Photo by Rob Newell
Richmond has lost one of its heroes.
At age 85, Jennifer Larsen, community activist, hard worker, and skilled journalist, passed away in her home July 22.
While according to her family it was peaceful, her death was completely unexpected.
Olive Bassett was Larsen’s long-time best friend.
“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Bassett told The Richmond Sentinel. “I can’t believe I’m not going to e-mail her or get her telephone calls.”
Tim Larsen says his step-mother was special.
“One thing I tell people, I have no bad memories of Jennifer. I call her Jennifer because she’s actually my step-mother. My mother died in 1967 when I was 17 and my siblings were younger. Jennifer was an incredible gift to our family. She was my parent for 48 years. She was a gift for my father as well.”
Her family describes Larsen as “feisty, questioning, tenacious, fiercely independent, dedicated to working on social issues, particularly mental health and completely devoted to family.”
Bassett recalls their acquaintance.
“I’ve known her since 1981 when I went onto the family court committee and she was retiring as president. We were so close that we were more like sisters for (decades). We had the greatest respect for each other and each other’s decisions.”
Her curiosity was just unbelievable. It was marvelous. When we went away always on holidays together, and it was always a wonderful time, and Jennifer would say ‘I wonder what’s down there?’ She was so intelligent.”
That vibrant curiosity and intelligence served Jennifer well when she worked as a journalist at the Vancouver Sun.
In a Sept 2, 2012 article about the death of Don Cromie, the last independent owner of the Vancouver Sun, her former colleague Frances Bula wrote: “Jennifer Larsen, who got a job at the paper on the basis of no newspaper experience at all after she met him at a party, laughs when she remembers him: ‘It was such a wild, crazy time, a marvelous place to be. There was never a boring moment.’”
Larsen also volunteered around seniors’ and mental health issues, at an emergency homeless shelter and walked the streets in the annual homeless count.
Tim Larsen says Jennifer left work when she married his father and decided to volunteer but, Tim says, “She kept it separate from her family life. We knew she was citizen of the year but not much beyond that. When the family got together it was just family. She became a great-great grandma not that long ago and family was very near and dear to her and a very separate part of her life.”
While Larsen’s husband and a granddaughter predeceased her, she leaves children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, a lasting legacy as well as all her good works for the people of Richmond.
Says Bassett of Larsen’s death: “It’s left a great big, awful void in my life. We could laugh about things, so thank heavens for her. I guess I’ll just have to laugh at myself now.”
Bassett echoed the feelings of those who knew Larsen.
“She was one of the most gracious people and she just didn’t ever suffer fools. Honestly she was just a wonderful person. I’m going to miss her. I already do.”
A COMMUNITY MEMORIAL will be held for Larsen on Thursday, Aug. 31 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Richmond Seniors’ Centre, 7660 Minoru Gate. No flowers by request but donations to a food aid program will be gratefully accepted, as this was a favourite cause of Jennifer’s.