May 27, 1952 – March 28, 2020
It is with extreme sadness that we let our friends and colleagues know that Denise Renee Larsen died on March 28, 2020, two months short of her 68th Birthday.
She had been diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer over two years ago. Denise went through treatment with a forward look always, and worked and lived life up to the last.
Denise lived her early years in El Sobrante, and then Pinole, California, with parents Norman (Stu) and Verda Larsen, sister Caryla, and brother David. The family moved to Colusa, California, in 1964 and lived in the Butte Vista neighborhood, filled with kids who were constantly outside, playing games, and daring each other to new heights of fun and adventure. She was nicknamed Twiggy, with a short blond haircut and her long, lean teenaged body. Throughout junior high and high school in the late 1960’s, Denise enjoyed all school and sports activities and was an enthusiastic song leader at football and basketball games. In summer, she enjoyed tubing on the river, working in the prune harvest, and attending fun parties, whenever or wherever they happened– at the weir, orchards, barns, and in cars driving around town, all amongst a wide group of friends.
Denise’s curious and smart mind was a living library, and she could access any shared experience, every thought and feeling about that experience, and recount it with every detail. She was your own personal storyteller, and historian, and memories were made whole again with her remarkable vivid retelling.
Denise attended American River College, and then began years of attending schools, seminars, classes, seeking out the many interests of her wondering, searching mind. She studied design and refinishing of pine furniture, and bought and traded pine pieces that she nurtured back to their original states. Denise loved music and dancing, and she studied Movement and Dance Therapy, as a way to connect joy with constructive therapy.
In the mid 1980s, Denise received her Masters at California State University East Bay, in Hayward, and became a Marriage Family Therapist. She moved to Fairfax, in Marin County, California, to a woodland house perched on a hillside and lived there the rest of her life, rebuilding it over time to house her many hobbies. She was ardent about local politics, and about environmental organizations that protected the Marin hiking trails right outside her door. At her career’s beginning, she worked at Concern, Center Point, and the John Muir Adolescent Program, and then, for many years, at Kaiser Chemical Dependency Recovery Program. She worked closely for years, with Isagenix, a company dedicated to health, and nutrition. She drove miles to various worksites, leading seminars throughout Northern California for companies such as HP, Apple, and government agencies. She was dedicated to giving people non-judgmental compassionate support to get through tough life challenges.
To her friends, she was a therapist before she studied to become a therapist. She was a wonderful listener, so intent on absorbing everything you would say and not missing one word. After taking everything into account she would respond with honesty, practicality and such bluntness of truth that you couldn’t help but agree. For her clients, she was the same true listener and a speaker of realism. Her belief in the telling of the truth was equal to her infectious love of laughter and a rich enjoyment of life.
She was passionate about snowboarding, and traveled to Australia to ride the snow there. She went to Fiji, and tried fire walking. She had a group of windsurfing friends who spent lively weekends at lakeside campouts in the Sacramento Delta. She was an avid football fan, and attended the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Denise was always intent on experiences that were healing, and exhilarating.
Her dogs were a close part of her family. She and the dogs would arrive in her car, a bundle of active energy. She traveled with at least one, or three, with her, always with a bandana tied festively around its neck.
But she really cared for all animals, including cats and injured wildlife. She once returned from a trip to Hawaii with a few kittens in her coat that she had rescued while there, and kept one of those kittens, Kona, all his many years. Denise could be counted on to help in animal rescue and pet abandonment, and helped support and used the resources of the Marin Humane Society and the Milo Foundation in San Rafael.
Denise lived her life always aware of its unlimited potential. She leaves behind her partner Steve Charlip, with whom she shared the journey of these last years, sister Caryla, brother David, and friends and colleagues who hold her tightly in their hearts and minds.
She is placed at rest in the Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, California, where visitors are welcome, A memorial will be planned when we all can come together again. Donations can be given in her name to the Marin Humane Society, or any organization that provides kindness to animals.■
05/13/2020 • WPR #2020-0654