Dr. Joen Marie Larson of Princeton, IA, passed away at her home on June 29, 2022 following a battle with ALS. She was 71. Joen was born January 29, 1951 in Lake City, IA to Richard “Dick” and Betty (nee Beidler) Morris. She grew up on the Morris family’s now Century Farm outside of Lohrville, IA.
Joen earned a Doctorate in Education (EdD) in Educational Leadership from the University of Northern Iowa, having focused her research on women pioneers in leadership in Iowa’s institutions of higher learning. She also earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Iowa State University and her Bachelors’ Degree from Buena Vista University, all of this while nurturing her family and maintaining full-time employment. This employment included running a child-day care center, then as a elementary school teacher and principal, high-school counselor, then a professor respectively at Grandview College, Waldorf College and, finally, as Dean of the School of Education at Ashford University and Professor of Education with Ashford University/University of Arizona Global Campus.
Joen was respected statewide and nationally as not only a teacher of students but a teacher of teachers, specializing in teacher education certification. She was an esteemed and influential advocate for the best professional standards on behalf of teachers and students, especially in her role of advocacy in Des Moines and Washington DC as a leader for the Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE) and a member of its national governing board, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). As with all good teachers, she was devoted to her students, especially those she mentored from underprivileged backgrounds, and deeply rewarded by their reports even years later of life successes.
Joen met her husband, the Rev. Dr. Duane Larson, while at church; though she admitted that she “took note” of him when he was a guest speaker at an event two years prior at Waldorf College. They married in 2010 at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA. With Duane she shared great love for travel, the fine arts, sports (especially the Houston Astros and Rockets, as they lived recently in Houston for five years), winter cross-country skiing, golf, and life always with a water view. Additionally, she enjoyed reading books of all kinds, going on walks, shopping, and cheering for the Iowa State Cyclones. These pleasures, with her great gift for hospitality, translated easily too to the larger public level of social justice advocacy, especially for womens’ rights.
Joen’s joys and values were especially focused in her love for her family. Affectionately called “Grandma Cookie” by her grandchildren in their youth, they were also her most beloved students in her annual themed “Family Camp” held every summer for a week, where they learned the history, arts, and ups and downs of urban life in Chicago, Washington DC or learning to body surf in the waves off San Diego. Her two adult children, too, with Duane, and the grandchildren, had to meet her requirements for a talent show at many Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. Fiercely dedicated to their healthy upbringing, Joen attended every significant school and extra-curricular activity as she possibly could in which they had a place, if even a long-drive meant only a short hour stay for celebration and picture-taking. Joen made it as clear as she could in her generosity of self, time, and support that she desired her loved ones to find and live their greatest joys.
With her husband Duane, survivors include her children Travis (Traci) Blanchfield, of Lohrville, IA; Jenna (Justin) Ries, of Bellevue, IA; grandchildren Allyssa Blanchfield, Tyson Blanchfield, Kelsea Camp, Kaden Burzlaff, Kyler Ries, and Tyler Schachtner; brother Eugene (Melissa) Morris, of Lohrville; sister Jolene Morris, Mesa, AZ; and her and Duane’s Westie, “Fiddich.” Joen was preceded in death by her parents. Though we deeply grieve her death and the loss to us of her uniquely wonderful light and love, we take comfort that Joen lives now even more brilliantly in the love, light, and larger life of God.
Memorial services celebrating the life of Dr. Joen M. Larson, EdD will be held at 10:30am on Saturday, July 9, 2022 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport, IA. In lieu of flowers, the family invites memorials to be made to the Rev. Dr. Duane H. Larson and Dr. Joen M. Larson Scholarship of The Fund for Leaders, administered by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (see Fund for Leaders at www.elca.org).
Online remembrances and condolences may be expressed by visiting www.hmdfuneralhome.com.