Brendan Larson, a former Haines Elementary School teacher whose donation built the school district's Friendship Pole, died of complications of Parkinson's disease Nov. 16 in Sierra Vista, Ariz. He was 78.
"Larson was an elementary school teacher noted for his energy, humor, and integration of art and Alaska Native culture into his classroom," according to an obituary published in the Sierra Vista Herald.
"He was a mover-shaker personality that got things done," Alaska Indian Arts president Lee Heinmiller said this week. Heinmiller said Larson, a fourth-grade teacher, used $10,000 he received for writing "The Proud Chilkat," a textbook of Alaska natural history, to pay for the 40-foot pole carved by AIA.
Larson immersed himself in Tlingit life and culture, Heinmiller said. He's also remembered for reconstructing eagle and sea lion skeletons when he taught in Haines in the late 1970s.
Former principal Alan Heinrich said students who turned in flawless papers to Larson received a "P" on which Larson would draw artwork. "P" papers could be used as a form of currency in his class, Heinrich said.
Former students sharing news of Larson's passing on Facebook this week said they still had their "P" papers.
According to the Sierra Vista Herald, Larson was born on Jan. 11, 1935, in Buffalo, N.Y., with mild cerebral palsy, which caused him to limp. In a childhood accident he lost half of an index finger in a meat grinder, but told students it resulted from a heroic battle with a shark.
Larson taught in Idaho and Alaska. According to the Herald, a school library in Valdez was named after him upon his retirement in 1992.
Larson is survived by wife, Lauri Lea, of Hereford, Ariz., and by several children and grandchildren.
To contact the family, email email@example.com.