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About Smoke signals. (Grand Ronde, Or.) 19??-current | View Entire Issue (April 1, 2017)
S moke S ignals
APRIL 1, 2017
ne and not fight about it'
“My way was to get it done and
not fight about it,” Ed says of his
time on Tribal Council. “My idea
was to make it work whether it was
my idea or somebody else’s idea. I
think my strongest deal was getting
along with people.”
Ed is also well known throughout
the area for his fashion sense. He
sports cowboy hats, leather jackets
and big boots in a way that sets him
apart from the crowd.
“One of the more recognizable fea-
tures of the pictures of those early
meetings was his hat,” Mercier says.
“He always wore those big cowboy
hats,” says Tribal Chairman Reyn
Leno, who grew up across the street
from Ed’s family in Grand Ronde.
“He always just seemed to be say-
ing this is the way I am. Ed always
remembered he was a Grand Ronde
Indian and that is what made him
successful when he was on council.
He cared about people. He was
really supportive of those issues
like veterans and Elders. He was
raised here in Grand Ronde when
you respected your Elders. People
don’t do that anymore.”
Leno says he spent a lot of time
at the Larsen household as a child
growing up and that if he wasn’t
at their house the Larsen children
were at his house.
“I’ve known Ed all my life; as far
back as I can remember being a
kid,” Leno says. “We grew up and
we were Grand Ronde. He was the
same. He was Grand Ronde Indi-
an. He was willing to tell anyone
he was a Grand Ronde Indian. He
never was not. He was always very
proud of it.”
Leno says Ed was a key player in
the opening of the Tribe’s casino.
“He knew so many people and so
many people knew him,” Leno says.
“He had a clear vision because he
grew up here and he knew we didn’t
have nothing but a cemetery – ab-
Ed and his brothers have always
been sports fans and Ed played
varsity basketball while attending
school in Willamina. He still plays
Tribal Elder Ed Larsen and his wife, Shirley, on their wedding day on Oct. 23,
1976. They were married in Grand Ronde.
basketball despite the effects of
Parkinson’s and he went to a Port-
land Trail Blazers game with his
brother Kenny last year.
“I follow the Oregon schools,” Ed
says. “I’m an Oregon State guy be-
cause of Mike, but I pull for Oregon
when they are not playing Oregon
Ed played in the 1960 Oregon
State High School Class A-2 Boys
Basketball Tournament at Marsh-
field High School in Coos Bay.
“We were the dark horses,” Ed
says. “We took fourth in the league
and then won in the district playoffs.”
Willamina High finished the
1960-61 season 18-6 after defeating
Clatskanie 59-57 in the quarterfi-
nals and then beating Myrtle Point
42-38 to make it to the champion-
ship game. The Bulldogs lost to
Sherwood’s St. Francis Catholic
A young Ed Larsen imitates his father, Ed Larsen Sr., as a baseball player.
High School 51-40 in the finals.
“At the high school there was
always a picture of Ed in his bas-
ketball uniform in the trophy case. I
would always go by and say ‘That’s
my cousin Ed’,” says Tribal Elder
and former Tribal Council member
Steve Bobb Sr. “He was always a
protector because he was older.
He was really athletic. He was a
good basketball player. He was
one of the guys we all looked up to
and wanted to be like – you know
athletic, strong. He had that type of
personality that we always wanted
to be like him.”
Bobb says it was because of people
like Ed and Ed’s best friend Dave
“Punk” Leno that the young guys his
age got to be a little more free to be
who they wanted to be.
“Those guys were like protec-
tors of us young guys,” Bobb says.
“That’s the way it was for
Bobb says one of his fa-
vorite memories associat-
ed with Ed is when Ed was
driving log trucks.
“I don’t know how many
people remember this but
he could do the Tarzan
yell,” Bobb says. “When
he drove past my grand-
parent’s place over here
on (Highway) 22 on a sum-
mer day, he would do that
Tarzan yell out of the win-
dow of the truck. I would
hear him every time. I’ll
always remember that it
was pretty cool. He did it
Ed and his brother Mike
were close and they each
dedicated their adult lives
to the betterment of the
Tribe and its people.
“They lived almost iden-
tical lives here,” Reyn
Leno says of the brothers.
“Mike didn’t really have anything
bad to say about people. You never
heard hardly anyone ever say a
bad word about them. And they
didn’t really say a bad word about
Leno says Ed was a recognized
leader in the Tribe because of how
he carried himself.
“Ed was a silent leader,” Leno
says. “But he was considered a
leader because people knew he was
a straight-talker. He wasn’t going
to tell you just what you wanted to
hear; he was going to tell you here
is what it is and we just need to
make it better.”
Tribal General Manager Dave
Fullerton spends much of his time
with Ed these days. They cut wood,
stack hay and eat hearty breakfasts
on the weekends, and the duo has
become a mainstay at the casino
on Monday night Elders’ dinners.
“Ed is a guy that likes to main-
tain tradition and keep things alive
whether it’s a story he tells you or
something he says to remind you of
what things used to be like around
here,” Fullerton says. “The Monday
night dinner is a way for Ed to repay
people for helping him out. He sees
real value in returning a favor. I
think he sees value in people know-
ing those stories. Ed is a storyteller.
He can tell you exactly what was
said from conversations years ago.”
Fullerton says he has repeatedly
watched Larsen put others’ needs
before his own.
“One of the things that I would
say about Ed is he really values his
family,” Fullerton says. “He is al-
ways putting his family or people in
his family before his needs. Always.
And I would say that people don’t
realize about him is that he always
goes out of his way to say ‘Hi’ to all
the housekeepers and waitresses
and bus people at the casino. The
Keno callers, the wait staff – every-
one down there knows him because
he goes out of his way to say ‘Hi’ to
them and have a conversation with
them and ask how they are doing.”
Fullerton says he always admired
the way Larsen treated Tribal staff.
“He generally just appreciates
people,” Fullerton says. “He doesn’t
put numbers in his phone; he just
memorizes phone numbers. He
remembers people’s birthdays. He
is one of the council members that
when he was on council he truly
appreciated the employees at the
Tribe. You could ask any long-term
employee and they will have a sto-
ry about Ed Larsen. When I take
him to town he is buying chocolate
treats for the ladies at the clinic.
That’s just how he is.”
Greene says he knew Larsen was
a solid leader when he saw how in-
tently he listened during meetings.
“I think grounded is an excellent
word to describe Ed,” Greene says.
“He was one of those people who
knew where he came from and
knew his mission was to improve
the lives of his people. He main-
tained that throughout the course
of his time on council and the Spirit
Mountain board. Ed could carry the
message of the Tribe.” n