PALMER — Although it snowed across parts of the Mat-Su Valley Saturday morning, by the time friends and family met to mourn, remember and celebrate Alaska racing booster Clarence “Lud” Larson Jr., they were met with bright sun and blue skies.
“This day is just a testimony, I think, of our creator here among us,” said his sister, Pastor Suzanne Morelli. “Look at this day! Just incredible!”
Dubbed “Last Lap For Lud,” the funeral service, held at North Star Speedway, included drivers — including Larson’s daughter Cathy Larson — taking Lud’s ashes around the track.
Larson, majority shareholder of the speedway just off Trunk Road south of Parks Highway, died Sept. 12 at age 75. Morelli spoke for many in the crowd when she said that 75 years weren’t enough with Larson.
“Yet he packed that time full of life,” Morelli said.
Larson’s daughter, Sharon Larson, said her father was “a Jack of all trades and very giving.”
“He was just one of the nicest guys,” she said, ‘He would give you the shirt off his back.”
She said the celebration at the track meant a lot to her and she thought her father would have enjoyed it.
“My dad’s friends were a big part of his life,” she said.
Ron Harvey, who emceed the event and was a longtime friend of Larson’s, president of the South Central Alaska Motor Sports Association and organizer of much of the racetrack’s events, said that Larson was “larger than life.”
“The tight-knit circle that Lud created out here is much bigger than the track,” Harvey said. “I know we have a lot of things planned for the bucket list, but God has the upper hand.”
Harvey said that Larson went to racing events all over the state — anything going around a track could bring him out.
“Racing was in his heart and he loved it,” Harvey said.
Larson was born in Pennsylvania and got interested in auto mechanics at age 12. He spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force, which first took him to Alaska. He had four children, all of whom still live in Alaska, daughter Sharon Larson said.
He was a grandfather a great-grandfather, a pilot, a real estate agent and a business owner. He built many of Wasilla’s roads and subdivisions and at one time owned many of the businesses in Northway, Alaska.
Pastor Alonso Patterson said in his remarks to the crowd that he felt compelled to come to Larson’s service, handing another funeral that day off to another pastor.
He and Larson, he said, were the same age and lived similar lives in that they had children at around the same time and related to them in similar ways.
“Lud and I shared our dreams together,” Patterson said. “We opened our hearts up to each other in a very intimate way.”
He said they didn’t know each other that well, but the times they’d spoke had been very memorable, deep conversations.
He told Larson’s friends and family to remember that Lud isn’t gone, he has just moved on.
“It’s not the last lap,” he said. “He’s always riding with you.”
Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at email@example.com or 352-2270.