Charles U. Larson
1940 - 2020
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Charles U. Larson

Born: December 27, 1940; in Minneapolis, MN

Died: November 27, 2020; in DeKalb, IL

Charles U. Larson, 79, of Sycamore died Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 at the Bethany Rehab and Nursing Home in DeKalb.

He was born Dec. 27, 1940 in Minneapolis, MN to Olof and Elsa (Olson) Larson. He married his wife of 55 years, Mary C. Strom on June 19, 1965 in Minneapolis.

Schooling. Graduate of University of Minnesota: BS, 1962. MA, 1965. PhD, 1968.

He taught high school English, directed plays and coached debate at Buffalo High School, Buffalo MN and Osseo High School, Osseo MN before moving to Northern Illinois University in 1968. He taught Persuasion, Advertising and Political Communication, Persuasive Campaigns.

Memberships included, Speech Communication Association, International Communication Association, Popular Culture Association, Westminster Presbyterian Church, DeKalb, IL., Sycamore Public Library Board and others.

Awards: sabbatical leave to study political campaigns- worked on Tom Railsback's legislative campaign in 1974.

Major Faculty Development Grant in Advertising 1990-1992. Included five graduate level courses at DePaul University and two internships, one at J. Walter Thompson in Chicago.

He was awarded the coveted University Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, Distinguished Teaching Award from the Direct Marketing Association and the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Alumni Association. Additionally he was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award four times by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of Communication. In its 14th edition, "Persuasion:Reception and Responsibility" has been used by students around the world since its first edition in 1973.

In addition to teaching, he served as President of the Faculty Senate and Executive Secretary of the University Council. Further, he served 19 years as Parliamentarian of the University Council. He was also founder of the humorous journal, The International Journal of Creature Communication, which illuminated the communication habits of (what else?) fish and proved very useful to many sportsmen and women over the years. The Journal included work by such distinguished artists as David Driesbach. Needless to say this was quashed by the Dean.

He enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and recently completed training from the University of Illinois Extension as a Master Gardener.

Charlie had numerous hobbies and interests and always loved to make others smile or laugh. He loved telling corny and irreverent jokes (Sven and Ole were favorites) and was known for his accounts of baseball strategy of questionable veracity, including "the old hidden ball trick" and "boogerballs". He especially loved teaching and coaching his daughters and their teammates. He coached Cinderella softball for many seasons with Dairy Ripple treats after. Even into adulthood, his players remember key strategies like "shuffle, shuffle, down" to field a grounder and "watch the seams of the ball" at bat. The Bad News Bears had nothing on "Vance's 76" and "Royal Realty". He enjoyed trips to Wrigley Field - bringing his daughters and their friends to the bleacher section of the 1980's with signs for Harry Caray, softball mitts, and jars of bubbles. His most recent Cubs game was a rooftop trip with daughter Martha and grandson Hanlon to the critical Game 5 of the 2016 World Series.

He and daughters participated in YMCA's Guides/Princesses program, with trips to Chicago museums, magic lessons, and outdoor crafts. He was Southeast Elementary's first "Bearded Picture Lady" volunteer, teaching his daughters' classmates all about famous art. An adventurous spirit, he enjoyed fishing and camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with friends and family, taking his daughters when they were as young as 7, and his most recent trip when he was age 75, with many trips between.

He built a seven+ story treehouse at the "Finlayson Farm" in Minnesota, where many summers were spent with extended family for swimming, fishing, horseback riding, reading, fried perch dinners in Sandstone, listening to Lake Wobegon on MPR while living in another "little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve". Charlie and family hosted fireworks extravaganzas, hayloft forts and plays on top of the woodshed, and adventures to mysterious 'hunting grounds' by way of a 1940's farm truck that took a week to start. He enjoyed singing- in church choirs, with SPEBSQSA, and for years in the barbershop quartet "The Sycamorons" with vaudeville humor and good friends.

Later in life he became a treasured father figure to his twin grandchildren, Hanlon and Ingrid, who lost their own father at a young age. He taught his grandson how to hunt and fish, and his granddaughter how to drive a car and how to make the famous Charlie Larson dessert, "Best Pistachio Ting-A-Ling Ever." They both loved him dearly, and will miss him very much.

Survivors include his wife, Mary (Strom) Larson, daughters, Ingrid (Alex) Crepas and Martha (John) Kohlstrand, grandchildren, Ingrid O'Connor and Hanlon O'Connor, sister, Susan (Paul) Martinson and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Elsa and Olof Larson and sister, Sandra (Wells) Wright.

His memorial service will be live streamed on Saturday, Dec. 5th at 2:00 PM on the Westminster Presbyterian Church in DeKalb Facebook page for all to join.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be divided equally between The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. or The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, 6425 S. Ingleside Avenue, Chicago, IL 6063; or JDRF-Illinois, 1 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60601.

Arrangements were completed by the Butala Funeral Home and Crematory in Sycamore. To sign the online guest book or share a special memory, go to

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Daily-Chronicle on Dec. 1, 2020.
Memorial service
02:00 PM
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Memories & Condolences
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13 entries
January 2, 2021
Condolences to the family of Charles Larson from Stockholm: cousins Goran, Bengt, Per and married uncle Karl-Erik.

