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Monday May 2nd, 2022
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Tuesday May 3rd, 2022

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Donna Byrne Larson

Donna Byrne Larson, 94, of North Ogden passed away on April 29, 2022, of a life well lived. She departed while in her home, surrounded by her loving family and her devoted granddaughter and tireless caregiver, Kathy Casey.

Donna was born on October 22, 1927, to Walter M. Byrne and Luella Sharp Byrne in Millburne, WY. She was proud to be among the few who were educated for 8 years at the Piedmont School House in Wyoming that is now a listed railroad ghost town. While in Wyoming, she attended Mt. View High School (1942-43) before moving to Ogden and graduating from Ogden High School in 1946.

She was devoted to her husband and family. She married Ralph A. Larson on August 28, 1946, in the Salt Lake City Temple and went on to have four sons—Grant, David, Robert and Keith.

She had a passion for the land and owned two fruit orchards, growing peaches, apricots and cherries that the community loved. She loved teaching her children and grandchildren the value of enjoying song, work and play.  She enjoyed wonderful outings, camping and vacations with her sons and their families traveling the world over.

Donna worked at the Union Pacific Laundry during WWII and later for the Ogden City Schools lunch program. She gave 35 years of service as Sunday School Coordinator and  secretary for the Weber Heights Stake as well as a teacher in the Primary, Sunday school and as Ward librarian in the 37th Ward in Ogden. At the time of her death she was a member of the 7th Ward, North Ogden Stake.

Donna was preceded in death by her husband, Ralph and their son Robert A. Larson and  wife Lori of Roy, UT; brother Francis W. and wife Emma Byrne of Simi, CA; sister La Rae Rasmussen and husband Ron of Willard, UT and her brother-in-law Clifford Crompton, of Orem, UT.

She is survived by her sons, Grant R. (Sarah) Larson of North Ogden; David W. (Evelyn) Larson of Syracuse, UT and Keith D. (Pamela) Larson of Ogden, UT. Also surviving is her sister, Fae Crompton, of Orem UT.

Donna has 43 grandchildren, 79 great grandchildren and 19 great-great grandchildren.

Services will be held at Leavitt's Mortuary, 836-36th St., Ogden, Utah. Friends may visit with family on Monday May 2, 2022 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm and Tuesday, May 3 from 10:00 – 11:00 am. Funeral Services will begin at 11:00 am.

Interment at Ben Lomond Cemetery, 526 E. 2850 N., North Ogden

Condolences may be sent to the family at:  www.leavittsmortuary.com

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A Donna Byrne Larson written and given at her funeral by son Keith at Leavitt’s mortuary in Ogden Utah, on May 3, 2022

Mom was born in Millburne Wyoming and then she grew up in nearby Piedmont. At that time, Piedmont was an old dying railroad town. In it’s best days the small town may have had some 20 homes, a hotel, a train turn table and watering tank and of course a one room school house which has been relocated but still stands in glory today.

For mom the town was surrounded by land, land, and more land. As far as you could see just land and wind. Lots of wind.

There were a lot of chores and fun to be had with her siblings Francis, Fae, Larae and the few neighbors and cousins that lived nearby but there was a lot of time to long for a better place to live.

People were leaving and the only thing keeping mom’s family in Piedmont was the fact the her mother and father carried the mail in the region. They could live anywhere that was central to mail pickup and delivery. Piedmont is where Luella and Walter had their roots so they stayed put.

Mom enjoyed the days when she got to go with her parents to nearby cities for food and supplies. She really loved going to the big city of Ogden.

The Muddy Creek

There was a creek that flowed through Piedmont that was called The Muddy Creek. It also flowed past one of the 3 pony express stations, just a few miles away, that her great grandfather Moses Byrne had built.

The muddy creek was by no means a water oasis. It was a popular diversion for the children in Piedmont where they played and cooled off in the summer but it became a curse for mom.

One day mom was swimming at muddy creek when she was bit by a dear fly and as a result see got tularemia. Over the next year and a half mom had several reoccurrences of the sickness that brought on fevers as high as 106°. She was taken to doctors who misdiagnosed or miss treated her symptoms. One doctor was helpful and she recovered but not before damaging her eyesight which required her to wear thick glasses in the aftermath. Mom missed nearly one year of school with the sickness and when she returned to school she was laughed at and called “Frog eyes” as well as “Four eyes.” She later explained that she didn’t care because she could see and nothing else mattered.

