Kelley Farm group has lost a ‘Friend’

by Don Heinzman
Special to the Star News

The Friends of the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River have lost a special Friend, leader and benefactor.

Clinton O. Larson, 83, of Andover, who contributed thousands of dollars to the farm, was a member of the board of directors and chaired it for four years. He died Saturday.

A retired corporate vice president of Honeywell for 41 years, Larson brought leadership and a focus to the Friends Board. He co-founded the engineering school at the University of St. Thomas and belonged to many other organizations.

With that resume, he made legislators take notice as he testified before committees for funding to revitalize the farm.

“I do believe we would not have received the planning money and initial funding for the revitalization without Clint’s help and voice,” said Robert Quist, the Kelley Farm site manager.

Larson and his wife, Mitzie, became interested in the farm when they saw how much fun their youngest grandchildren had visiting it.

When the Minnesota Legislature and the Minnesota Historical Society cut the funds for historic sites, which threatened to close the farm to the public, Larson and his wife joined the Friends. They spent many hours volunteering, greeting visitors, serving at fund-raisers and buying paintings during the “Paint-the-Farm” events.

Every summer he lured up to 80 Honeywell Corporation retired and current workers who spent a day painting, repairing and sprucing up the farm.

After the farm’s financial future was stabilized, Larson turned his attention to promoting the farm. He joined the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce and Rotary club to make the community leaders more aware of its biggest tourist attraction.

He oversaw the partnership with the Sunbeam Grange in giving out free dictionaries to third graders at Zimmerman, Becker and Otsego elementary schools.

He and his wife served on the board for five years, and while Clint was chair she was the treasurer.

Many former and present Friends board members were among many who remembered Larson Wednesday at a Time of Remembrance.

He is survived by his wife Carolyn “Mitzie”, sons Scott and Craig, five grandchildren, three great grandchildren  and  a  brother Larry (Randi).

Quist said, “Many people have contributed mightily over the past nine years to keeping the farm open, thriving, assisting it and moving it forward toward a better future. Clint’s calm and forceful effort is one of the larger ones over time.”