Vernon and Joan (Gerken) Larson
Joan Edith Gerken was born on January 21, 1926, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken in Dubuque, Iowa, at home, at 2331 Jackson Street. Joan's birth certificate gives her date of birth as January 20, but her father maintained that an error had been made at the time, and her birthday was ever celebrated on January 21. Joan was the fifth of eleven children born to Ewald and Anna; her siblings were Louise, Donald, Teresa, Adrian ("Butz" or "A.J."), Dolores, Ewald ("E.J."), Mary, William (Bill), Daniel, and Loras.
Joan was raised in Dubuque, living at both the Jackson Street residence and then the residence at 1304 Rhomberg before her parents bought what became the permanent family home at 2820 Burlington Street. The family were members of Holy Ghost Catholic Church.
Life during the Great Depression.
The Gerken family was forced to go down to the food lines, located at the old post office building, where the telephone company later was, and Joan remembered that they "were treated like dirt," which made her mother Anna ashamed to go down there. They received rice, beans, and much cornmeal, the latter for which Joan developed a strong distaste, and she avoided cornmeal for the rest of her life. They also went down to the bakery, where they could buy a floursack of day old bread for ten cents. The family considered it a treat if they could get some cakes along with the bread. Keeping a large garden at home became a necessity, and they grew as much of their own food as possible.
Joan recalled receiving her first new dress when her father received a soldier bonus as a veteran of World War I.
The Gerken family went on many picnics, and many mornings Joan and the other children went swimming at Municipal Pool off the end of Rhomberg Avenue, where admission was free between ten and noon.
Education of Joan Gerken.
As was common in those days, Joan, naturally left-handed, was forced to write with her right hand, and she did so the rest of her life.
Three years later Joan completed her high school studies at St. Joseph Academy, the Class of 1943 being its Diamond Jubilee Commencement, the school having opened its doors at Thirteenth and Main Streets in Dubuque on October 9, 1868, as a boarding and day-school for girls, although by Joan's time the school no longer boarded students. In 1943 "DIPLOMAS FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE ACADEMIC [WERE] AWARDED TO" 28 students. (The Catholic high school for boys was Loras Academy; both schools eventually closed their doors when the co-educational Wahlert High School opened its doors in Dubuque.)
ARCHDIOCESAN SCHOOL BOARD
Postcards, Work, and Vernon Larson.
In a postcard from Joan addressed to "Mrs. 'Mom' Gerken, 2820 Burlington St, Dubuque, Iowa," postmarked May 15, 1944, and showing "Park Scene [the Grotto], Dickeyville, Wis.," she writes, "Dear Mom, Having a swell time and awful sunburn as you will see. Be home before you get this but I want it for my album. Love, Joan."
Later that year, Joan travelled to Bloomington, Wisconsin, and sent home a postcard, postmarked August 31, 1944, picturing the village, and wrote to her parents, "Hi, Got here O.K. Even though the Zephyr ride was short it was comfortable. It rained all day yesterday but today it is beautiful. On top of this hill in the foreground is where we are. It's sure nice up here. Saw the bread man today, and was he surprised to see me. Love, Joan." The bread man was undoubtedly someone she knew from work at Trausch's in Dubuque.
Postcards from her co-workers show Joan was working at Trausch in 1944 and in 1945 and at Deere in 1947 and in 1948; her employment at these places certainly is not limited to these dates. While Joan was still working at John Deere, she, along with some girlfriends, went to watch the men play basketball one night, and she first set eyes on a tall, blond Norwegian out on the court, a man named Vernon Larson.
Joan Gerken, V.E. Larson Say Vows.
Professor John Kelzer was organist and Miss Helen Johnstone vocalist for the nuptials, and in the bridal party were the bride's sister, Miss Mary Gerken, as maid of honor, Joseph Richard as best man, and Jack Johnstone and Donald Gerken as ushers.
The bride chose a gown of white net over satin for her wedding and a fingertip veil of illusion net with an orange blossom crown. She carried a bouquet of red roses.
A gown of green taffeta was worn by the maid of honor, and she carried pink gladioli. A navy blue ensemble accented with white trim was the choice of the bride's mother, and Mrs. Larson wore a navy blue floral print. They had corsages of white camelias.
A breakfast was given at the Gerken home after the church service.
Honeymoon to St. Louis.
