OBITUARY

Ralph Irving Larsen, PhD

November 26, 1928July 18, 2018
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On Wednesday, July 18, 2018 Ralph Larsen took a trip he had been planning most of his life. Ralph passed away on Wednesday morning at Hillside Nursing Home in Wake Forest after a period of declining health.

Born in Corvallis, Oregon on November 26, 1928, Ralph treasured home life with his father, Walter Larsen, and mother, Nellie Larsen, along with his three siblings Evelyn (Boyle, Ofsted) Larsen, Lyle Larsen, and Lorraine (Bauder) Larsen. Ralph also had an older sister, Lillian, who died in a tragic accident before Ralph was born. Church was a central part of the family life and Ralph turned over his heart and his life to Jesus as a nine-year-old boy while attending Vacation Bible School. Nothing he learned or experienced during the rest of his life would shake that fundamental faith in his salvation. Growing up in Oregon and gifted academically, Ralph was admitted to Oregon State University where he studied Civil Engineering (graduating at the top of his class) and roomed with his beloved cousin Ted Watkins. While at Oregon State, Ralph met the smart and beautiful Betty Garner from Grants Pass, Oregon. He reflected in later years that she was, “the first girl I ever kissed.” They were married in 1950.

Following college Ralph was enlisted in the Army Reserves and rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant then later transferred to the Public Health Service. Ultimately, Ralph rose to the Public Health Service’s equivalent to the rank of Navy Captain. The Public Health Service moved Ralph and Betty to Washington, DC where Ralph began intensive work in the emerging field of air pollution research. During their time in Washington, DC, daughter Karen arrived.

Impressed with his early work, his bosses arranged for a unique opportunity for Ralph. He was offered the chance to attend Harvard to study for his advanced degrees. Ralph, Betty, and Karen moved to Boston and on the second day of classes, son Eric arrived. Taking an overload of courses at Harvard, Ralph quickly completed his coursework for both his Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering and his PhD in Air Pollution Research. He completed his PhD thesis, “Fundamental Studies of Particle Dynamics and Adhesion,” with Betty typing up the thesis on a manual typewriter that had been modified to allow for certain scientific and mathematical symbols.

Finished at Harvard, Ralph, Betty, Karen, and Eric moved to Cincinnati, which was a central location for air pollution research for the Public Health Service. During this time Ralph authored a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers and gave talks at scientific conferences around the country. While in Cincinnati, daughter Kristine (Kris) and son Jan arrived. Ralph’s ground-breaking work in Cincinnati became the scientific basis for the first US law to clean up air pollution: The Clean Air Act. Perhaps most importantly, Ralph pioneered the use of the emerging digital computer age to augment his scientific work and translated over 100,000 computer punch cards of air pollution data into precise mathematical models to predict and reduce air pollution. His prowess at using IBM computers at this work got IBM’s attention, and they invited Ralph to speak at an IBM conference and published a writeup on his use of computers in scientific research.

In 1968 the recently created Environmental Protection Agency put one of its top research labs in North Carolina’s newly opened Research Triangle Park. Soon Ralph, Betty, Karen, Eric, Kris and Jan moved to Raleigh. Ralph’s research and reputation continued to grow as he developed a sophisticated mathematical model that related air pollution concentrations to disease in people and plants, and damage to property. This provided enough notice to send Ralph on speaking trips to places as far away as London, England, Milan, Italy, and Krakow, Poland.

The family took summer cross-country car/camping trips back to Oregon. A detailed planner, Ralph arranged the trip routes so that his children visited every one of the 48 contiguous United States and camped in nearly every National Park.

Tragedy struck the family when Betty passed away early in 1989. The family regrouped and gradually healed. Ralph found solace and then a partner in Anne King. They dated and ultimately were married in 1991. Each having lost a spouse to death, they had a great appreciation for each other and had a happy, quiet life together. They enjoyed trips to the North Carolina beach. On longer trips they shared the experiences of seeing Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainer in the Pacific Northwest; exploring Oregon, Washington, and Canada; and seeing the historic sites while visiting relatives in Boston. They also enjoyed the home life in their house in Northeast Raleigh.

