Louis S. Larsen, patriarch of a Chilmark fishing family


Captain Louis Samuel Larsen, a Chilmarker whose larger than life presence epitomized the persistence and adaptability of Menemsha fishermen, died on March 11, in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 88 and had wintered in Florida in recent years.

He was born on November 27, 1925, to Norwegian immigrants Daniel and Kristine Larsen, at their home on Larsen Lane in Menemsha.

A lifelong fisherman, he began his career fishing alongside his father and his two brothers, Bjarne and Dagbard. He sailed the oceans from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico in pursuit of swordfish, groundfish, and every other profitable deep sea species, and he made many lifelong friends along the way.

After serving in the merchant marine during World War II, he returned to Chilmark and met the love of his life, Mary Smith of Edgartown. They were married on April 24, 1948, and together they raised four children.

Captain Larsen could not only catch fish, he had a gift for marketing his catch. In 1969, he and Mary opened Larsen’s fish market in Menemsha.

After retirement, the Larsens travelled the world, leaving the retailing of seafood to their descendants.

He was a massive man, massively kind, gentle, and generous, with a grand sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. His granddaughter Kimberly Rogers once said, “He was like having Santa for your grandpa.”

He loved to cook for family and friends. Every year on Thanksgiving weekend, he marshaled the family — including aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren — for the traditional Norwegian rolapolza construction, a lamb concoction that cured until Christmas when it was eaten.

Captain Larsen was predeceased by his parents; by his wife of 62 years, Mary; his two brothers and his two sisters, Olga and Nicka.

He is survived by sons Louis and his wife, Beth; and Daniel and his wife, Marie; and by his daughters Kristine Larsen and her husband, Kirk Safford; and Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Larsen and her husband, Robert Sloane; and 10 grandchildren, Kimberly Rogers, Heidi Arroyo, Daniel Larsen, Isaiah Scheffer, Aaron Larsen, Travis Larsen, Jeremy Scheffer, Hans Larsen, Andrew Larsen, and Sam Larsen, and nine great-grandchildren. He will be missed by family and everyone who knew him.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Island Food Pantry, P.O. Box 1874, Vineyard Haven, 02568, the Chilmark Fire Department, P.O. Box 119, Chilmark, 02535, or to the Tri-Town Ambulance, P.O. Box 457, West Tisbury, 02575.

A potluck lunch celebrating his life at the Chilmark Community Center will follow the graveside service at 10:30 am, at Abel’s Hill Cemetery on Saturday, March 22.