Donn Richard Larson


Donn Richard Larson, 91, Duluth, died July 30, 2020 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. Before moving to Ecumen Lakeshore in 2017, he lived on Park Point for 62 years.

He was born June 6, 1929, in Duluth, to Ernest R. and Myrtle S. (Lindberg) Larson, their middle child of three.

He graduated from Denfeld High School in 1947, where he debated and edited the school newspaper. He was an Eagle Scout, enjoyed camping and canoeing. He received a BA in English at Gustavus Adolphus College in 1951. At Gustavus he edited the weekly newspaper and spent the summer of 1950 touring central Europe by motorcycle with a college friend. His first job was as a copywriter at KDAL radio in Duluth.

He attended the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps School, received agent’s accreditation, then served as a member of the School’s Staff and Faculty 1953-54.

In late 1954 he returned to the fledgling television station KDAL-TV as Manager of Station Operations. At KDAL he met Donna L. Sandstrom; they were married June 4, 1955 and honeymooned at Isle Royale. In 1960 he joined the Duluth advertising agency H. E. Westmoreland, Inc. as a writer and producer in various media.

In 1972 he bought the agency in partnership with James L. Hill, forming Westmoreland, Larson and Hill, Inc. Mr. Hill died at age 53 in 1987, and Donn continued operating as sole proprietor until retiring in 1994, selling the business to Harold Webster, a friend and a vice-president of Norwest Bank Corporation.

Donn was an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America. He held a Coast Guard Captain’s License, was a member of the Duluth Power Squadron and the Great Lakes Cruising Club, which recognized his service as a Port Captain with the 2012 William J. Kivell Memorial Award. He and Donna logged many miles cruising Lake Superior and Lake Huron while based at their cottage at Cloud Bay, Ontario, which their family enjoyed for 45 years. In retirement Donn and Donna spent many winter vacations in Tucson, AZ, and studied the tribes and pueblos of southwestern Indians through the Elderhostel program.

He was active in civic and cultural affairs, elected for two terms as a Duluth Councilor-at-Large, as well as serving on the Duluth Arena-Auditorium Administrative Board, the Duluth Charter Commission, City Planning Commission, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, and as a charter member of Lake Superior Center (Great Lakes Aquarium) Board; he was a trustee of the Lake Superior Marine Museum, chair of the Franciscan Health Center Board and president of the Park Point Community Club.

He chaired the Citizens Advisory Committee of the North Shore Management Board which studied sites for recreational harbor development, a director of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, president of the Duluth Art Institute, a board member of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and a member of the UMD Corporate Partners Committee.

Donn was a member of the Lake Superior Ad Club, received an American Advertising Federation Silver Medal, and won the Ad Club’s Best of Show award in 1979 for his series of radio messages in support of Minnesota’s iron ore industry. He was a member of the Society of Mining Engineers and specialized in seeking public acceptance for mining ventures in the U.S. and Canada. He said his engineering role was “building bridges of understanding and reservoirs of good will.”

He was charter chairman of the Environmental Learning Center (now Wolf Ridge) and a member of the board of Minnesota Public Radio. He served as Senior Warden and a licensed lay reader at St. Andrew’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church. He contributed to the third edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage as a member of its Panel of Critical Readers. In 2015 he wrote and published his autobiography for his children, grandchildren and close friends. In 2016 he received the UMD Center for Economic Development’s Labovitz Lifetime Achievement Award.

Donn was a member of ROMEO’s Marine Club, the POETS Club, Harbor Club, Duluth-Superior Maritime Club, Lake Avenue Loafers and the Kitchi Gammi Club.

In 2004 Donn and his friend Monnie Goldfine published a book The Will and the Way describing the Duluth area’s achievements following the decline of manufacturing after World War II. He published The Will and the Way Volume II in September 2018 in partnership with his friend Don Ness. In retirement Donn wrote many articles for Lake Superior Magazine and served on its Editorial Advisory Board.

Donn is survived by his wife, Donna; daughter, Kristin Larson (Jon Audette); son, Todd Larson (Sonda Strom Larson); grandson, Peter Day (Carissa); granddaughters, Chloë Larson and Allison Audette; and niece, Jill Namchek.

He was predeceased by his parents; his son, Peter Donn Larson; sister, Lois Lufholm; niece, Anine Lufholm; and brother, Roger.

Donn liked to sing the song he learned at Boy Scout campfires:

Softly now the light of day O’re our campfire fades away; Silently each scout should ask Have I done my daily task? Have I kept my honor bright? Can I guiltless sleep tonight? Oh, have I done and have I dared Everything to be prepared.

A socially-distanced Visitation will be held on August 21, 2020 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4100 Grand Avenue, Duluth, MN. Masks required.

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