An amusing letter Vern wrote to his folks back home in Argyle, Wisconsin, from the Boss Hotel in Fort Madison on September 11, 1949, the day after the wedding, follows (Note the heading!):
Luckily for Vern, the Cardinals soon returned to St. Louis for a home series, and the honeymooning couple were able to see them play the New York Giants. Both Joan and Vern kept scorecards during the game, a pitcher's duel which the Cardinals won 1-0; the only run of the game, scored by future Hall of Famer Stan Musial, came during the bottom half of the first inning.
Birth of Vernon Larson.
Vernon Larson's heritage.
Oscar Larson was well-educated, having attended college before taking over the family farm.
Oscar married Mary Nyborg on June 16, 1920, at the Cherry Branch (Wisc.) Parsonage. The wedding invitation was a simple 3 x 5 handwritten card: "Mr. and Mrs. Ener Nyborg request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Mary to Oscar H. Larson Wednesday, June, Sixteen,--Nineteen-twenty at eleven o'clock at their home, Wiota, Wis."
Mary Nyborg was born on April 26, 1905, in Wiota Township, Lafayette County, Wisconsin, to Ener and Martha (Ostby) Nyborg. Mary attended Owego Rural School in Wiota Township.
Oscar and Mary Larson lived and farmed in Wiota Township until 1962, when they moved into the village of Argyle, Wisconsin, having sold their farm to their daughter Lillian and her husband George DeNure. Mary worked at Oaktron Industries in Monroe, Wisconsin, from 1965 until her retirement in 1970. In 1992, Mary moved to Monroe to live with her daughter, Lillian DeNure. The Larsons were members of the Wiota Lutheran Church and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
A favorite poem of Mary's was "The First Snowfall" by James Russell Lowell, of which she had the opening stanzas memorized; these follow:
The poem goes on to tell of how a father's thoughts turn to "our first great sorrow," "a mound in sweet Auburn/Where a little headstone stood;/How the flakes were folding it gently,/As did robins babes in the woods" and how the snow that now falls on the grave of that daughter is "healing and hiding/The scar of our deep-plunged woe." Why Mary was so touched by this poem, as to be compelled to memorize it, is not known.
Oscar Herman Larson died on September 5, 1981, at home on Broad Street in Argyle, Wisconsin, at the age of 83 years. Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. on September 8 at the East Wiota Lutheran Church, with the Reverend Lyman Oman officiating. "How Great Thou Art" and "The Old Rugged Cross" were song selections for the funeral service. He was buried in the church cemetery in the Larson family plot. Pallbearers included six of Oscar's grandchildren, Norman Larson, Phillip Larson, David McDaniel, Gerald "Jerry" DeNure, James "Jim" Noble, and John "Jack" Noble. Oscar was survived by his wife Mary; three daughters, Mrs. Alfred (Gladys) Huber, Ridgeway, Wisc.; Mrs. James (Marian) McDaniel, Rock Island, Ill.; and Mrs. George (Lillian) DeNure, Rt. 2, Argyle, Wisc.; a son, Vernon, Dubuque, Ia.; thirteen grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by all six of his siblings, Ida, Laura, Petra, Clara, James, and Nora.
Mary (Nyborg) Larson died on Thursday, November 17, 1994, at her daughter's home in Monroe, Wisconsin. Visitation was held on Friday, November 18, from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Erickson Funeral Home in Argyle. Funeral services were held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 19, at the East Wiota Lutheran Church, with the Reverend Lisa L. Nelson officiating. The pallbearers were her grandsons, Jack and Jim Noble, Jerry DeNure, David McDaniel, and Phil and Tom Larson. She was laid to rest beside her husband.
Mary was survived by two daughters, Mrs. James (Marian) McDaniel, of Rock Island, Ill., and Lillian DeNure, of Monroe; a son, Vernon Larson, of Dubuque, Iowa; a sister, Emma Kubly, of Kenosha, Wisc.; 13 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren, seven great-great-grandchildren, and six stepgreat-great-grandchildren.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband; a daughter, Gladys Huber, on March 14, 1993; four brothers, Ador, Ever, and Morgan, and Towald in infancy; and three sisters, Carine Carruthers, Mabel Metz, and Eina Metz.
Education of Vernon Larson.
