Prince George has lost one of its sporting legends.
Ken Larsen, inducted into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 for his achievements in basketball and baseball, passed away on Friday after suffering a stroke. He was 76.
Larsen stood an imposing six-foot-six but was known for his kind, soft-spoken demeanour and his easy laugh. He was never shy about donating his time so it was no surprise that he also became a member of the hall of fame's board of directors.
"It was with profound shock and sadness we learned of Ken's passing," said hall of fame president Gale Russell. "Ken was an integral part of our family, loved by everyone. We will forever miss that wonderful smile and gentle manner that has become his legacy."
Larsen was born in Calgary on Nov. 11, 1935, but grew up in Prince George. In his youth, he excelled in baseball and football and even spent a couple of years inside the boxing ring. But, with his height and athleticism, he was a natural on the basketball court.
Larsen played high school basketball at Prince George Junior/Senior High School and later wore the uniform of Everett Junior College. In 1958, while a member of the Vancouver Cloverleafs, he was named the team's rookie of the year.
Larsen also spent time with the senior A Port Alberni Athletics and, in the early 1960s, was recruited by the Lethbridge Broders. With Larsen in their lineup, they won three consecutive senior A national championships.
In 1962, the Broders represented Canada at a tournament in the Philippines, an event that was intended to be a world championship but was reduced to invitational status because of political issues that kept Eastern Bloc teams from participating. Larsen and his Broders teammates were handed silver medals at the end of the competition.
The next year, Larsen suited up for Team Canada at the Pan American Games in Brazil. He played his final season with the Broders in 1963-64 and then joined a Winnipeg-area club that went on to win a silver medal at the first Canada Games.
As a baseball player, Larsen was talented enough that he earned a shot with a Stockton, Calif., team that fed into the Vancouver Mounties organization. Baseball then took him to Calgary, where he played in a high-calibre senior loop. While there, Larsen also worked out with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League and played in exhibition games.
Kathy Mears, another P.G. Sports Hall of Fame inductee and board member, said Larsen was a "quiet, unassuming man" who supported the board's activities, stated his opinions and never pushed his ideas on anybody.
"He will be sadly missed at our meetings," Mears added. "His cheerful smile and attitude made meetings a joy to attend."
Larsen was also active in the Elder Citizens Recreation Association and Toastmasters.
Larsen is survived by his wife of 30 years, Rita, and by five children -- sons Ken Jr., Ron and Nathan, and daughters Zoe and Tanya. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren, as well as a brother, Henry, and a sister, Bertie.
Zoe, the eldest daughter, saw her dad as a large presence in her life, quite literally. But, more than anything, she regarded him as a loving family man and a true gentleman.
"He was a very laid-back guy, had a great sense of humour," she said. "He enjoyed all the little moments of life. He was very accepting of people for who they were and he loved to laugh."
As per Larsen's request, no funeral service will be held. The family plans to scatter his ashes next summer.