In 1942, Mom moved to Ogden with her family.
World War II was in full swing.
Mom loved Ogden. There was so much to do. And most of all….so much life. People where everywhere.
Mom witnessed downtown Ogden move into a decline over her lifetime. It didn’t decline like Piedmont but Mom loved to reminisce about the once crowded streets of Ogden. She explained how the streets were packed.
Mom: 25th Street was the heart of the city.
People would go downtown just to watch the trains come in.
You never knew what famous person might step down onto the platforms.
Mom explained: Sometimes the trains were loaded with troops.
Mom would go on to say: When the war was over, you couldn’t believe the joy downtown. People were just grabbing each other and hugging and kissing complete strangers.
She would say: Oh Keith, I wish you could have seen it.

The troops came home and dad arranged a blind date with mom.
15 minutes after meeting mom he got down on his knees and proposed marriage to her.
Mom said: Sure!?
When dad brought up the story, mom would add: I thought he was just joking.

Dad loved to try and get reactions out of everyone by relating how he proposed after just knowing mom for 15 minutes.
On occasion I would hear mom say: Ralph, After the war, all the boys were fast. You were just faster than most.

Mom said: After she accepted his proposal they went down to the local theater and had their first kiss. She called it “necking.”

Mom and dad married in August of 1946.

Mom’s new mother-in-law, Edith was a descendant of one of the pioneers that Brigham Young sent to Southern Utah. He was given land and told to help develop St. George.

Edith wanted land for herself here, in Ogden, so she purchased a garden plot about 600 feet from where we are sitting right now, on Quincy avenue. The land would eventually accommodate 4 building lots but at the time of Mom and dad‘s marriage there was just a small 5‘ x 5‘ tool shed right in the center of the lot.

Grandma Edith and grandpa Alfred gave the entire lot to mom and dad as a wedding gift.
Being post World War II and with building materials being scarce, Mom and dad added additional rooms to the tool shed as scrap lumber became available at nearby Hill Field.

Edith, later approached mom and dad about going in halves on the purchase of some available orchard land in North Ogden.

Dad didn’t want anything to do with it but mom coaxed him into the shared purchase.
One orchard became two and thereafter they were growing and selling fruit to the nearby North Ogden Canning Company. All the while, dad was employed full time at Hill Field.

Mom and dad raised 4 boys during this time (Grant, David, Robert and Keith). The orchard was even given a featured story in the Ogden Standard Examiner with a nice sized photo of the young family posing on and near the Ford N-1 tractor that was the muscle power of the orchard

The Orchard had its challenges and sometimes rewards.
Mom and dad asked themselves if it was really worth it. Profitable years were rare but they always knew that in the end it would be a good investment as they knew someday they would subdivide and sell building lots as the growing population moved closer and closer to the orchard.

From mid-April to mid-September we would drive nearly every day from our home, here in Ogden, to the Orchard.

The Freeze

My first recollection of how stressful it could be to own an orchard, came one Spring after we had a week of nice weather wherein all the apricot blossoms came out in full bloom. Then we got a forecast for a hard frost.
I clearly remember the conversation between my parents wherein mom stated: We should’ve gotten some of those burners that they use in California.
Mom would say: We’re going to lose everything.
Mom: Do you think if we went up and started a series of bonfires that we could create enough smoke to save the blossoms?
To me, listening, as a young child it seemed like it was going to be the end of the world.
We watched the thermometer on the back porch while speculating how close it might be to the actual temperatures in North Ogden. We watched until the mercury hit zero and there it was….”Frozen blossoms.”

The next morning the calls went out just like the announcement of someone’s death.
“Hi Larae” or “hello Fae”: I guess the blossoms froze last night. All of our effort is lost. I guess there will be no work at the orchard this year.

As the years passed, it happened again and again. It happened again the years after that. The blossoms froze but yet we still had fruit to sell.

It’s amazing that the world’s population is still alive with no fruit to be bought.

It has actually become one of our most anticipated phone calls each year after the blossoms bloom before a big freeze. We know the next morning we’ll be getting a phone call from mom saying: Well, I guess the blossoms froze. There’ll be no fruit this year.
In fact, We all want to say: Mom, That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, because that would give you a year off. But she wouldn’t want it that way. She loved to preserve fruit and we all loved to help her.

Mom is a true steward of the land.
Her motto is: No fruit left behind.
How many times have we heard her say: I’ve picked these pieces up off the ground. We can use them to make jam.

