Bruce Larson

Bruce Larson

URBANA – Bruce Linder Larson, 88, of Urbana passed away on Wednesday (Sept. 30, 2015) at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 5, at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Urbana; the Rev. Robert Rasmus will officiate. Burial will be in Mount Hope Cemetery, Champaign. Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Renner-Wikoff Chapel and Crematory, Urbana.

Bruce was a professor of biochemistry and nutritional sciences in animal sciences at the University of Illinois (UIUC) College of Agriculture for more than 40 years, retiring in 1992.

Born June 24, 1927, in Minneapolis, he was the younger of two sons of Leif R. and Olive H.R. Larson (Linder). He married Helen Hersleth on Sept. 24, 1954.

Preceding him in death were his brother, Raeder, 70 in 1995; his wife Marjorie, 80 in 2006; and his youngest son, Brian, 22, in 1986. Bruce is survived by two sons, Dr. Eric M. Larson of Urbana, born in 1956, and David B. Larson of Tustin, Calif., born in 1958; and two granddaughters, Katherine and Jennifer Larson. He and Marjorie also had a "bonded" daughter, Karen Athy-Penrose, who with husband and four daughters were considered family. In 2011, Bruce married Janice Wilson; she survives.

A Depression child, Bruce and his family moved to Chicago where he contracted polio in 1931 and then back to Minneapolis where the crippling effects were overcome. He left high school before graduation in 1944 to enroll in the University of Minnesota receiving a Bachelor of Science in 1948 and a Ph.D. in 1951.

Bruce started a teaching and research program in 1951 in Illinois on milk proteins and cellular mechanisms involved in the synthesis of milk. Internal support was augmented by many external grants from the National Science Foundation, National Cancer Institute and other sources. It resulted in more than 140 research papers, books and related publications. He edited a four-volume comprehensive treatise on lactation authored by international agriculture and medical scientists.

He traveled extensively to many countries. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina in 1965 with family. He was in Russia in 1961, the week the Berlin Wall was constructed. He was with Marjorie in India in 1971 to help dedicate a new nuclear facility and lecture on radioactive fallout and the use of radioisotopes in biological research. Two days after meeting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India and Pakistan were at war with each other. After several hectic days, Bruce and Marjorie escaped India by way of Iran.

Bruce served on many campus committees, including General University Policy, Promotion and Tenure, Statutes and Procedures, and dean and chancellor searches. He was chairman of the Board of Directors of the UIUC Athletic Association (AA) around 1990 when the AA Board of Directors and UI Board of Trustees jointly abolished the AA and brought intercollegiate athletics under the campus administration of the chancellor.

Bruce was an outdoor enthusiast who loved wilderness camping and canoeing in northern Minnesota and Canada. He was an Eagle Scout and later an adult scout leader. He and Marjorie had a cabin on the shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. He recognized early the vulnerability of unique wilderness areas and that there would be a growing need to preserve many of these natural lands for future public benefit. He was involved with the Izaak Walton League of America for more than 50 years, working for the preservation of native environment including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.

He was elected for 42 years (1967-2009) to the Urbana Park Board of Commissioners and was board chairman for 33 years, a state record. He was actively involved with land acquisition, helping to increase the number of parks in Urbana from six to more than 20. He was a founder of the Urbana Parks Foundation. In June 2014, the Urbana Park District renamed Wheatfield Park to Larson Park in honor of his 42 years of service to the Urbana Park District.

Elected to the Board of the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD), he rewrote its constitutional by-laws and served as president in 1995. In 1991, he helped establish IPARKS (Illinois Parks Association Risk Services), a self-insuring pool of Illinois park districts for which he served as the first chairman and on the board since; IPARKS now insures about half of the 350 Illinois park districts resulting in millions of dollars saved for Illinois taxpayers.

Bruce was involved with the University YMCA for many years, serving as chairman of the Board of Directors in 1967-70. Part of that time, he was also the acting executive director. Later, he served on the board of trustees. Bruce was a long-term member of the Urbana Exchange Club and was for many years a member of the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation.

A member of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana, in the early 1960s he persuaded a land owner on Philo Road in southeast Urbana to sell some land to the congregation where a new church was built in 1964. Years later, a promise was kept resulting in more land for the church.

He has received many awards. Of note is a gold medal from the American Chemical Society, Outstanding Board Member of the Year award from the National Park and Recreation Association, Lifetime Conservation award from the Izaak Walton League of America, Funk award from the College of Agriculture and the Resident of Distinction award from the Half Century Club of Urbana.

Memorials may be made sent to the Urbana Park District or to St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana.

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