ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Obituary: Dave and Joyce Larson

Dave and Joyce Larson
Dave and Joyce Larson married when she was in high school and he was a high school dropout serving in the Navy. They went on to extraordinary accomplishments.
November 20, 2023

David Arlo Larson: Dec. 17, 1935 — Oct. 17, 2023

Flavia Joyce (McClain) Larson: March 24, 1937 — June 26, 2020

Dave Larson passed away on Oct. 17, 2023, in Fresno, California. Joyce Larson preceded him, passing on June 26, 2020, in Ashland. 

Dave was born in Silverton, Oregon, on Dec. 17, 1935, to Arlo and Mary Larson. Joyce was born in Stella, Nebraska, on March 24, 1937, to Edgar and Thelma McClain. Joyce’s family moved to Silverton shortly after World War II. Joyce and Dave attended Silverton High School together. They married on Dec. 15, 1954, in Centralia, Washington, while Joyce was a senior in high school and Dave was on leave from the Navy, after dropping out of high school the previous year. Immediately after their marriage, Dave shipped out to the Western Pacific to serve as a radio operator with the landing craft LCU-810 during the Korean War and Joyce finished up high school. They moved to San Diego after her graduation.

After Dave’s four-year hitch in the Navy, they returned briefly to Silverton to live, but because of the depressed economy of the area, Dave signed on to serve in the U.S. Air Force and pursue his love of aeronautics. During his time in the armed services, the couple had two children: Lori Lynn, and Wayde Scott. It was during his time in the Air Force that Dave became an expert in the mechanics of jet propulsion. 

Toward the end of his four years in the Air Force, Dave’s dad became seriously ill and the family moved back to Silverton. After his father’s death, Dave took a job with McDonnell Douglas at Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Santa Maria, California, to work in the highly classified Titan and Minuteman missile programs. So, off to Santa Maria the family went. While Dave was learning and becoming an expert in rocket propulsion systems, Joyce began her career in bookkeeping and accounting and Dave’s mother, Mary, helped with raising the kids, Lori and Scott.

In 1968, with the Apollo moon mission ramping up, Dave was transferred to Cape Canaveral, aka “the Cape” near Titusville, Florida, to work on the third-stage propulsion systems of the huge Saturn V rocket that would carry men to the moon. While Dave was working on rockets, Joyce was quietly working her way up the corporate ladder, becoming the highest ranking female within the administrative offices of retailer J.C. Penney Co.

At the conclusion of the Apollo program in the early ’70s, Dave was laid off and Joyce accepted a transfer to the J.C. Penney corporate office in Oakland, California. When they returned to the West, they decided that Oakland was not a place to raise a family, and settled in Oakhurst, California, where they’d taken many camping trips while living in Santa Maria.

Dave took a job with a small, struggling concrete ready-mix company, called Outback, in Oakhurst. One of the first projects he worked on was the “great bridge” on California’s Highway 49, connecting Madera and Mariposa counties. He worked with Outback for many years, building the company and pouring hundreds of home foundations throughout eastern Madera and Mariposa counties during the rapid growth of the 1970s. Joyce went to work as the office manager and chief administrative officer for the only true adobe manufacturing company in the United States, the Hans Sumpf Co., located in Fresno. She also started and served as president of the Oakhurst Business and Professional Women’s Organization.

In 1982, with Joyce’s parents in poor health, the couple returned to Silverton to help care for them. Joyce went to work for the Garten Foundation and Pfeifer Construction while also serving on the Silverton City Council from 1983 to 1985. Dave became manager of Silverton’s Chamber of Commerce, which was instrumental in bringing the “Main Street” economic revitalization program to Silverton. Dave and Joyce were co-elected 1984’s Silverton’s First Citizen.

In 1988, the Larsons moved to Ashland to “slow down.” Joyce went on to work for chiropractors Marc Heller and John Kalb. Dave worked for Lithia Stationery and Pacific Office Supply, where he won awards for top salesman and was known throughout the Medford-Ashland area. Dave and Joyce pursued their spiritual journeys and became ordained Essene ministers. They had the honor of performing marriage ceremonies for three of their grandchildren. They moved to Shelton, Washington, for a brief time to pursue ministerial opportunities. In 2003, they retired to Central Point.

Joyce passed away on June 26, 2020, at the Village at Valley View in Ashland, suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Dave then moved to be with family in Coarsegold, California, near Oakhurst. He passed away at Heritage Crossings in Fresno with complications of dementia on Oct. 17. Joyce and Dave are survived by their children, Lori and Scott, seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. They will be interned at Miller’s Cemetery in Silverton.

Dave was an aspiring writer and, prior to the onset of dementia, was working on an autobiography, describing his life as a “mill kid” growing up in the lumber mills of Southern Oregon while his dad worked the mills and was a labor union organizer. Dave told about his being a high school dropout who went on to become a “rocket scientist” sending man to the moon.

Lori and Scott are working to revive their father’s writings and would appreciate any stories or anecdotes about either Dave or Joyce from past friends, acquaintances or family. Please reach out to Scott at wscott.larson@gmail.com if you knew Dave or Joyce and have recollections you would like to share.

Obituaries may be submitted to Ashland.news via our online article submission form, or via email to news@ashland.news, with a photo or two attached if desired. Please be sure to include dates of birth and death, and reference to connections to Ashland/Talent/Southern Oregon. Please allow a few days for posting. There is no charge. Those wishing to make a donation supporting the Ashland.news service may do so here.

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