Wesley UMC congregation has new pastor

Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:01 pm

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By Julie Ann Madden

“There’s never anything that’s normal but we have fun,” said Pastor Suzi Larson, who began leading the Wesley United Methodist Church congregation July 1.

An example of the Aberdeen, S.D., native’s life is her March 31 wedding to Donn Larson of Hudson, S.D.

Larson wore her daughter’s wedding dress — not a typical daughter wearing her mother’s wedding dress.

The dress wasn’t just altered — it was rebuilt as her daughter is taller and thinner than she was. The person who did the reconstruction alternations was a seamstress who had made spacesuits at the University of North Dakota!

Her daughter was her matron of honor, the groom’s grandson was the best man while his four granddaughters were split with two standing by her and two by him and the final granddaughter was the flower girl.

They were married in her Valley Memorial Homes’ office, gave lefse as their treat; and had their “Wine & Cheese” reception at the Basic Care location of Tufte Manor, all in Grand Forks, N.D..

“A good time was had by all,” said Larson, who has a continuous smile, bit of humor and laughter ready to share.

Although Aberdeen is where she was raised she spent a lot of her childhood in Hudson, S.D., where her Aunt Mary and Uncle Bud Fullenkamp owned and operated Fullenkamp Rexell Drug Country Store & Christmas Attic plus the Nordic Kitchen.

“I consider Hudson as my hometown,” said Larson, who graduated from Aberdeen Central High School in 1971.

Larson earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northern State University at Aberdeen in 1976 with a major in Sociology, a minor in Music and with an emphasize in Business.

While she was volunteering in Youth Ministry, she decided she needed to learn how to deal with teenagers so she began an 11-year journey studying for her Master of Divinity. However, she ended up with a Master of Arts, specializing in Youth Ministry, Christian Education, Pastoral Counseling and Church Leadership.

Larson began her Masters degree work at the Sioux Falls Seminary, formerly known as the North American Baptist Seminary.

“I became an education junkie,” said Larson, who moved to Florida during her studies to be Minister of Pastoral Care at Port Charlotte United Methodist Church in Florida.

“I absolutely loved my work,” said Larson, explaining her father took ill and her college-aged daughter missed her so she returned to South Dakota where she learned the Master of Divinity program requirements had changed and she’d have to earn the same amount of college credits she already had to get that degree. However, her credits completed earned her the Master of Arts degree.

“I’ve been in ministry now 20 years,” said Larson.

In addition to being a Youth Ministry volunteer “forever,” Larson took her first paid Youth Ministry position at Jamestown, N.D.

After seven years there, she served as the Pastoral Care at Port Charlotte United Methodist Church, in Port Charlotte, Fla.

Larson returned to South Dakota, serving as pastor at Alpena, S.D., and as chaplain at Avera-McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, positions she worked for seven years.

Her most recent position was at Grand Forks as hospital chaplain.

At this position, she was also contracted out to the Valley Memorial Homes in Grand Forks, N.D. Valley Memorial Homes consists of five facilities located on three campuses. A variety of programs and services offered include Country Estates, senior apartments, Wheatland Terrace, assisted living, Tufte Manor, basic care, and skilled nursing, Valley Eldercare Center and Woodside Village. All of these components provide a full continuum of long term care services.

Larson worked Monday – Friday at the Valley Memorial Homes continual care unit, was on-call at the hospital every sixth weekend, and every other weekend officiated three Sunday church services.

She is thrilled to now be pastor for Wesley United Methodist Church in Akron and Seney United Methodist Church at Seney.

Larson has one daughter, Alexis and her husband, JJ Angeles of Fargo, N.D.; and Donn has three children: Nicki and her husband, Bead Hisel of Centerville, S.D.; Danielle and her husband, Josh Holte of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Heidi and her husband, Ryan Austin of Centerville. The couple has six grandchildren: Lauren, Anders and Elin Holte and Keira, Brea and Lydia Austin plus several “grand-dogs.”

Larson loves to quilt but right now is just a “fabric collector.” She also makes jewelry.

Although she is a “part-time” pastor, the work has been much closer to full-time with meetings and congregational needs.

“Both are wonderful, mission-minded churches,” said Larson.

“Seney has seven generations,” she said. “Even though they are all not related to each other, they are definitely all family and they’ve allowed me to be part of them and that’s just amazing.”

“Akron is a very close-knit, wonderful family church, too,” said Larson, who is already a member of the Akron Ministerial Association. She also is a member of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association; Toastmasters International in Sioux Falls; and Bethesda, a non-profit organization providing funding for the Ministries of Valley Memorial Homes.

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