Vernon's sixth grade report card includes A's in Spelling, Arithmetic, and Language or Grammar and B's in Reading, Writing, Geography, History, and for Conduct.
He received his diploma from Lafayette County Schools in the State of Wisconsin on "6th day of June A.D. 1939" for "having completed the Course of Study in the Elementary Grades required by law in the Public Schools of the State." The diploma was signed by Kathryn A. Cullen, the County Superintendent of Schools.
Arleigh Johnson, the church school teacher at Cherry Branch School, gave Vernon "very good" marks in Bible History (93), Explanation (90), Catechism (92), Bible Reading (95), Composition (95), Music (90), and Deportment (95) for his attendance from June 8 to June 30 in 1939.
Vernon attended Argyle High School where he was a B student. His freshman classes (and grades) included English 9 (B), Business Training (B), General Science (C), and Citizenship (A). His tenth grade classes included English 10 (B), Elementary Algebra 10 (B), Biology (B), and World History (B). For eleventh grade Vernon had English 11 (B), Geometry 11 (C), American History 11 (B), and Ec. Geography (B). His senior year classes were English 12 (B), General Math (B), Physics (B), and Economics (B).
Vernon played basketball, football, and baseball in high school.
Argyle High School
Vernon was one of 38 students in the Class of 1943 that graduated in the Fifty-Third Commencement of Argyle High School. The commencement exercises were held Thursday, May 27, 1943, at eight o'clock in the high school auditorium. The class colors were blue and white, the class flower was the red rose, and the class motto was "Semper Fidelis" (Always Faithful). Clement F. Thompson was the high school principal. In a souvenir booklet "Commencement Memories," Vernon simply wrote "husband" under "My hopes and plans for the future." Other classmates autographed the booklet and wrote these humorous comments for what they wanted to be in the future (Keep in mind these were written in 1943!):
Vernon moves to Moline, Illinois.
Vernon served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He was inducted on October 28, 1943, and began active service on December 8, 1943, at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. From there he went to basic training at Keesler Field, at Biloxi, Mississippi. The weather in Mississippi was very rainy, and while there he took ill with the flu and spent time in the hospital.
While in the service, Vernon continued receiving the Atlas, the weekly paper of Argyle, Wisconsin, in order to keep up with news back home. In one letter to the folks at home, he noted, "Got another Atlas today. Certainly am glad I'm able to get that. It's getting so filled up with news of the service men there won't be any other news in it."
After training, he received a furlough and went home to the farm in Wisconsin to see his family before heading out to Seymour Johnson Field, near Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he reported for duty on February 29, 1944, to await shipment overseas. Travelling to North Carolina took Vernon through Richmond, Virginia, where, during a stopover, he had his haircut; what impressed him was that in the barbershop he could also have had his nails done. Barbershops back home definitely did not have manicurists on the premises!
Life in the army.
The letter continues, "This afternoon we got gas. Needn't need no A card either. We just went in the gas chamber, took a breath and we really had a tankful. We first went in the tear gas chamber. . . . We had our masks on when we went in, but had to take them off and walk out. Let me tell you it really burns.
"Next we went into the chlorine gas chamber. This gas is suppose to affect your lungs. We had to have our gas mask in the bag when we went in. Just as soon as we got in the chamber open up the bag and put on the mask, doubly quick too. It doesn't affect you unless you breathe so you can bet your boots I held my breath until the mask was on."
And another time Vernon wrote, "They have a dance here every Tuesday and Friday night so I guess I'll go down and walk over some of these Carolina babes' feet."
In late March Vernon was sent up to New Jersey. He had his picture taken there, but it was never received back home. Vernon figured the firm wasn't too worried about completing orders from the boys going overseas.
Vernon made it to New York City where he saw the Ice Follies; while there he also went to a night club where soldiers hung out, and he remembered that dances with the girls cost 10¢. Vernon wrote a postcard home, postmarked March 30, 1944, relating "Am now in N.Y. and I'm not lost much to my surprise." On the side of the card he wrote, "Wish I could be home milking the cow."
To England and France.
Relief from the pressures of duty overseas was sought in British pubs from time to time, and Vernon recalled how the pubs closed at 10 P.M., at which time the people poured out of the pubs and entered the streets to go home for the night. In a letter to the folks back home, Vernon wrote to explain that "a pub is similar to our tavern and a bitter of course is beer in our language. A pub differs from our tavern in the fact it is a more or less of meeting place after their day's work is done. They sit and discuss the news of the day and slowly drink their bitter. While we back home would practically be getting tight they would be finishing their first bitter."