But honestly: There has been nothing more joyous than the sound of the laughter that has echoed from the trees of the orchard, as our family and friends have picked fruit together.

But, I must be a little more honest……. Preserving fruit was mom‘s obsession. Many times we ended up with way more fruit than we could ever use or give away. So……..at times, there is also nothing more joyous then watching, as expired fruit falls from the bottles as we listen to the whirling of an insinkerator.

The Roller Coaster Chiropractor

The orchard was good to mom but it was also a curse. One day while picking fruit she fell from a ladder and pulverized one of the lower discs in her back.
The doctor said: “Donna, it’s gone. It doesn’t even show up in the x-ray.”
Mom wasn’t one to complain about her pain but you knew the pain was there.
She was the kind to refuse any kind of pain relieving drug even when she had her teeth extracted.
You never knew when her back was about to “slip out of joint.”
You knew it happened because she would say: “Ouch, there it goes again.”
You could see she was in pain but she continued to do her work.
She did more work than most muscle men and it wasn’t just about herself.
If she heard I had a protract, she’d say: Ralph, Keith’s got a project. We’re going down to help him.
Even in her 70s and 80s, she was there.
My friends would say: How old is she?
Friends: What is she doing here? She’s doing more work than the other people.

Mom was blessed in her later years that she had a grandson-in-law who was a chiropractor. She spoke frequently of how Alan Casey did more for her comfort than any exercise, stretching or therapy.

So….Alan got mom’s back in pretty good shape and she was feeling pretty good. Then we called her and asked if she and dad would like to go on a 16 day vacation of 4 days at Disney followed by 12 days in Hawaii.
She always said “yes” even before I got the question out.

I loved to travel with mom and dad when I was a child.
In marriage, Pam and I realized that taking mom and dad along with us was a great benefit. They were fun to be with. Mom would tell stories and sing with the kids as we traveled on the road. Pam and I could even get an occasional night out because mom and dad would care for our children at the hotel.

Disney had just opened up California Adventure Park with it’s brand-new roller coaster. Dad was enjoying me pushing him around the park in a wheelchair.
We were all sitting and watching as the new roller coaster tortured and thrilled its passengers.
I said: Mom, I think we’re going to give it a try. Where are we going to find you after we ride?
Mom surprised me when she said: Oh, I’d like to go too.
Me: But what about your back?
Things really got crazy when dad said: Donna, you shouldn’t go!
Mom: Ralph, I’m going!
Then Ralph said: Well, do you think I should go?
Then we all said: Dad, no! Just stay here.

Mom and I were seated together in the front row seat.
Mom are you sure this is a good idea?: I said.
“Me: You can still get off. Then……………….CRUNCH!!!
Down came the restraint device.
Mom said: “Ouch, that hurt.”
I said: “Yeah, they really want to make sure that you don’t fall out.”

I turned my head putting it back, a bit, while telling mom to be sure to put her head against the head rest. Suddenly…. POW. Our heads were thrown back against the headrest as the car accelerated forward. I think whoever designed this ride pushed the limits by making you lose partial consciousness during the acceleration. Just as you regain your thoughts you find yourself in the first loop.
Right then, I suddenly found myself in a “nightmare” because I realized that mom had just said: “Oh Keith! My back! I think it broke my back.”
It was an agonizing cry of pain. I could barely turn my head and when I did, I saw her head flopping about like a broken, disjointed and torn rag-doll being shaken by a child.
She had already lost her glasses that she needed so desperately to see.
Impulsively, I made an effort to raise my hands in an effort to support her flopping head only to realize that I was restrained. I don’t know how I did it but I was able to put my left hand under her chin to hold it back against the headrest, I started screaming: “Stop this ride! Call an ambulance! Stop this ride! Please! Somebody help!” I just knew the she would need to go to the hospital.
I thought: There goes Hawaii. Then I thought: Never mind Hawaii. Never mind a hospital. We’re going to need a mortuary. This is going to kill her.
Then I realized that all my cries for help were futile. There was no way to stop the crazy ride other than to wait until the end.
Life flashed before my eyes before I realized that we had only been on this stupid mistake about 10 seconds. There was still another 40 seconds to go.
I sat there holding moms chin as best as I could. All I could do was to say: “Mom, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I should have never let you ride this thing”.
Moms face was void of any expression. She seemed to still be alive as she continually repeated: Keith. Oh Keith. Oh. Oh. Oh. This went on for 35 more seconds.