Ralph concluded his career after more than 52 years of scientific research on air pollution and was later inducted into the Oregon State University Engineering Hall of Fame. Through all his scientific research and deep calculations there was one constant and that was his faith in God. Ralph served many years as an Elder at North Ridge Church in Raleigh. He often said that science is the way we get to learn more about God and the universe that He has created.

Ralph was preceded in death by his parents, sister Evelyn Ofsted, brother Lyle Larsen, wife Betty Larsen and stepdaughter Cindi King. He leaves behind his wife, Anne Larsen of the home; daughter Karen Cleeton and husband Doug of Leesburg, Florida; son Eric Larsen and wife Jamie of Rolesville; daughter Kris Burns of Raleigh; son Jan Larsen and wife Susan of Raleigh; stepdaughter Vikki Ball and husband Randy of Wake Forest; stepdaughter Terri Johnson and husband Phillip of Elizabeth City; 13 grandchildren; and 13 great grandchildren.

A time of visitation will be held on Tuesday July 24th at 1pm at North Ridge Church; 7601 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615 with the funeral service immediately following at 2pm. A private graveside service will be held afterwards at Raleigh Memorial Park.

Anne would like to thank the caring professionals at Stay at Home Senior Care and Hillside Nursing Home.

Flowers are appreciated or contributions may be made to North Ridge Church of the CMA or the ‘Academic Achievement Award in honor of Dr. Ralph Larsen’ at the Central North Carolina Chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

  • FAMILY

  • Ralph was preceded in death by his parents, sister Evelyn Ofsted, brother Lyle Larsen, wife Betty Larsen and stepdaughter Cindi King. He leaves behind his wife, Anne Larsen of the home; daughter Karen Cleeton and husband Doug of Leesburg, Florida; son Eric Larsen and wife Jamie of Rolesville; daughter Kris Burns of Raleigh; son Jan Larsen and wife Susan of Raleigh; stepdaughter Vikki Ball and husband Randy of Wake Forest; stepdaughter Terri Johnson and husband Phillip of Elizabeth City; 13 grandchildren; and 13 great grandchildren.

Services

  • Visitation Tuesday, July 24, 2018
  • Funeral Service Tuesday, July 24, 2018
REMEMBERING

Ralph Irving Larsen, PhD

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Biography

Tragedy struck the family when Betty passed away early in 1989. The family regrouped and gradually healed. Ralph found solace and then a partner in Anne King. They dated and ultimately were married in 1991. Each having lost a spouse to death, they had a great appreciation for each other and had a happy, quiet life together. They enjoyed trips to the North Carolina beach. On longer trips they shared the experiences of seeing Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainer in the Pacific Northwest; exploring Oregon, Washington, and Canada; and seeing the historic sites while visiting relatives in Boston. They also enjoyed the home life in their house in Northeast Raleigh.

Ralph concluded his career after more than 52 years of scientific research on air pollution and was later inducted into the Oregon State University Engineering Hall of Fame. Through all his scientific research and deep calculations there was one constant and that was his faith in God. Ralph served many years as an Elder at North Ridge Church in Raleigh. He often said that science is the way we get to learn more about God and the universe that He has created.

Ralph was preceded in death by his parents, sister Evelyn Ofsted, brother Lyle Larsen, wife Betty Larsen and stepdaughter Cindi King. He leaves behind his wife, Anne Larsen of the home; daughter Karen Cleeton and husband Doug of Leesburg, Florida; son Eric Larsen and wife Jamie of Rolesville; daughter Kris Burns of Raleigh; son Jan Larsen and wife Susan of Raleigh; stepdaughter Vikki Ball and husband Randy of Wake Forest; stepdaughter Terri Johnson and husband Phillip of Elizabeth City; 13 grandchildren; and 13 great grandchildren.

A time of visitation will be held on Tuesday July 24th at 1pm at North Ridge Church; 7601 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615 with the funeral service immediately following at 2pm. A private graveside service will be held afterwards at Raleigh Memorial Park.

Anne would like to thank the caring professionals at Stay at Home Senior Care and Hillside Nursing Home.

Flowers are appreciated or contributions may be made to North Ridge Church of the CMA or the ‘Academic Achievement Award in honor of Dr. Ralph Larsen’ at the Central North Carolina Chapter of the American Meteorological Society.