James Avery Larson died June 23, 2023, at Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, Iowa, after a brief illness. The third of eight children, Jim was born on January 1, 1936, in Britton, South Dakota. As a child, he was a regular patron at the Britton Public Library, where he cultivated a love of reading and studying word origins that stayed with him throughout his life.
Jim experienced significant challenges growing up - he partially lost his hearing during childhood, and his mother passed away suddenly when he was a teenager. After spending a summer in St. Paul with his sister Lorretta and her husband, Ernest, Jim returned to attend high school in Britton, playing football and competing in discus and shot put. With the support of the community, he graduated from high school, thereafter attending and playing football at Huron University. He also attended the University of Minnesota and was a lifelong Golden Gophers fan.
After earning bachelor’s degrees in English and Education, Jim taught school in South Dakota and Minneapolis for over a decade. He enjoyed teaching and had high expectations for his students. Utilizing the buddy system, his first-period homeroom class boasted perfect attendance for an entire school year. Drawing on his passion for etymology, he co-authored Elements of Word Growth; his children remember dutifully completing each lesson before playing on the weekends.
Jim’s creativity, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to real estate development. He and his wife, Ann, began buying properties in Minneapolis in the late 1960s, and he continued purchasing and renovating buildings through the 1980s. Jim was easy to spot while walking around the Steven’s Square neighborhood, sporting a blue workman’s shirt with his name embroidered in red cursive. His efforts helped to revitalize neighborhoods in the City, including the Whittier area, Loring Park, and Third Avenue. When he was not working, Jim enjoyed boating and swimming on the St. Croix River and Lake Minnetonka with his family. An avid gardener, Jim was particularly passionate about hastas, brightening neighborhoods with green spaces like Gardener’s Park. He enjoyed listening to classical music, Willie Nelson, Crystal Gayle, and Hank Williams. Jim was also proud of his Sioux Tribal heritage and was a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe.
Jim is preceded in death by his parents, James and Evelyn (Jennen) Larson; siblings LeRoy Larson, Penny Waage, Wanda Heurung, Monica Laska, and Paul Larson; daughter-in-law Angie Larson; and wife Ann Larson. He is survived by his loving family, including son Jay Larson of Wasilla, Alaska, and daughter Theresa Larson Jackson (Randy) of Des Moines, Iowa, both children of Ann, and daughters Tracy Striker of Moorhead, North Dakota, and Teri Fuchs of Rapid City, South Dakota; siblings Lorretta Larson Mondry and Elton Larson; grandchildren Madeline, Mckinley, Max, and Miles Larson, Nicholas and Eleanor Jackson, Ryan Striker, and Julia Blevins.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Britton Public Library, 759 7th St., Britton, SD 57430.