TUCSON, Ariz. – Wanda Spencer Larson, 95, died Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, in Tucson, Ariz., following a brief illness.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Federated Church of Paxton with Rev. Colleen Lawrence and Rev. Tom Jones officiating. There will be fellowship and refreshments after the service in the church basement.
Mrs. Larson was born Jan. 21, 1918, in Bridgeport, the only girl in a family of four brothers. Her father, Charles Spencer, was an undertaker and owned furniture and hardware stores until 1927, when he moved the family to Champaign, with the intention of his children attending the University of Illinois. After his death in a train accident in 1928, Mrs. Larson's mother, Maude Spencer, raised her five children in Champaign.
Mrs. Larson graduated from the University of Illinois in 1938 at the age of 20. She was a member of Chi Omega sorority, the Mortar Board and Torch societies, and was active in the Women's League.
After graduating from college, Mrs. Larson taught at Champaign Junior High until 1942, when she married Paxton native and fellow UI alumnus H. P. "Bud" Larson Jr. During Bud's wartime service as a pilot in the Army Air Corps, Mrs. Larson moved to Paxton to live with her in-laws, H.P. "Had" Larson and Katherine "Kit" Larson.
At the end of World War II, Mrs. Larson and her husband made their home in Paxton, where Bud wrote for the Paxton Record before taking over his family's business interests, including men's clothing store P. Larson & Co. Their four children attended Paxton schools and were the center of the Larsons' interests and activities.
Both Mrs. Larson and her husband worked actively to preserve and better Paxton. Mrs. Larson served on the boards at the Paxton Carnegie Library and at the Federated Church and as president of the American Legion Auxiliary. Mrs. Larson taught school in Paxton off and on for 25 years and initiated the Title 1 math program in Paxton.
Family and friends remember Mrs. Larson as sparkling with humor and energy. She valued hard work and education. She was independent of mind and a quiet leader. She was always interested in learning people's histories and would have a stranger at ease, sharing his life story within minutes of meeting. She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother, never done taking care of her family, always with time and interest for hearing about a child's activities, or reading a grandchild's school reports.
Mrs. Larson is survived by her four children, Pete (Donna) Larson of Arlington, Va., Judy (Bill) Hay of Denver, Colo., Kitty (Greg) Anderson of Paxton and Bobby Larson of Tucson, Ariz.; eight grandchildren, Melissa (Alex) Nesic, Emily (Bill) Hinsdale, Andrew (Ayse) Hay, Matt (Sarah) Anderson, Anna Anderson, Amanda Larson, Spencer Larson and K.J. Larson; and five great-grandchildren, Clara Hinsdale, Rose Hinsdale, Sebastien Nesic, Huxley Nesic and Kaan Hay.
Memorials may be made to the Paxton Federated Church, the Paxton Carnegie Library or the PBL Education Foundation.