John J. Larsen

Posted 5/5/20

FLOSSMOOR - John James Larsen, 75, of Flossmoor, formerly of Mendota, passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 28, 2020 at his home.

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John J. Larsen


FLOSSMOOR - John James Larsen, 75, of Flossmoor, formerly of Mendota, passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 28, 2020 at his home.

Family will gather for a private graveside service at Restland Cemetery Memorial Gardens coordinated by Merritt Funeral Home, Mendota.

John was born Jan. 8, 1945 in Chicago to John James Larsen Sr. and Shirley Larsen (Freitag). He married Cora Burley.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years; three children, Joseph Larsen, Jessica (Bryan) Westhoff and Jacob Larsen; four grandchildren, Anthony Larsen, Maxim Larsen, Benjamin Westhoff and Vivian Westhoff; and one brother, Victor Larsen.

He was preceded in death by his brother, Roger Larsen.

Born in Chicago, John’s family soon moved to Mendota, where he grew up. As a young child in school, struggles with reading and unhappy classroom experiences led to his lifelong mission to educate teachers, facilitate learning and to make school a better place for children. He took great joy in observing children and pursued studies in child development. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in business from Illinois Wesleyan University. Later, he earned a Master’s in Guidance and Counseling from Illinois State University, a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from The Erikson Institute, and eventually, his Doctorate in Educational Psychology from Loyola University.

While in high school, John met the love of his life, Cora, and they were married his junior year of college. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan in 1967, they entered the Peace Corps. The couple spent two years of service in the Philippines, where they did teacher training and introduced new curriculum in modern math and science. They also had numerous adventures, visiting virgin forests, live volcanos, coffee and banana plantation as well as meeting President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda. After completing their service in the Peace Corps, they traveled through Asia and Europe before returning to the United States for graduate school. They continued their adventures together traveling throughout their 53 years of marriage.

John’s educational pursuits yielded a fulfilling career throughout the south suburbs and Chicago. He held positions as an elementary school guidance counselor, early childhood special education teacher, college professor, school administrator, and most recently as an elementary school psychologist. John loved his work and took great joy in working with kids and educating teachers. He helped countless children and families and served as a mentor to many in the field. He truly valued his colleagues who dedicated their lives to helping others, especially the underserved. He never lost his passion for working with children and guiding staff.

Beyond his work, John was dedicated to his family. Before the break-out hit, “Mr. Mom”, he spent years raising their three young children during the mornings while Cora worked. During this time he also worked as a professor, teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses in the department of special education at Chicago State University. His commitment to his family is evident by the special relationships he had with each of them. Each of his children considered him a best friend. Part of John’s magic was that he was a great observer and saw people as individuals. No matter the situation, he always showed up. He was also enamored with his grandchildren and delighted in watching their personalities take shape. As he got older, he enjoyed teasing them and surprising them with bags of spare change.

Dr. John Larsen will be remembered as fun-loving, caring, kind and generous. He was an avid reader, admitted fair-weathered sports fan (both Cubs and White Sox), political junkie, and seeker of solitude. He loved Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, popcorn, coffee, and chocolate. He treasured his friendships and took great pleasure in telling stories from his youth. John made the world a better place. He will be remembered fondly by all who met him, and he will be forever loved and missed.

Memorials in John’s memory may be made to The Sierra Club []; National Park Foundation []; and The Erikson Institute [] in their mission to ensure that all children, particularly the most vulnerable, have positive early childhood experiences.

For additional information, contact or call (708) 798-5300.