Charles visited us several of times during the sixties and we still remember him well.
Landberg Per
December 9, 2020
Charlie was a patient of mine for many years as we worked together to get him hearing as good as possible. I will always remember his dry sense of humor and always a good discussion about whatever book he was reading at the time of our appointments. I know the last year was rough for both him and Mary. I will miss his positive outlook and gracious presence. My deepest condolences to the family. I'm sure he will be sorely missed.
Diane ScheckLong
December 5, 2020
Condolences to the family of Charles Larson from his friends and colleagues at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Northern Illinois University. Robert Brinkmann, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Robert Brinkmann
December 5, 2020
Charlie you will be missed. Thank you for all the wonderful memories we have of you and Mary from: Church and Church Choir; fun "Sycamorons" singing and jokes with Chris and the KRASSS Singing & Sipping Society. Chris also enjoy taking your communication courses. May Heaven enjoy your Swedish jokes and songs as much as we all did! Love and sympathy to your family. Chris Yochens and Esther McDowell
Esther & Chris McDowell / Yochens
December 4, 2020
Uncle Charlie. My favorite memories always took place at the farm when I was a kid. Driving an old pickup truck with 3 on the tree and mis-matched tires that probably weren't safe to drive on any public road. Fireworks, guns, dead rabbits, and lots of laughs. My sisters and I were always excited to see the Larsons on any occasion. Uncle Charlie always made it memorable. He will be missed by all of us.
daniel martinson
December 4, 2020
Mary and family, I wish that I had the right words to say during this time, but I know how much Charlie meant a lot to mean while I was in school and will always appreciate his jokes, lessons on life, along with his perspectives on persuasion that I still use in my classroom today. He will always be thought of positively and will always be a part of my life.
Tim Pierce
December 4, 2020
Flaming cheese, for example.

That’s a good place to start.

The night he introduced us visiting relatives to eating cheese on fire, indoors (something I wasn’t brought up doing) at a Chicagoan Greek restaurant. Liquor ceremoniously poured over dairy, which was then ignited. All to loud cries of “Opa-a-a-a” from everyone in the building. My 8 year old self imagined this to mean either “hooray” or otherwise as being the equivalent of “Uff-da-a-a-a” among Swedes So I rolled with it and joined Charlie in shouting it 37 more times that night.

In case you’re wondering, “Opa!” most commonly means “whoops”; truly the perfect expression to accompany all fire code violations.

God bless uncles and pyrotechnics.

Oh, there are those stories, too. My “Unca” as ring-leader of fireworks displays, up at the farm. Orchestrating the spectacular detonation of many colorful projectiles, all within dangerously close range of tool sheds, hay barns and also fingers.I remember then piling into the old pickup. Charlie would drive us through the property in search of ancient remains, fossils and artifacts; all of which closely resemble the bones of cattle. And at some point he’d produce the antique Swedish cow-calling horn. I don’t recall any cattle ever being lured in, but pressed to his lips, its haunting bellow summoned awe and raised deep concerns I had about disturbing the sleepy ghosts of that bone field.

But Charlie was more than just the quintessential ’fun uncle.’ And he gave me more than just great memories.

Charlie always seemed to stand at the doorway of a larger world than the one I thought possible. And I look back on him being something of a gatekeeper to some of life’s richest pursuits: Wonder, like the kind he instilled with a combustible Greek side dish. Adventure, like the explorations at the farm and later in life, trips to the Boundary Waters or deep sea fishing that wasn’t on the sea but Lake Michigan is pretty close. Mirth, with his uncle-y jokes that pushed the envelope but still make me laugh today. And Mystery, like when he really had me wondering about Santa’s existence, long after I’d ‘grown out of belief’.

Charlie pulled us young ‘uns closer to that gate; time with him was an accepted invitition to fully entering this expansive, awesome and hilarious world.

It’d be tough to sum up my feelings succinctly, for someone who showed us kids such love, investment and intention; and taught us the value of Wonder, Adventure, Mirth and Mystery.

But not impossible.

There is a certain word that’s said to convey a number of things, including enthusiasm, surprise and cheerful mischief—an old Greek expression—perhaps you’ve heard it?
Andy Wright
December 4, 2020
As a dear friend of Martha, I remember hanging out many a time at her house during high school
And junior high. Her dad was always kind and had a great sense of humor. He always made all of us feel welcome. I am thankful to have known him even a little bit. I know he had a profound and positive impact on his grandkids’ lives. I know how much Martha loved him and will always love him. My heart goes out to you all. Peace.
Jennifer McCabe
December 3, 2020
Omg. Mary im sorry to see this. Took care of both of them in dekalb nursing home. Such a lovely couple. My condolences to the family.
Jessica miller
December 1, 2020
He was The Responsive Chord. What a great Prof. I know he'll have some good pig roasts in heaven.
Gary Dreibelbis
December 1, 2020
Ingrid Crepas
December 1, 2020
Dr. Larson was my NIU communication professor in the 1980s and wrote my recommendation letter for my master and doctoral programs. He helped open many doors in my life and was a joy to be with in the classroom.
When my younger sister died during finals week of my third year, Dr. Larson was the professor that went out of his way to support my family in our grief. He had and modeled to his students a healthy respect for the importance of both a good laugh and a good cry. May be rest in eternal peace and perpetual Light shine upon him. My condolences to his entire family who must miss him terribly.
Whitney-Brown Susan
December 1, 2020
Charlie and I met in the 7th grade at Ramsey Jr. HS in Minneapolis and we have been friends for all those years. My wife Kathe introduced Mary to Charlie when in high school, which was a very happy 55 years.
Robert Behrend
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