Pam and the kids were having a great time behind me.
They were holding their restrained hands as high as they could and screaming wildly. They had no idea that mom was in such a dire situation. The roar of the wheels shouted louder than any of my anguished panicked cries for help. As we entered the station, my cries of “Call an ambulance. Call an ambulance “ could not be heard because of the squeal of the air brakes in the track.
When the car stopped, I looked over and saw mom‘s glasses sitting on the ramp. I thought: That’s right. That’s where she was instructed to leave them. Somehow that calmed me. I thought she lost them on the ride. I was still holding moms head while frantically asking her if she was okay.
Me: Are you okay?
She was very calm…. Too calm.
She said: “Keith…………….. I think it just fixed my back.”
Mom got out of her seat. She moved freely and painlessly as if a miracle had happened.

To this day the roller coaster at California adventure theme park is known as the best chiropractor in the world. It is second only to her grandson-in-law Alan.

I’ve written a lot of these stories over the past few years while flying on vacations.
In the last few weeks, after lunch, I’d take mom home and read a story per week.
About this one, I said: Mom, does that sound about right? I want to get the story correct.
She said: Well, it just fixed my back.
I didn’t realize that you were over there screaming.

Mom and dad were generous with their land. They gave each of us boys at least one subdivided property to build upon and in some cases they gave two properties. The by-product of that generosity is that they got to live close to their children which was very important for mom and dad.

The garden plot that they received as a wedding gift became known as “Larson Plaza” because mom and dad subdivided and built a new home on it. Ten years later they gave Grant and Sally the original home that they had lived in. They gave David and Linda the last piece, located on Quincy, on which they built a new home. The result was 3 Larson homes in a row. Hence…”Larson Plaza.”
Grant and David’s families started growing at the rate of about one child each per year. The grandchildren were the joy of mom’s life. She knew the value of keeping your chickens close.

Note: At the time of the following story, in the mid 70s, I want you to understand that there were about 7 grandchildren, sometimes friends, with age ranges from 7 to 2 years old involved.

The Treat Window

Mom’s house was a destination resort for love and daily nutrition and the grandkids would frequently came over. Mom would ask: Have you kids had anything to eat today?
She was always feeding them. Mom also knew that the small army required a healthy compliment of candy treats. Mom discovered that the candy treats could work to her advantage in order to maintain her sanity. The front door was always unlocked and the grandkids were always welcome into the home until they weren’t welcome; If you know what I mean.

When mom had had enough of the grandkids, for the day, she developed a fun activity for them wherein she would say: “All of you, go outside and run around to the treat window.”

Even if one of the kids didn’t want a treat right then, she would say: “No, this is a game that we’re all playing right now. So go outside and run around to the treat window.”

The treat window was mom and dad’s bedroom window, on the north side of the house, which was a full 10 feet above the driveway below.

Mom would slide the bedroom window open.

In the time it took mom to arrive and open the window, the grandkids were already waiting below. They gathered like a school of carp in a lake, with fat lips groping at the air, hoping for bags of popcorn to be poured into their months.

In the grandkids case, they used their hands, raised skyward with their tiny fingers outreached. Their fingers oscillated back and forth. They opened and closed their fists. Some treats landed squarely in their hands and others hit the ground. Mom made sure each child had something and if they didn’t she would tell them to share. After the children captured as many treats as they could hold, they would run back to the mom’s front door hoping to go inside and enjoy the treats.

The only problem was that the door was already locked and mom wasn’t about to open it. The doorbell would begin ringing incessantly. At this point mom would open the door and holler at the kids through the screen door saying: “You’ve got your treats. Now it’s time to go home. If you’re going to keep ringing the doorbell, there’s no more treats and we won’t do this anymore. Now go home. All of ya.”
At this point the kids marched down the stairs and returned home. They would leave a trail of wrappers behind them. It was lost on every one of them that they had just been expelled. Getting the treats was fun and they had had a good day at grandma’s house.

Note: I read this to mom on Dec 23, 2021. She replied: “Yes, and then I had to get Ralph’s dinner for him because he wanted to be fed by 4 o’clock. But I’d play with the kids all day until it was dad’s supper time.”
Then she said: “That’s a good story Keith.”