After evenings spent in a pub like that one, Vernon missed one item from home. His mother liked telling the story of how Vernon had complained about having missed having a pot under the bed. His mother classic reply was "As for the pot, don't worry about that--you missed it at home, too!"
After four months of duty in England, first near Bath and then at Darlington, he saw service in France. From France in September 1944 Vernon commented in a letter a little about England, "Back at our previous base in England we were living in tents and that was kind of rough at first, but after living in them a considerable length of time you become accustomed to them. I prefer barracks though, but of course they are not always available.
"The only time I got a chance to get close to London was while I was in transient, but that was close enough to see some of the damage that had been done."
Vernon's pay as a private in the army was sixty dollars a month. Those back in the states received fifty dollars, but "the fellows overseas get a twenty percent increase in their pay."
The buck private made a corporal.
Vernon saw duty in France at Nancy and Dijon; he was also at Vannes. He was part of the Northern France and Rhineland campaigns in 1945. A letter from July 1945, after the war in Europe was over, placed him at Camp Detroit northwest of Reims.
Vernon saw Paris once, and he went to Montmartre nightclubs on the rue Pigalle for music and dancing, and he saw the tomb of Napoleon at the Invalides. The closest Vernon came to Germany was at Haguenau, in the northeastern tip of France.
Back to the States.
Vernon's military occupation was that of clerk typist, and as such he performed various duties in a military headquarters unit and prepared all types of military correspondence, records, and forms.
As his Group was being disbanded in November of 1945, Vernon found he had much paperwork to do. From Drew Field in Florida, Vernon wrote, "Most of the fellows of the 500th Air Sv Gp have been discharged. Most of the officers are around, but there are only about 6 enlisted men. The men are turning in the equipment. Myself, I thought I wasn't going to do anything. However there is quite a lot of paperwork to be accomplished when an organization is to be busted up and I am in on that."
A month later, on December 14, 1945, Vernon was anxiously awaiting his own discharge. He wrote, "As far as work is concerned I haven't anything since we got through deactivating the outfit. Just lay on the sack and read or sleep all day. Great life. Always rested for the evenings anyway.
"Until a day or two before Christmas when I shall see you all, I remain:
At the time of his military service, Vernon is recorded as being 6 feet, 4 inches, weighing 160 pounds, and having hazel eyes and blond hair. In a July 1944 letter Vernon reported home from England that he was "getting a pot," as he now weighed 188 pounds, but he would lose it all very quickly after his discharge, and he was down to 140 to 150 pounds in just a few months.
Vernon highest grade held was that of corporal. His last organization was Headquarters and Base Service Squadron 500 Air Service Group. He received the American Theater Ribbon, the EAME Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory Medal.
Corporal Vernon E. Larson receives honorable discharge.
Vernon did make it home for Christmas in 1945. And in celebration, Vernon was taken out for a night on the town by his father Oscar, in spite of the fact Vernon was not yet the legal age of 21!
Vernon returns to Moline, but is soon transferred to Dubuque, Iowa.
"The trip down here was all right. Didn't meet any pretty girls though."
He again took his lodging at 2304 6th Avenue in Moline, and his rent from February 20 to August 15 in 1946 was $12 a week.
In the middle of August 1946 Vernon transferred to the new John Deere Dubuque plant, and he boarded first at 909 West Fifth Street and later at 568 West Seventh Street in Dubuque. His first day of work in Dubuque was August 20, 1946. Classified Labor Grade 4, Vernon worked in the shipping department as an assistant to the foreman during his first several years at the Dubuque plant.
It was in this city where he met his bride, Joan Gerken, whom he married on September 10, 1949.
Vernon and Joan briefly lived with Joan's parents in Dubuque before moving into an apartment in Dubuque at 787½ Hill Street. With them in this apartment building also resided Joan's sisters and their spouses, Louise and Wilfred Coakley and Teresa and Don McCoy, as well as the young children of all three couples. The Larsons then moved out to Zwingle, Iowa, before buying the Gerken house at 2820 Burlington Street in Dubuque, which became their permanent home.
