gracious tribute to your beautiful and gracious mom.  She will continue to bless us all. [Susan Stahman Brooks, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Your mom blessed many lives, including mine. Our love goes out to you and your family. [Dave Sharette, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Much love to all of you. I'm thinking about you guys and Rene. What an amazing woman. [Liz Dengate, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Such love in words and actions. She was so wonderful-the matriarch of a loving family. We are here for you any time. [Diane Dengate, FB]"

This tribute was added by Karen Larson on 31st December 2013

"Dear Joe, Karen, Mary Jo, Linda, Spouses, and Family,
My heart felt condolences on Irene's passing.  Joe, Irene and I go back over 60 years and my memories of Irene are of the most kind and most generous person.  We had so much fun together in Farmington, Ludington, and in Pentwater.  I saw you kids grow from the very beginning and you have all made so much of your lives.  
I am happy that I was able to speak to your mother via phone a few weeks ago and I must say her voice was strong and vibrant.  Besides all of the above, Irene cherished the fact that she was a strong, liberal Democrat with views on religion which were open and all embracing.  
With much love to all of you,
Gil (The Shirt-tail Uncle)
(from an email sent to Karen and the Larson family)"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"She was a blessing to everyone, she has touched many many people. Love to all and I will keep all of you my prayers :) [Barbara Case, FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"This is very sad news... she herself was a gift to us, and the tranquility of her departure is a kind of last expression of love to her wonderful family. thinking of you, [Van Huebner, from FB]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"One of my guideposts for acceptance and living joyfully has passed. I wish I was with you all to share the hugs and tears. Much love to all of you. I hope to see you soon.[Gail Gruenwald, comment made on FaceBook]"

This tribute was added by Mary Jo Larson on 31st December 2013

"Love to everyone gathered and to the beautiful life that your mother's radiant love cultivated with those who came in her circle of life. I grieve for your loss but feel comforted knowing she died peacefully. [Sharon Johnson, comment from FB]"

This tribute was added by Cari Hunt on 31st December 2013

"Linda, So sorry to read this.  I never knew your Mom, but I have to believe she was an incredible woman.  After all, she raised you.  There is nothing that compares to the pain of losing your Mom.  Lean on God and your friends to help you get through.  Love and Hugs to you."

This tribute was added by Rev Dr. J. Harold Ellens on 30th December 2013

"Irene is a friend, full of unconditional grace for ever human and all of God's creatures. The Divine Spirit pervades her spirit and is the life force that made her so creative of beauty and goodness her, and surely continues even more dynamically as she continues the eternal life that she wisely embraced throughout her life. It is easy to thank God for Irene. God sustain her family in that gratitude."

This tribute was added by Ian Payson on 30th December 2013

"The Wisdom of ‘Rene

My beautiful grandmother died as she lived
Undoubtedly original and on her own terms
Everyday she had a little more love to give
And everyday gave me a new lesson to learn

It is in part from the wisdom of ‘Rene I am
Forever questioning yet forever accepting
Her open arms held me until I could stand
And prepared me for what life can bring

The wisdom of her ways is reflected in all of us
As we embrace each other in familiar communion
Her knowledge is forever flowing continuous
A river flowing with love to ever-higher dominions

Her body may be gone but she resides in us all
As our souls flow together into oceans and lakes
And back again into rivers that will finally fall
Into each other again as souls ready to create"

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This memorial is administered by:

Ian Payson


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