Clayton Elmore Larson Jr. of Edgartown, known to all as Bud, died following a brief illness on Jan. 5, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., near his winter home in Deerfield Beach. He was 86.
Tall, thin, and always wearing a hat, Bud was a familiar figure on Island roads, trails, and beaches, where he walked miles religiously each morning.
He and his wife, Jeraldine (“Jeri”) Wenkert-Larson, first came to the Island on their 1974 honeymoon at the Beach Plum Inn. After summering in Chilmark for 25 years, the couple bought a house in Edgartown, where they retired full-time in a house filled with music. The Larsons have long been mainstays of the Vineyard Haven Band, where Bud played flute and Jeri played bells.
The couple also founded the Long Point Five, a popular Island wind ensemble with an eclectic repertoire of jazz, standards, and classical pieces, for which Bud wrote all the arrangements. With Bud on flute, Jeri on piano, Julie Schilling on clarinet, John Schilling on trumpet, and Jim Athearn on trombone, the quintet was a fixture at libraries, galleries, senior centers, and parties.
Bud was born on July 12, 1936, in Richmond, Va., to a family with long New England roots. His parents, Clayton Sr., an engineer, and the former Margery Wooldridge, a nurse, were both from Glastonbury, Conn. His paternal grandmother, Catherine Hull, traced her ancestry to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his ancestors fought in the Union Army in the Civil War.
A consummate nature boy from childhood, Bud grew up prowling the wild forests and ponds near the family’s Weston, Conn., home. But it was his summers at the Wooldridge cottage in Niantic, Conn., that instilled a deep love of New England coastal landscapes. Alongside his grandfather, R.J., young Bud fished in Niantic Bay, and learned to identify, clean, and cook every fish that swam in the North Atlantic.
Bud discovered his other abiding love, music, when he took up jazz cornet as a student at Phillips Academy Andover. He played in Dixieland bands during a stint at Cornell University before transferring to the Conservatory of Music in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he studied classical piano. He graduated with degrees in piano and composition from the Yale School of Music before embarking on a career as a professional jazz trombonist with the New Breed Quartet and others in Hartford, Washington, and Key West.
In the early 1970s, he found his professional calling as an elementary school instrumental music teacher in Danbury, Conn., where he taught for 37 years. He earned a master’s in music education from the University of Bridgeport, whose pioneering electronic music laboratory ignited Bud’s lifelong love of electronic composition. In 2003, he retired from teaching band and string orchestra, for which he wrote hundreds of original arrangements of popular, classical, and folk tunes.
Bud is survived by Jeri; daughter Hilary, son-in-law, Oggi, and granddaughter, Zelda, of Philadelphia; and daughter Amy and son-in-law Joel of San Francisco.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the New England Musicians Relief Fund, 1337 Massachusetts Ave. #293, Arlington, MA 02476, or nemrf.org.