FRANKLIN — William Lauritz Larsen was born on Nov. 16, 1945 in Richmond Terrace in Staten Island, N.Y. His father, Jacob Larsen, immigrated to the U.S. from Norway in the late 1920s and his mother, Sylvia (Olsen) Larsen, was born in New Jersey to Norwegian immigrants. Will attended Richmond High School and pursued interests in film and photography, making 8mm monster movies and attending local stock car races with his friends. In 1965 Will came to Vermont to attend Johnson State College and thus began a highly successful lifelong masquerade as a “real Vermonter.”
After completing his studies in 1969 he secured a teaching job at Barnet Elementary School and worked there for three years. In 1968 he and Elizabeth Wells were married in a small ceremony in Marshfield. They moved to Franklin in 1972 and soon after Will began teaching at Sheldon Elementary School, where he would work for the next 34 years. He received a masters degree at Trinity College in 1999. During his tenure at the Sheldon school, Mr. Larsen made countless lifelong friendships and was beloved by multiple generations of students, many of whom he connected with as adults later in life.
Will loved music; traveling frequently around New England and as far away as New Orleans and San Francisco to see live performances of the artists he liked. Will and his buddy Laslo enjoyed several Grateful Dead shows. He had insatiable curiosity about and encyclopedic knowledge of performers and bands, and curated a wide-ranging and comprehensive library of recordings. He was an occasional guitar and banjo player throughout his life, and after retiring in 2006 he became an enthusiastic devotee of the ukulele, practicing daily at home and playing regularly with the Montpelier Ukulele Group.
After his diagnosis with metastatic cancer in November 2015, Will and Betty continued to enjoy friends, family, music, and adventures, making multiple trips to California to visit their daughters, reconnecting with Will’s brother John and John’s daughters in Phoenix, Ariz, cruising the Panama Canal and going on safari in South Africa with Betty’s brother Richard, playing shows around Vermont with the ukulele group and spending quality time with friends old and new. In August 2018, Will and Betty celebrated 50 years of marriage surrounded by loved ones in the Groton State Forest.
Will passed away in the early evening on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2018. He was at home with his family, listening to Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.
Will was predeceased by his parents Jacob and Sylvia and his brother John.
He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughters Kristina Larsen and Anna Larsen [Cameron Neilson], and his beloved grandson Elliott Neilson, who called his grandfather “Morfar” in tribute to their Norwegian heritage. He is also survived by his sister, Karen [Jim Thebold], his Larsen and Jarrett cousins, his in laws, Richard [Darla], Ronald [Marylou], Russell [Linda], Raegan, Randall [Stacy], Rodney Wells, Elaine [Dennis] Clisham, and many nieces and nephews, including his brother’s daughters Marlyn and Tara, and his sister’s children Robbie and Samantha.
Will’s family is grateful for the professional, compassionate care and support provided throughout his illness by the Central Vermont Medical Center and Home Health.
A celebration of Will’s life will be held at the Haybarn theater at Goddard College in Plainfield, May 18, 1 p.m. Bring stories! Memorial donations in memory of Will can be made to Cancer Center Patient Fund Branches of Hope, Office of Development CVMC, PO Box 547, Barre VT 05641; or CVHHHospice, 600 Granger Road, Barre VT 05641-5369; or Mr. L’s Music fund, Sheldon School Library, 78 Poor Farm Rd Sheldon, VT 05483.