Vernon and Joan Gerken Larson had the following children, all born in Dubuque, Iowa:
A daughter, Dolores Ann Larson, was stillborn October 9, 1960, and she was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Dubuque, Iowa.
The Larson family were members of Holy Ghost Catholic Parish in Dubuque, where they attended Mass and where the children not only received the sacraments of the Church but attended elementary school as well.
Both occasionally travelled to tournaments across the state and across the continent. Some of these tournaments took Joan to New Orleans, Denver, and Chicago and took Vern to Cleveland and Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
From New Orleans, Joan sent home this postcard in April 1966:
Dear Vern & S.V.K.N.P.T.C.,
Karen joined her mother Joan on the bowling trip to Denver in the mid 1970s, and Norm and Vicki, who then lived at Albuquerque, New Mexico, travelled up to Colorado to visit them there.
The highest game Vern ever rolled was a 264, during a state bowling tournament in Burlington, Iowa. As a sidelight, during a tournament in Burlington, Vern had accidentally left behind a pair of cuff links, but he was pleasantly surprised when they were sent back to him in Dubuque. The highest game he rolled during league play in Dubuque was in the 250s. At a company-wide John Deere 4-man tournament one year, Vern and three others took home the championship trophy.
In January 1973 Joan made the sports section of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald with the headline "Joan Larson rolls another 600 total." The brief item read, "Joan Larson bowling in the Fischer Matinee league Thursday at Fischer Lanes strung games of 227-191-201 for a 619 series." Joan made the paper in "City's Best" listings for "High Game" and "High Series" in the paper for her scores in that league that week, and with her in the listings was her daughter Karen, who had rolled a 206 game and a 534 series for the highs in the Kings & Queens league.
Joan was a longtime member of the Dubuqueland Women's Bowling Association and its parent organization the Women's International Bowling Congress, and she was also a member of the Dubuqueland "600" Bowling Club.
Cards and Taverns.
Other taverns Vern frequented over the years included the Atom, the Choral Club, Jack Noel's, and Spielman's Lounge. At the Atom, which was located at 34th and Central, many Deere workers would cash their checks on Friday nights, and Vern, along with his father-in-law Ewald, often played some euchre there after doing so. With a grin on his face, Vern recalled how Ewald, who was a foreman at Deere and who was naturally earning more than the average worker, would get out of the game once the stakes were raised to more than a nickel a game!
After one particular Friday night bacchanal, Vern arose the next morning, and he took the old Dodge to the gas station and told the attendant, "Fillerup!" After the attendant pumped out a thimbleful, he came back to Vern and asked, "Are you kidding?" Turned out Vern had gotten the tank filled the night before! Vern made a point of emphasizing that the car did have a faulty gas gauge. This was when the family was living on Hill Street in Dubuque.
Puzzles and Reading.
Andy Piper, Vern's son-in-law, a sportswriter for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, wrote a feature article about the Larsons' horseshoe playing, and it appeared in the newspaper on July 10, 1997; the complete text follows:
Horseshoes in the yard: Anything but the pits
Knights of Columbus and Christmas parties.
Bingo and Parish festivals.
Cookie Jars and Auctions and Collectibles.
Joan's attendance at auctions led to a rather eclectic collection of other items, including Christmas odds and ends, anything picturing Currier and Ives lithographs, various pieces of glassware, kitchenware, washboards, crock pots, oil lamps, and much more. Joan also bought sets of Pyrex mixing bowls for her children when she came across them at sales. She would not hesitate to give her found treasures away to children; in fact, purchases were often made with them in mind.
Joan also collected souvenir plates and accumulated many cookbooks. She also made a point of saving fifty-cent pieces, silver dollars, bicentennial quarters, and other coins, and once in a while would take them to the bank to cash them in when a special purchase was to be made.
Moments in history.
The Chicago Cubs.
Vern also recalled going to see a professional football game at Soldier Field in Chicago between the Bears and the then-Chicago Cardinals.
In 1986, Vern travelled to California with Karen and Tom for a wedding. They travelled out by bus, but drove Karen's car back home, which she had left behind when she and Tom moved back to Iowa that spring. They also drove up to Boise to see Vern Jr. and his family on the return trip. At a racetrack there they saw Muhammad Ali, and Tom received his autograph. In 1987 Vern and Joan flew out to California to visit the Steve Larsons. Vern travelled to California again in 1995 with the Norm Larson family.