Larson Plaza started to dissolve in the mid-1970s when mom and dad gave David and Linda another piece of land at the Orchard on which they built upon. Grant’s family followed shortly thereafter. Mom and dad finally moved to the orchard property in 1982.
Mom and dad continued to sell fruit but they stopped taking the fruit to canneries due to their closing in the mid 1970s.

Luckily, fruit drying and “At home canning” had become all the rage.

Fruit roll ups or what we call “fruit leather” was an idea of the space age for use by the astronauts. People thought that the leather was a fun new food and they were even trying to make their own batches in food dryers. Of course we all know that mom took that process to a whole new level when each year she used the sun and huge sheets of plastic on her roof top to spread and dry 12 ft by 12 ft batches of the stuff.

With all this excitement for fruit; Dad put “u-pick” advertisements in classified ads and people begin to come and pick for themselves. It was much more profitable and it was always fun at the end of a busy day to hear mom yell: “We had another thousand dollar day.”

Unfortunately accidents happen…. A customer fell off a ladder and injured himself quite seriously while picking fruit. The insurance companies told mom and dad that they would pay “this time” yet they were not going to cover any future injuries. Mom and dad pulled the ads and never sold publicly again.

The next phase of mom and dad‘s life was to subdivide and sell the properties.

The landscape changed and slowly the orchard was no more. But one thing was always constant. That thing was moms love for neighbors and family.
We did a tally of moms posterity the other day and the total was about 125 with more soon to arrive.

Mom and dad were not the type to close their main floor blinds. You could drive by day or late night and it seemed that someone was always there. Most likely someone was there because mom has hosted one family member or another for 100s and 100s of nights lodging. Some grandkids lived with mom and dad for months. Her heart and home were always open for anyone of us.

Her love was contagious.

In summery…..Mom was good to her family and she taught us to enjoy and preserve what the land gave us.

Beside her home, mom kept the shed along with its trees and a nice sized garden plot that she enjoyed planting. She grew the most amazing huge onions. Peoples eyes would pop out of their heads when they saw us hold the onions as they drove by the garden. There is enough grape juice and fruit leather left over to last until man goes to Mars.

Mom’s grandchildren, Paul and Jenny Larson as well as Alan and Kathy Casey have lived alongside mom and dad for years. They have provided support and friendship and grandchildren.

Most of all they loved and they cared for mom right up to the end, just like mom had cared for so many others herself.
We thank them for this………..Mom has had an excellent life.

Keith Larson May 7 2022 2:02 PM

Sending our deepest condolences and prayers of comfort.

Travis and Taryn Christensen May 2 2022 1:58 PM

Donna was my dad's (Don Dean) first cousin and we spent my summers with her family. She was a favorite to visit every summer while my dad was attending BYU. She was more Grandmother than cousin. She'll be missed.

Dianna Dean Tankersley May 1 2022 9:35 PM

Dear Family of Donna
Mike and I have been so blessed to live as neighbors in their once owed orchard for many years. We have learned all about Apricot leather, making Grape juice, applesauce and juice, salsa and many other veggies from Donna. Ralph shared his knowledge with us also. After his passing Mike became the boyfriend and he never let Donna forget it, he always could make her laugh. We have shared many stories. Family history and laughing together. We will so miss her presence and her phone calls. She was always a hard worker and \"outstanding in her garden\". RiP sweet Lady
Love Mike &Sherrie Harbertson

Sherrie Harbertson May 1 2022 7:32 PM

A candle was lit in memory of Donna Larson

Mike Harbertson May 1 2022 7:22 PM

She is a great lady. I will miss her when I visited her often.

Connie Simmons May 1 2022 10:48 AM

A candle was lit in memory of Donna Larson

John Ahlstrom Apr 30 2022 11:13 PM

My condolences to the Larson family. Thank you for being the best Great Grandmother to my grandchildren, Brinley, Alejandro, Sophia and Marcus Larson. Rest In Peace sweet lady 🙏🏼

Anna & Adrian Moreno Apr 30 2022 6:11 PM

Aunt Donna had a way about her that made you feel uplifted and special every time you spoke with her. Her laugh was so fun and contagious I loved hearing her stories about her childhood in Piedmont Wyoming. She gave her family and extended family so freely of her cherries, peaches, grapes and apples. She ended every conversation with, “I sure do love you.” Aunt Donna, thanks for your positive example. I sure do love you. Shanna Rhees (niece)

Shanna Apr 30 2022 4:19 PM

A photo was added for Donna Byrne Larson

Sherrie Harbertson Apr 30 2022 4:15 PM

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