Larsons' love remained unbroken
Remembered as a charitable businessman and devoted community employer for decades, longtime Larson's Home Furnishings owner Bruce Larson will be remembered by those closest to him for the quiet and genuine way that he valued his closest relationships.
Born May 21, 1935, Larson passed away Nov. 3, 2016 at the age of 81 after battling Alzheimer's in his final years of life. While he was known regionally for his work ethic — seven days each week since his early teen years — his first love, ex-wife Faye Larson, would prove one of his longest commitments.
The couple's story, despite a divorce when their children were young, yielded an unexpectedly tender tale for his family to hold onto as the one-time couple would pass away within weeks of each other this fall.
Born in Portland to Alfred and Lulu Larson, Bruce Larson was a workaholic from an early age, growing up delivering newspapers and eventually repairing appliances in his parents furniture business on Main Street, the early predecessor of Larson's, nearly as soon as the family arrived in Medford in 1945.
After high school, Larson attended Northwest Nazarene University, in Nampa, Idaho, where he and Faye met and married. Faye Larson would ultimately work to put her husband through college at Northwest Nazarene and, later, Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego.
After briefly living in Kansas City, where the couple's son was born and where the young dad tried his hand at racing, the family moved to the Rogue Valley, had a daughter and took over the family furniture and appliance business. While the couple would divorce when their children were small, Traci Larson said her parents' story, after that point, was anything but typical.
"Initially, when they divorced, there was some hurt but they were able to move beyond that and became the best of friends," Traci Larson said, noting that the family spent holidays and took vacations together throughout their parents lives.
"He called her his angel. I have this wonderful letter he wrote her on Mother's Day about 10 years ago," she said.
"When dad went to stay at the (Rogue Valley) Manor, she went up every day and took care of him, took him to concerts, to dinner. They were very wonderful and very genuine people."
Robert McClelland, a longtime colleague and three-decades friend of Larson, recalled his quiet demeanor and passion for speed. However, in contrast to his love of motorcycles and race cars, Larson had a disdain for air travel.
"He hated to fly, so he had a really decked-out van," McClelland said. "It was very plush and comfortable so he would drive to Portland and drive over to Klamath Falls and even Portland and California. He preferred that to flying in a plane."
Larson's tenacity and warmth, McClelland noted, was evident in all he did.
"His competition was Costco and Best Buy and he was successful. Even with these 500-pound gorillas for competition, he was successful," McClelland said.
"People who knew him really liked Bruce for his warm smile — his very quiet, warm smile. he spoke almost in a whisper. I don't think I ever heard him raise his voice unless it was laughter."
Former employee and longtime salesperson Debbie Saxbury said she valued the family atmosphere Larson created for employees. Saxbury recalled Larson's "legendary" ponytail and said that for many employees the store's closure in 2014 created more concern for Larson than for themselves.
"The entire staff was saddened, not because we were going to have to be looking for a new job but that Mr. Larson had put every single day of his adult life working in his family store and then his store and it was finally the end," Saxbury said.
While in his later years Larson battled Alzheimer's, caregivers noted a persistent spirit as he often insisted he had "places to be and things to do," Troy Larson recalled. Ultimately, Faye's death would foreshadow his own demise.
Faye Larson passed away October 16 in Medford at the age of 83, which Bruce Larson knew before anyone else delivered the news, Troy said.
"When my mom passed, we made the decision not to tell my dad because it didn't make much sense to tell him and upset him," he said.
"We went to see my dad and told the nurse that our mother had passed and she told us, 'The morning she passed, your father was weeping uncontrollably and we were trying to console him. When he could finally tell us what was wrong, he said, 'My wife just died.'
"Somehow, he just knew."
Less than three weeks later, Bruce Larson followed her.
Traci Larson said, given her parents' closeness, it was not surprising their deaths seemed linked.
"They were good people who had a great life together, even when they weren't together. Him knowing that she had passed away when nobody told her — we all were just blown away," she said.
"In the end, she was the person he trusted the most. ... She was the glue that kept our whole family together. She always brought us all back together and kept us close as a family. They were amazing people."
A celebration of life is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 at the First Church of the Nazarene, 1974 E. McAndrews Road in Medford.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.