Verner C. Larson, a lifelong resident of the Puget Sound area, passed away on April 4, at his retirement community in Lacey, WA. He was 98.
Vern, as he was known by most of his friends, was born In Parkland, WA (on the outskirts of Tacoma) on Feb. 5, 1923, and was the youngest child of Swedish immigrants, Wilhelm Larson and Wendla Magnuson. He was a graduate of Roy High School, where he met his future wife, Doris Fassett, who preceded him in death in 2009 after 64 years of marriage. A favorite family anecdote from the time the two were first dating was when Doris, after learning that Vern hated his middle name (Chester) and refused to disclose it, persuaded him to at least reveal his middle initial. Upon hearing “C,” and without missing a beat, she exclaimed, “My, God, it’s not Chester, is it?”
Vern was raised in the same farmhouse in which he was born, along with his three siblings, Alex, Harold, and Hilda. Shortly after graduating from high school, he joined the Navy at the outset of WWII, where he served aboard the USS Curtiss, a seaplane tender that operated primarily in the South Pacific. During his time aboard ship, the Curtiss came under attack several times from Japanese aircraft but always managed to successfully fend them off. However, two weeks after Vern was granted shore leave, the ship’s communication tower, where he worked, was struck by a kamikaze. Thirty-five Curtiss sailors were killed, including fourteen in the tower. Vern always remembered his shipmates that he had gotten to know so well, and how he almost certainly would have been among those killed if not for the timing of his leave.
Returning to the states, he sidestepped wartime rules and secretly married Doris, his high school sweetheart, and continued with his training and studies, eventually entering the Navy’s flight school where he had been accepted into its fighter pilot program just as the war ended. With his military obligation also ending, and despite encouragement from the Navy for him to reenlist and remain in flight school, he made the decision to return to civilian life, pursue a career and start a family. Throughout his life, though, Vern retained his interest in flying small planes, doing so infrequently but always carrying his private pilot’s license “just in case.”
After graduating from trade school as a certified Master Mechanic, Vern worked in the service department of a Tacoma-based Chrysler dealership for ten years before a back injury and subsequent surgery necessitated a career change, ultimately leading him into an entirely new occupation in sales at the same dealership where he had been working as a mechanic. He loved selling Plymouths, interacting with customers, and enjoyed a very successful second career that spanned nearly 25 years, ending upon his retirement.
Vern was also an accomplished electrician, plumber, and carpenter, building several family homes in University Place where he and Doris raised their two sons, Dan and Gary. In 1972, with their sons out of school, he and Doris moved to Fox Island, where they lived in a small beach home for the next 45 years. There, he enjoyed tending to his fruit trees and large vegetable garden while he and Doris both savored their shoreside world.
Throughout most of his life, Vern was an avid fishermen and boater, loved clamming and crabbing, and he and Doris often explored Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands in their small power boat, once taking their 19-foot, open-cockpit vessel all the way to Ketchikan, Alaska. On land, he and his wife shared a similar sense of adventure, exploring North America in their RV and reaching places as far away as Nova Scotia and, perhaps most daringly, driving through downtown Manhattan.
A few years after Doris passed, Vern moved to Panorama, a retirement community in Lacey, WA, where he spent the remaining years of his life, making new friends and enjoying the pleasures of no longer worrying about high tides and strong winds.
Vern is survived by his youngest son, Gary, his daughter-in-law, Toni Carmichael, and numerous nieces and nephews. His eldest son, Dan, died of a heart attack at the age of 46, in 1994.
Due to Covid, interment will be private. A celebration of life service may be held at a later date. If you would like to share a memory or leave a message you may do so on the Tribute Wall of this online obituary. Notes or cards for family may be sent c/o Haven of Rest, 8503 State Road 16 NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98332.
In lieu of flowers, a donation in Vern’s name to the Wild Salmon Center https://wildsalmoncenter.org/
Wild Salmon Center