Smoke signals. (Grand Ronde, Or.) 19??-current, February 01, 2013, Page 6, Image 6

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    6 FEBRUARY 1,2013
Smoke Signals
Beloved, respected Tribal
Elder walks on at age 64
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signali editor
If the number of people who at
tended his Jan. 18 funeral service
is any testament, Tribal Elder Mi
chael Larsen touched many, many
people during his life.
"I've never seen so many people
as I see today," said Ken Haller,
who officiated the service, as he
surveyed the standing-room-only
crowd packed inside the Tribal
gym. "I think this shows you what
kind of man he was."
The much-respected and beloved
Tribal Elder walked on Monday,
Jan. 14, at the age of 64 at Wil
lamette Valley Medical Center in
His sudden passing prompted
Tribal Council to send a staff-wide
e-mail later that day.
"We would like to acknowledge
the passing of a beloved Tribal
Elder and member of the Confeder
ated Tribes of Grand Ronde family,"
the e-mail said. "It is with great sad
ness that we say goodbye to a man
who influenced many and played a
pivotal role in the formation of the
community we have today.
"Mike meant a great deal to many
and always offered an extended
hand to those in need. He helped
countless Tribal members seek and
gain employment, mentored those
who needed help and helped keep
them on their paths."
In announcing closure of the
Tribal Governance Center on the
afternoon of Friday, Jan. 18, so that
employees could attend Larsen's
funeral service, General Manager
Mark Johnston said, "Mike was
instrumental to the growth and
success of the Tribe and a friend to
one and all."
Larsen's funeral service drew a
throng of Tribal members, Tribal
employees and West Valley com
munity members.
The service opened with the
Grand Ronde Singers drumming
while an Honor Guard of Wayne
Chulik, Alton Butler, Wink Soder
berg, Raymond Petite, Gene La
Bonte and Brenda Tuomi brought
in the flags.
Larsen's service in the U.S. Navy
from 1966 to 1970 was honored by
Bud Abbott, representing the Wil
lamina chapter of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars, and a five-man rifle
squad, which honored Larsen with
a 15-gun salute that was followed
by the playing of taps.
Tribal Lands Manager Jan Mi
chael Looking Wolf Reibach played
"Amazing Grace" on Native flute
and Tribal Council member Steve
Bobb Sr. presented an American
flag to Larsen's family.
Following the flag presenta
tion, Bobb, who is Larsen's cousin,
recounted growing up in Grand
Ronde with him.
"We always told each other that
we were more like brothers than
we were cousins," Bobb said. "We
were blessed to grow up in the lov
ing, protective cocoon of the Grand
Ronde community. We grew up in
a time when the world turned a lot
Tribal Eldar Michael Larsan, saan In
this photo takan In 1967, sarvad in
tha U.S. Navy from 1966-1970.
He also recalled the time that
Larsen tracked him down in Viet
nam after Bobb, who had enlisted
in the Marine Corps, had seen some
"bad things."
"I was very homesick and very
fearful. On a hot, muggy morning
in April 1970, 1 had just gotten off
guard duty, went to get chow and
was getting ready to get in my rack
when the sergeant came by and
said, 'Hey, there's a guy out here
who wants to see you.' ... I went
outside and there stood Mike. I
was overwhelmed with relief that
here we were 12,000 miles away
from our homes and here was my
cousin who I grew up with standing
there. ...
"Mike was really more than just
my cousin. We were brothers. He
was my friend. He was my protec
tor." Following Bobb's emotional
speech, a 10-minute slideshow
was shown and then Larsen's
granddaughter, McKenna, read a
poem saying farewell to her grand
father. Announcement of Larsen's pass
ing elicited the most comments
ever in the two-year history of the
Tribe's Facebook page.
"Mike Larsen was a dear friend
and I will surely miss him," wrote
Tribal Elder Dakota Whitecloud,
who worked many years alongside
Larsen as the Tribe grew after
"He was truly an amazing man,"
Smoke Signals file photo
Tribal Eldar Mika Larsan, middla, shakas hands with Paggy Ross aftar ha and
Tribal Council Chairman Rayn Lano, laft, talkad at tha Govamor's Affirmativa
Action Offica Affirmativa Action Workshop in Salam in Octobar 201 0. Larsan
walkad on Monday, Jan. 1 4, at tha aga of 64.
wrote Jenny Moore, "and will be
missed by all those he touched."
"A huge loss for our Tribe," wrote
Perri McDaniel.
"Mike Larsen was a great man,"
wrote Stephanie Kellogg. "He treat
ed me with respect, accepting me
for who I am and always making
me feel welcome as if I was family.
... I will always cherish memories
of him."
"Mike was a very loving, thought
ful and caring individual," wrote
Patti LeClaire.
Larsen was born Aug. 6, 1948, to
Edward and Verna Riggs Larsen.
He graduated in 1966 from Wil
lamina High School and served in
the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1970
during the Vietnam War era. He
married Karen Hargitt on Dec. 31,
Larsen started working for the
Tribe in 1991 as the Community
Encourager, helping the Tribe plan
its health clinic, before becoming
interim general manager of Spirit
Mountain Casino. He also served
on the casino's board of directors
for 12 years and was its chairman
for seven years. Before his June 29,
20 12, retirement from more than
20 years of working for the Tribe,
Larsen was the Tribe's facilities
manager, overseeing grounds and
building maintenance.
"Mike worked honorably in sev
eral capacities during his decades
of service," Johnston said.
"I always considered Mike to be
an iconic figure in the presence of
the Tribe and the Grand RondeWil
lamina communities," said Director
of Public Works John Mercier when
Larsen retired. "Mike was involved
in our communities as a resident,
an employee within the community
of Willamina, an event organizer
and an overall positive contributor
to the communities and people.
"Mike's career and life were inun
dated with numerous challenges,
both professional and personal ...
Mike, faced these challenges head
on with a consistency, vigor and
devotion that made him overcome
the challenges for the betterment of
the Tribe. Most importantly, Mike
became a dear friend to many of us,
and he became a dear friend to me. I
won't go into any more detail about
what Mike has done for us because
Mike prefers to remain modest and
humble about his achievements."
Larsen lives on, however, in a
series of Spirit Mountain Commu
nity Fund ads that recently started
airing in Oregon.
"In addition to leading an amaz
ing life of service to his family,
Tribe and country, Mike lent his
beautiful voice and smile to our
Spirit Mountain Community Fund
commercials featuring the Lines
for Life Military Helpline and the
Columbia Riverkeepers," said Com
munity Fund Executive Director
Kathleen George.
"Mike was a proud Tribal member
and was amazingly generous with
his time and talent as he helped us
share the Tribe's vision of giving.
We hope that seeing him and hear
ing his voice in the videos can be a
comfort to his friends and family.
Mike, you are missed. Thank you
for your friendship."
Larsen also was well known
for his love of playing softball
. a slideshow during the funeral
service featured many photos of
Larsen playing the game and he
enjoyed socializing with people.
He is survived by his wife, Karen,
and four children, Jeff and Joey
Larsen and Jennifer and Craig
VanScoyk. He also is survived by
10 grandchildren (Devin, McK
enna, Corey, Nick, Caden, Ray, Edi,
Bobby, Imariahan and Isaiah); two
brothers, Eddie and Kenny Larsen;
and two sisters, Susie Gilliam and
Carol Larsen. He was preceded in
death by his sister Jeanne.
A visitation was held Thursday,
Jan. 17, at the Dallas Mortuary
Tribute Center.
Following the funeral service, a
community meal was held at the
Elders' Activity Center. B