Taylorsville • Much of Gwendalyn Larsen’s life has centered around being of service to others.
Larsen, 92, recently was named to the Salt Lake Council of Women’s Hall of Fame for having provided 71 years of service to the Utah Democratic Party as well as to numerous community and civic organizations over the decades — groups the included the Boy and Girl Scouts, local schools and the LDS Church.
“I started volunteering when I first got married,” said Larsen. “At that time, a lot of women stayed at home and their husbands were the breadwinners. Volunteering gave me something worthwhile to do. There was always something that needed to be done or someone who needed help.”
These days, Larsen still is going strong.
She is serving on the festival committee for the International Peace Garden located at 1060 So. 900 West in Salt Lake City. The committee organizes the annual celebration of dance, music and food that is held every year on the third Saturday of August in the park, where flowers and other displays from 28 different countries are featured.
“Gwendalyn is one of those people who has lived a life of exemplary service,” said Melanie Bowen, chairwoman of the Salt Lake Council of Women’s Hall of Fame. “Service has been fundamental to the way she has lived her life.”
During the induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame, Bowen noted that Larsen provided 71 years of volunteer service to the Democratic Party of Utah in Summit, Rich and Morgan County. Although at times, she also quietly campaigned and assisted Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who was her mother’s nephew.
“I’ve been a lifelong Democrat like my father and husband were. And having lived in Park City for some 50 years, it was almost a requirement. But I did help Orrin Hatch occasionally, although I didn’t go around making it openly known. I would have been shot,” Larsen said, laughing at the thought.
Bowen noted that her service in the Utah Democratic Party saw her fill a variety of roles over the decades, from precinct chairwoman to campaign chairwoman for politicians such as Gov. Calvin Rampton, Congressman Wayne Owens and Congressman Gun McKay. She worked on the campaign for the late Senator Ed Mayne and more recently state Sen. Karen Mayne’s campaign.
In her professional life, she owned her own floral shop for more than 20 years. She served as a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association for more than three decades, filling many leadership positions including state president for that organization. Larsen also served on the board of the Women’s State Legislative Council for more than 40 years.
An active member of the LDS Church, she served as an ordinance worker in the Jordan River LDS temple for 10 years. And at one point she was president of the Brigham Young Granddaughters Organization. And then there was her services as the PTA President in South Summit and Park City, and the numerous days she help teach autistic children how to read.
“Growing up, we had a mother who was always involved with us and with others,” said Lueen Allison, one of Larsen’s three daughters. A son lives in Wyoming. “She was the mother who took all of us to the football games out of town, sewed all or clothes and taught us in 4H. She was always doing something, and still is. And I think that is one of the things that has helped keep her young.”
For Janet Geyser, president of the Salt Lake Council of Women, it is that “staying power” that is one of the things that impresses her most about Larsen. “She is just amazing, and it is just unbelievable what she has accomplished over the years. And everything she did was always in the background, out of the limelight.”
Bowen noted that the women’s council only inducts members into its Hall of Fame once every five years. “We want it to be a special occasion that recognizes women like Gwendalyn, who truly are a model for the rest of us,” she said.
SLCW Hall of Fame
The SLCW, which celebrated its 100th year in 2012, inducts seven women into its Hall of Fame every five years. The inductees this year, all of whom gave at least 25 years of volunteer service to the Wasatch Front, are: Mary Gail Brassard, Linda Kuenstler Itami, Gwendalyn Larsen, Lona Mae Lauritzen, Carol Jo Rimensberger Radinger, Peggy Stanley and Catherine Tucci Perryman.