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Don Larson

| January 10, 2006 11:00 PM

Helena businessman, and father of a Libby woman, Donald W. "Don" Larson, 83, died on Jan. 1, 2006.

He was surrounded by family and many caring hands and hearts.

Don was born Sept. 24, 1922, in Helena to George and Teresa Larson of Marysville. He was raised in Marysville and spent his youth exploring and working along the Continental Divide with his brother George. After his mother's passing early in his life, he was raised by his father and sisters. He sold papers on the steps of the cathedral and outside cafes and bars in downtown Helena.

After graduating from Helena High School he joined the Navy, where he served with distinction. He was wounded and reported missing in action aboard the USS Marblehead, a light cruiser, in the Battle of the Makassar Straits near Borneo.

He married the love of his life, Ruth Jorgenson, on June 30, 1942. After discharge from the Navy they returned to Helena, where he worked as a welder, mechanic and at Betor's Grocery with his uncle and aunt, Phil and Caroline Betor. He opened Jorgenson's Grocery and Catering on Last Chance Gulch with his father-in-law Fred Jorgenson and brothers-in-law Chuck Jorgenson and Calvin Rush. They later opened Jorgenson's Restaurant, which they developed into a Helena landmark and a particular favorite of the Legislature. He retired in 1987.

Don was a member of many organizations including the Exchange Club, the Elks and the Helena Chamber of Commerce, where he served as president. He was a director of the First Security Bank. He was particularly proud of the work he did as president of the Montana Tavern Owners, where he worked tirelessly on behalf of its members. He served as president of the National Licensed Beverage Association. Don served on numerous civic committees including, most recently, the Open Space Committee. Sky Ranch for Boys was a favorite charity. He was a member of St. Mary's Parish.

Don enjoyed hunting and fishing. He was an avid bowler and became a great fan of golf in his later years. Don cherished his time with his family and friends. He loved to watch his children and grandchildren perform and compete. He was a great fan of all Helena sports, especially the Bengals and the Fighting Saints. Don never missed a Saints home game with his lifetime friend Bill Anders.

He always had a smile and despite his many illnesses he never complained. Through his 20 years of battling cancer he provided support and encouragement to many people diagnosed with the illness.

He is preceded in death by his parents, his sisters Anne Zimmerman and Marjorie Reel, and brother George. He is survived by his wife, Ruth, sister Virginia Nelson, daughters Connie and her hsuband Frank Welter and Virginia "GiGi", sons John and his wife Cheri and Don and his wife Stephanie, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Interment with military honors was on Friday, Jan. 6, at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery.

Memorials in Don's name are suggested to the Cancer Treatment Center, c/o St. Peter's Hospital, 2475 Broadway, Helena, MT 59601; or the George and Edna Larson Bell Tower Maintenance Fund, c/o St. Mary's Catholic Church, 1700 Missoula Ave., Helena, MT 59601.