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Mville First Assembly celebrates as former pastor Levi Larson turns 100
MARYSVILLE Its a party that has been a century in the making as Levi Larson celebrates his 100th birthday next week.
The former Marysville pastor hits the C-note on Dec. 12, but his church will be hosting a reception and birthday party for the Snohomish County native at the Marysville First Assembly this Sunday, Dec. 10.
Larson is a long-time mainstay in this city, having pastured the First Assembly during his 70 years behind the pulpit or in the trenches helping others. Larson pastured the church in the late 1940s and early 50s, and then again in the 60s and 70s when he retired at age 71 that was in 1978.
Members of his flock say Larson left a huge impression on the folks he served for decades. Larson still teaches a weekly Bible session in Everett and Ron Munroe is a member who drives from his Snohomish home to hear the nonagenarian preach.
I have never sat with him through that hour where hes not laughing about something, Munroe said. Hes says, You know Ron what Im excited about? I say No what? He said The future. Its my favorite hour of the week. It puts things in perspective for me.
Even at his advanced age, Larson encourages people to live healthier than they are, Munroe added. That everyone can do better is a constant, but cheerful mantra of Larsons.
Hes just a walking Bible, Munroe said. Hes just a blessing to everyone he comes in contact with.
Larson was born in Lake Stevens and says he found God at age 16. He was not interested in being a minister but was focused on a successful business career. That changed when he was invited to speak at a Skid Row ministry in Seattle run by another pastor.
After I got through speaking he asked if I would come again, Larson recalled, adding that other churches asked as well. It seemed that one invitation after another occurred and I just kept going.
Just kept going is an understatement: Larson would spend the next 46 years in active ministry and then continue to volunteer and teach to the present day. Friends say he makes the Energizer Bunny look like a slacker, even at his current age. That Skid Row chat happened in 1932 when Larson was just 26 years old. He would rove around the Pacific Northwest pasturing seven churches over the years. He is most proud of a World War II ministry he opened in Tacoma to serve newly drafted servicemen shipping out to battle. Founded with only $75, Larson takes pride in the fact that over a span of three years he raised the $33,000 it took to keep the doors open; the only source was the offering plate passed at each sermon. The chapel seated only 150 and had a snack bar; located right across from the bus station, the ministry served as a warm place for men with an uncertain future. They were scared and Larson gave them comfort.
I thought that was the most exciting time, Larson recalled last week, sitting in his chair, a Bible perched on a TV tray next to him.
His wife of 64 years passed away a year ago; their marriage and the four children they raised are one of the major achievements of his long life, he said.
He met Esther when he was speaking to her Spokane church; she was 18 and, like him, the child of Swedish immigrants. He was 33 years old.
I sometimes jokingly say that I robbed the cradle, but I would say that we had a successful 64 years, Larson said. We got along well even though there was an age difference. She was very mature.
His son Dale now lives in Woodinville and notes that his father rose to positions of influence despite being a high school drop out.
You would not know that by talking to him, Dale Larson laughed. He was quite self-educated and of course that was not an option for his kids.
Like an Army brat, Dale had to move around as his father followed different assignments; one downside was that dad was always busy on weekends, the upside was being able to go camping in the middle of the week when the campgrounds were empty.
He had high expectations for his children, but there was never any doubt that he loved us, Dale remembered. He was a disciplinarian and expected a lot from us.
Levi Larson was an avid hunter and fisher; his scrapbook holds pictures of the many deer, elk and moose he shot over the years. One of his favorite memories is when he caught a nine-foot-long, 116-pound sailfish near Acapulco, Mexico. On a tour of South America, his group was delayed for a day and someone suggested getting their fishing poles wet. This was in 1958, and Larsons eyes light up when he recalled the fight to land the fish, the biggest he ever caught.
It came out of the water four times: they come completely out of the water! Oh, boy! Larson laughed.
He reluctantly stopped hunting only three years ago; it was too much of a risk to be out in the woods alone at age 97. Its a bitter pill for him to make concessions to father time, but Larson is still sharp and independent, living by himself in an apartment at the Merrill Gardens retirement home.
Heres the place where you move slowly and talk loud, Larson joked. He stressed that he doesnt take vitamins or any supplements, but didnt want to seem like he was bragging. Youve got to consider your age, youve got to take it a little slower. If I can just make it to the 12th I can say I made it.