Wilfred Carl (“Jack”) Larson, 95, died on Sept. 11, 2020, of complications from pneumonia. He was born in Ferndale, Washington, on June 25, 1925, to Wilfred Woodward Larson and Nellie Inez Larson (Holtz), both immigrants from Sweden in the 1920s. He was the oldest of five sons.
Jack had to drop out of school in the ninth grade to help provide for his brothers. However, He was a life-long learner. With his intelligence and perseverance, he learned to teach himself what he needed to know to better his life. He valued education. College was always an expectation, not an option for his children.
He worked a number of jobs to help the family meet ends during the Depression. He quickly earned a reputation for being able to do work well beyond his years but did find time to ride race horses at the local fairs. He also became a skilled hunter and an expert marksman.
At 17 years old, Jack enlisted in the U.S Army. During World War II, Jack served as a paratrooper in the 17th Airborne Division. He saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge and in Operation Varsity, the jump on the Rhine that remains the largest airborne operation in military history. He received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered and was awarded the Bronze Star for gallantry. He was slated to be assigned to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan but instead served briefly on occupation duty in Berlin before he returned to the states and was discharged.
Unable to find work when he returned home, Jack hitchhiked to Winthrop, Washington, where he found work as a smokejumper at the nearby base. It was here that he met his life partner, Helen Lucille Morgan, who was a local girl and a teller at the bank where he cashed his paychecks. After marrying and having three children, he worked at the local fish hatchery and also taught auto mechanics at the local high school. They then were able to buy a small piece of land to raise livestock and crops. Jack built the house, barn and other outbuildings that made the “ranch” home for the family. During this time, he also worked at the local sawmill and worked on the Rocky Reach Dam for extra income.
In 1961 the family moved to Bremerton, Washington, where Jack took a job as a welder at the Naval Shipyard. Welding as a skill was self-taught and developed to a high degree. He was skilled in other trades such as plumbing, masonry, electrical, mechanical and carpentry, again by putting his mind and his hand to developing those skills on his own. He built two more houses in the Bremerton area, by himself, working nights and weekends. After several years in the shipyard, he became self-employed as a land developer, maintaining and often rebuilding his equipment. The adversity that Jack faced through much of his life made him physically tough and exceptionally self-reliant.
After Helen retired, they enjoyed traveling around the Northwest, camping in their RV as well as spending many winter months in Southern California, Hawaii and Mexico. They also traveled to Europe, visiting sites of battles he engaged in during WWII. Jack thoroughly enjoyed his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was always his happiest around them, watching them grow. He had a great sense of humor that was often on display at family events. He is predeceased by his loving and devoted wife of 68 years, Helen, and his four younger brothers (Gene, Larry, Wayne, and Dick). He is survived by his three children, Jack (Nan) of Lancaster, Virginia; Arlene Work (David) of Seabeck, Washington; and Wade (Carla) of Bremerton, Washington; five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and a number of nieces and nephews. He is missed by all.
The family thanks the management and staff at the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil, Washington, for the loving and devoted care given to Jack during the last few years of his life. He was a truly exceptional person and will always be gratefully remembered. Services will be held at a later date.