A month later the McCoys went to the Larsons for Christmas Day. Joan and Vern more or less held an open house on Christmas for any relatives who wanted to drop by. The Coakleys, who lived next door, often joined the festivities. Others who occasionally dropped in were Joan's brothers and their families, Loras from Dubuque, Ewald from Cascade, and Dan from Waterloo.
A buffet of traditional foods, including turkey, ham, German potato salad (Teresa McCoy's concoction, which included 10 pounds of potatoes with skins, 1 dozen eggs, 1 pound of bacon, and about 1 cup of vinegar and about 1 cup of sugar, both to preferred taste--husband Don McCoy was always the judge), and homemade pies, was laid out in the porch. Cookies and candies were spread throughout the house. Plenty of beer and pop was always on hand. Games were played, and the children enjoyed the company of cousins. Mom made Tom and Jerrys for everyone. Her recipe for this holiday concoction follows:
TOM AND JERRYS
The Larson house was always gaily decorated for the Christmas season, including a Christmas crib that Vern had made for holding a Nativity scene. A Christmas tree (sometimes two) was decorated with lights, ornaments, garland, and tinsel. Christmas cards were displayed in the hallway on the posts of the stair rail. Shelves and windows held all kinds of ornaments, bells, and figurines for decorations.
Christmas Eve became the time of the Larson family celebration of the holiday, with Vern and Joan, their children, and their grandchildren gathered for the afternoon and evening together. A large Christmas dinner was prepared and enjoyed, Christmas carols were sung, and Clement C. Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas was recited by all. Only after all that, usually around nine o'clock, were presents opened. During these later years Joan also gave her children Tom and Chris and all the grandchildren the special gift of an ornament at Christmas, on which she wrote the child's name and the year given.
The Larsons had a family reunion on Tuesday, August 7, 1979, the first time all seven children and Joan and Vern were gathered together in well over a decade. The reunion, arranged through the efforts of their son Norm and his wife Vicki, was a surprise for Joan and Vern, and held to celebrate their upcoming 30th wedding anniversary on September 10. Joan was presented with a mother's ring graced with the birthstones of her children, while Vern received a pocketwatch, inscribed from "The Magnificent Seven." The reunion was held at the home of their son Phillip of Dubuque. With all gathered for the reunion, the formal family portrait of the Larsons was taken that week.
Another family reunion.
In 1983 Vern and Joan's children were spread across the country, with Steve, Karen, and Tom all in California, and Vern Jr. in Idaho. Norm, Phil, and Chris were living in Dubuque. Plans had not been made for a Larson reunion that year, but when it came to be that Vern Jr. planned to make it back to Dubuque from Idaho, and with both Steve and Tom with vacation plans to Dubuque from California that August, Karen decided to make a surprise trip from California, and she booked passage on the same flight with Tom, which took them to Madison, Wisconsin. Upon their arrival in Madison, where Joan and Vern, along with Vern Jr., had come to pick them up, Tom departed from the airplane first and made his greetings, not saying a word about Karen being on the flight too. At the luggage carousel Karen made her appearance, happily surprising Vern and Joan.
With the Larsons now reunited, a family dinner was held at the Cock 'N Bull on August 13, 1983. Present were Vern and Joan, Steve and his wife Cathy, Vern and his two children by his first marriage, Kim and Pam, Karen, Norm and his wife Vicki, Phil and his wife Diane, Tom, and Chris. After the repast, everyone gathered at the home of Phil and Diane at 1781 Scenic View Drive in Dubuque, for lively conversation and card games, with cribbage and euchre the games of choice that night.
The Gerken family reunion was held the next day at Flora Park. Many photographs were taken at the event, and in true Larson fashion, each of the five boys was holding a drink when Vern and Joan's children were gathered for a picture. The Larsons all gathered for the reunion included the patriarch and matriarch, Vern and Joan; Steve and Cathy, and their children Tanya, Melissa, Christopher, of Santa Ana, California; Vern Jr., of Boise, Idaho, and his daughters Kim and Pam of Portland, Oregon; Karen, of Lodi, California; Norm and Vicki, and their children Mandy, Nick, Ben, and Mark, of Dubuque; Phil and Diane, of Dubuque; Tom, of Newport Beach, California; and Chris, at home.
Vernon retires from Deere.
