Southern Utah News Articles
Time will tell
Some things get better with age, fine wine and cheese for instance. Helen Larsen, at 95, is living proof that we humans could have our best years ahead of us!
Larsen was born on April 25, 1918, in a three room cabin her parents had homesteaded in Crook County, Wyoming. She had an older brother who died, and later the family had another daughter and son.
Her younger life took her to numerous states...Colorado, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Dakota. She said the family traveled to follow her father’s employment in mining, among other endeavors. She attended school in South Dakota, from second grade through high school, and later attended a teaching college in Spearfish, S.D.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do at the time,” said Larsen, of career choices. “But I always liked to travel.”
While her family followed jobs often scarce during the Depression, her youth allowed for plenty of fun life experiences. At one point, her family sold their car and bought railroad tickets to travel! She took her first ocean cruise at the ripe old age of seven, traveling from Portland, Oregon, to Wilmington, California. “One of those really big waves hit the ship, and everyone sleeping on the lower bunks got all wet!”
In 1937, Larsen moved from South Dakota to Denver, Colorado, where she took a job as a live-in housekeeper. “Then my grandma called and asked me if I’d go to California with her. Let’s just say, it didn’t take me long to think about it!”
Leaving the early spring cold and snow of Denver, sunny California seemed even more desirable to the young Larsen! In California, she took employment again as a housekeeper, working for a young couple without children. The man was a professional cellist, who played background for the movies. Helen said she became good friends with the wife, and they often enjoyed activities together. “They had a tennis court in their backyard, so we played a lot of that.”
Larsen said spirituality has always been a driving force in her life. “I was always seeking the truth,” she explained, adding that she attended numerous churches in that pursuit.
“I even joined the Salvation Army,” said Larsen. “We would have Sunday street meetings. It was quite the adventure. I married a fellow from there.”
While the marriage didn’t last long, Larsen said she recognized one of her greatest accomplishments from the short union…her daughter Suzanne!
The marriage ended before her daughter was two. “I was devastated.”
But her sorrow didn’t last long. While living with her mother and father, who were involved with the Nottingham Company, she met the man of her future, Hubert Larsen.
“We married, and he later adopted Suzanne when she was five,” said Larsen. “We had a lot of fun together. We lived in North Hollywood, later moving to Rosemead, Calif, with his employment.”
Larsen found the spiritual home she had sought for so long with the LDS church. “I finally found the truth I was looking for. I kept busy in the church,” adding, she especially enjoyed activities that involved the youth. “I had taken some classes in storytelling, so I was always a favorite camp counselor.”
Her love of young people also translated into her career choice in education, which she began later than most. “I was a grandmother before I started teaching school,” admitted Larsen, with a grin. “I taught at West Covina High School in California for 20 years. Teaching was a great experience.”
Larsen said she valued her ability to read personalities, feeling it made dealing with the different students easier. “My Patriarchal blessing said I had the ability to discern spirits. That must have helped me!”
Aside from her teaching career, Larsen’s main passion has always been travel. “I’d go any time and any place I could.” She and her husband enjoyed many trips together, before he passed away in 1981. Helen smiles at the memories of the numerous countries they visited, and adventures they enjoyed.
Larsen’s globe must be filled with pins, because as the years have passed she’s continued to rack up the travel miles. She has visited China three times. “Well, it’s a big country. You have to go more than once to see it all!”
Kenya, Egypt, Greece and Turkey – Larsen’s passport has many stamps! How many of us would take on a trip to Antarctica at the ripe ole’ age of 87? “We even had to wear wetsuits,” she said.
Larsen said she’s done traveling now, “I don’t think I need to go anywhere else!”
But that doesn’t mean she’s slowing down! Helen, who moved to Kanab in 1999, stays busy with home teaching, and expanding her knowledge. Her creativity through the years is obvious. Her house is filled with art she collected in her travels, and many she has painted or penciled herself. Her rock collection is impressive, gathered stone reminders of her travels – a chunk of the Berlin Wall included!
Helen Larsen said that through her long colorful life, her greatest accomplishment is her daughter Suzanne. “She’s a kind and caring person.”
In addition, Larsen has been blessed with three grandsons (one passed away), eight great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren!
As for her greatest adventure. “I’d have to say riding on an elephant in the forest in Nepal,” said Larsen, adding that was where a most thrilling memory occurred. “I got to see a colorful male peacock fly about 35 feet up into a tree.” She said the colorful image has stayed with her through the years.
Helen Larsen’s best advice are words we should all pay attention to. “Life is a do-it-yourself job...with a little help from your friends!”