Vern and Joan's 40th anniversary.
Don and Teresa McCoy's 40th anniversary.
Joan's health failing.
Joan, however, was not going to be kept down, and, once, straight out of the hospital, ready for something other than hospital food, she had Vern take her directly to Gene's Main Street Tap in Dubuque for a chili dog.
Joan Edith (Gerken) Larson died at home late in the afternoon on September 28, 1994, of complications resulting from diabetes. She had been bedridden for nearly a month before her passing, and had been under the loving care of her husband Vern and her daughter Chris to the end.
The wake was held at Gene Siegert & Son Westview Funeral Home, 2659 Kennedy Road, in Dubuque from 2 to 9 P.M. on Friday, September 30, which coincidentally was also the fifth wedding anniversary of her son Tom and his wife Deb. The Holy Ghost Parish wake service was held at the funeral home at 3:45 P.M.
The funeral mass was held at 10 A.M., Saturday, October 1, at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Dubuque, with the Reverend Frederick Fangmann saying the rites.
The pall was spread over the casket at the church by her husband Vernon and five of their children, Karen, Norman, Phillip, Thomas, and Christine. The pallbearers included her sons Phillip and Thomas, her son-in-law Andrew Piper, and her nephews Robert Coakley, Paul Gerken, and David McDaniel. Readings and petitions at the funeral mass were read by her children Thomas and Christine. "How Great Thou Art" was sung as the funeral procession left the church.
Joan was laid to rest at Mt. Calvary Cemetery (Jaeger Drive/Grave 13/Row 13) in Dubuque, Iowa. She was buried next to her sister and brother-in-law, Teresa and Don McCoy. A funeral dinner was held at Sweeney's restaurant north of Dubuque on U.S. 52 and a gathering at the Larson home at 2820 Burlington Street followed.
Surviving Joan were her husband, Vernon E. Larson, Sr., of Dubuque; two daughters, Karen (and Larry) Meyer and Christine (and Andrew) Piper, both of Dubuque; five sons, Stephen (and Cathleen) Larson, of Corona, Calif., Vernon Jr., of Boise, Idaho, Norman (and Vicki) Larson and Phillip (and Diane) Larson, both of Dubuque, and Thomas (and Debra) Larson, of Riceville, Iowa; 17 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter; two sisters, Dolores Gerken, of Farley, Iowa, and Mary Temple, of Tulsa, Okla.; and four brothers, Adrian Gerken, of Naperville, Ill., Ewald Gerken, of Cascade, Iowa, William Gerken, of Farley, and Daniel Gerken, of Waterloo.
She was preceded in death by two sisters, Louise Coakley and Teresa McCoy; and two brothers, Donald and Loras Gerken.
A poem in memory of his mother.
Vern in 1996.
Having his offspring Karen, Norm, Phil, and Chris all living in Dubuque, who among them had eleven of Vern's eighteen grandchildren, provided Vern with an array of activities ranging from birthday parties, school activities, and sporting events, to the large family gatherings of Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, as well as those times when folks just stop by to visit.
Vern's excursions in 1996 took him to Rock Island, Illinois, to see his sister Marian and her husband Jim McDaniel; to Riceville, Iowa, for Tom and Deb Larson's annual party; to Monroe, Wisconsin, to see his sister Lillian; to Chicago for a Cubs ballgame with the Norm and Vicki Larsons, the Karen and Larry Meyers, the Phil and Diane Larsons, and the Chris and Andy Pipers; and to Farley, Iowa, to see Bill (Joan's brother) and Donna Gerken, and Dolores Gerken (Joan's sister).
When son Tom and his wife Deb visited Dubuque, Vern and Tom often battled over who would pay the tab for lunch. Lunch was often at a place where a burger and a beer could be obtained, such as the West Dubuque Tap or the Dubuque Mining Company. Tom and Deb often stayed at Vern's house on their trips back to Dubuque from Riceville, Iowa.
Vern continued playing pinochle at the tavern on Friday nights and attending Mass at Holy Ghost on Sundays, and he celebrated his 71st birthday with a family dinner at Sweeney's restaurant on August 29, 1996.
Vern sells family home to daughter Chris.
Vernon's health deteriorates.
Tom and Deb had moved back to Dubuque County, to Peosta, and one weekend in June 2001, Tom was asked to tend to Vern while the Pipers were out of town. Vern had recently been sleeping in until 10 or so, so Tom was there early at the house when he arrived at 6:30 a.m. Tom checked on him once in a while, but he continued to sleep and snore. As it got past 11 a.m., however, he started getting worried, and now when he went in to check, Vern muttered out the words (not knowing Tom was there), "Here I come." Tom could only think, "You're not going anywhere on my watch." Tom asked him then if he was going to get up, apparently surprising Vern with his presence, and Vern responded, "No, not really." Not used to this, Tom called his brother Norm and had him come over to help get Dad moving. After getting him out of bed and on his medicine, Vern was much better, and even ended up sitting outside for awhile while his son Phil was working on replacing the back door.
Activities toward the end.
The following Friday, Tom and Deb went down to the Instant Replay, in anticipation of the usual Friday night outing. Karen then stopped by after work also. But Vern would not be coming down this night. Norm called the tavern to say that things looked bleak, and that death seemed near. Dad had not been eating--over the course of the summer he had found it more and more difficult to swallow--and he was becoming gravely weak. The time had come to say their final good-byes.
Vernon E. Larson, Sr., dies.
Karen, Norm, Tom, and Chris met with the Reverend Paul T. Otting at Holy Ghost Church at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the funeral service and other arrangements. Phil and Andy, Chris's husband, joined the others when they met with Tom Siegert of Egelhof - Siegert & Casper Westview Funeral Home at 1 p.m. to make other necessary arrangements for the wake and funeral.
Friends called from 2 to 9 p.m., Friday, August 31, 2001, at Egelhof, Siegert & Casper Westview Funeral Home, 2659 Kennedy Road, Dubuque, Iowa, where Father Otting held the Holy Ghost Parish scripture wake service at 3:30 p.m. Vern's grandson Nick Larson read a poem he had written for his grandpa the Christmas before that celebrated Vern's gift of life to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Pictures and other items, such as cards, caps, and a jacket, representing Vern's life were on display at the funeral home. Below is a collage of images that was on display at the wake.
The family gathered at the funeral home at 9 a.m. Saturday morning to view Vernon one last time before the procession to the church. The funeral procession traveled down John F. Kennedy Road to West 32nd Street to Holy Ghost Church on Central Avenue. Many were already gathered at the church, awaiting the procession. The pallbearers were Vern's son Thomas Larson; sons-in-law Larry Meyer and Andrew Piper; and grandsons Nicholas Larson, Benjamin Larson, Mark Larson, and Peter Larson. Vern's children Karen, Norman, Phillip, Thomas, and Christine spread the pall over the casket. The funeral mass was said by Father Otting at 10 a.m., Saturday, September 1, 2001, at Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Dubuque, Iowa. Vern's daughter Christine Piper read the first reading and responsorial psalm, and son Thomas read the second reading and petitions. "How Great Thou Art" was sung as the funeral procession left the church and the white pall was replaced by the American flag.
The funeral procession left the church following Central Avenue, East 22nd Street, Windsor Avenue, and Davis Street to Mount Calvary Cemetery in Dubuque. Father Otting conducted the graveside service, and military rites were accorded by the American Legion Post 6 of Dubuque with a gun salute and the playing of Taps in an overwhelmingly emotional ceremony. The American flag was presented to Norman after removal from the casket. Vernon was interred in Section 17, Row 13, Plot 12, beside his wife Joan and alongside his in-laws, Don and Teresa McCoy. Vern once said they were awaiting him so they could once again play euchre together, and now the foursome was complete.
A funeral dinner was held at Sweeney's restaurant north of Dubuque on U.S. 52 and a gathering at the Larson home at 2820 Burlington Street followed.
Vernon Larson was survived by five sons, Stephen (Cathleen) Larson, of Corona, California, Vernon Larson, Jr., of Boise, Idaho, Norman (Vicki) Larson and Phillip (Diane) Larson, both of Dubuque, Iowa, and Thomas (Debra) Larson, of Peosta, Iowa; two daughters, Karen (Larry) Meyer, and Christine (Andrew) Piper, both of Dubuque, Iowa; a sister, Lillian DeNure, of Monroe, Wisconsin; and 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Joan, on September 28, 1994; a stillborn daughter, Dolores; and two sisters, Gladys Huber and Marian McDaniel.
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