Robert (Bob) Ray Larsen, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumnus, passed away at the age of 85 on November 10, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California. He was born May 11, 1935 in Cushing, Nebraska to Almus “A.O.” and Margaret Larsen. A.O. was an educator, principal, superintendent and Baptist missionary. Bob grew up in Nebraska and South Dakota. He did well in school, sang in choirs and played the trombone in band.
When Bob was eight years old the family was very close to the local physician and at that time Bob set his goal to become a physician. A couple years later, while at a summer camp, Bob felt he should expand his goal to become a medical missionary. At that time, under the ministry of Rev. August Hintz, Bob was baptized in 1947 at the First Baptist Church of Sioux Falls and publicly announced that he desired to become a medical missionary.
When Bob was still in high school his parents went to the Philippines with ABFMS where his father was president of Central Philippines University. Bob stayed in South Dakota and lived with the family of Dr. Theron Chastain through his college training. Bob wrote in his ABFMS application: “This was a very crucial period in my Christian growth and I’m thankful I could benefit from the influence of a man who has such well-founded and sound beliefs as Dr. Chastain. His influence on my present Christian beliefs is immeasurable.”
Bob studied at Columbia University for two years. He missed the Christian fellowship which he had known while in the Midwest, so he transferred to Bucknell University for his last two years of college. He then stayed in Pennsylvania and attended Temple University Medical School for his medical training.
During medical school, he married his long-time sweetheart, Norma Fry in June 1958. Following medical school graduation, in June of 1960, they moved to Denver where Bob interned at Presbyterian Hospital. It was here that their first two children, Micaela and Kamala, were born. Completing his internship, Bob stayed in Denver for his surgical residency program. While living in Denver they joined the Calvary Baptist Church.
Bob and Norma were appointed by the ABFMS on March 13, 1961. In September 1963, halfway through Bob’s surgical residency, the family sailed for India where they were going to serve at the Nekursini Christian Hospital in rural West Bengal. The family made their first home in Khargpur for a time of language study. Their third daughter, Karolee, was born there. In 1964, they went to Nekursini where Bob directed the operation of the hospital, built and equipped with contributions from Baptists from both America and India. The small hospital/clinic was the center of medical ministry in the rural area where five medical-evangelistic outposts had been established. Bob and two other doctors often saw over 200 patients a day. During their time in Nekursini Bob designed, constructed and managed the 60-bed hospital facility and outpatient clinic to provide care for over 100,000 village people.
In late 1968, when the hospital seemed established and able to run on its own, the family returned to the USA, settling in Denver for Bob’s last two years of surgery residency. Over the next several decades, Bob returned to India to visit the hospital numerous times.
After two years in Denver, the family moved to Brighton, Colorado, and for many of the next 13 years, Bob was the only surgeon in the town. The family was very active in Brighton Presbyterian Church, and Bob served as a Rotarian nearly his whole life. Bob and Norma divorced in 1980 and a year later, Bob married Rebecca “Becky” Imatani. Becky had 2 daughters, Wendy and Paige, and a son, Garrick and thus the family expanded into a “clan.” Their last 6 years in the Brighton area, Bob & Becky also managed a small farm where they raised livestock, alfalfa, veggies, and popcorn!
In 1985, Bob and Becky moved to Orange County, CA, where Bob worked for FHP hospitals as a surgical chief-of-staff, and medical director. His work led him more and more into management and he formed MD Execs, a company that connected medical executives with temporary employment around the world. Bob served on several boards of directors, including the University of Sioux Falls, and Pohaku resorts, as well as Rotary International. Bob and Becky were world travelers, visiting such places as China, India, Bali, Europe, Japan, and Mongolia.
Bob and Becky retired to Judson Park Community in Des Moines, WA, and Bob was predeceased by Becky in 2012. In 2018, Bob moved to Valle Verde in Santa Barbara. Coincidentally, that is where is first wife, Norma lives, and they continued the friendship they’d maintained until his death.
Bob was extraordinary at forming and sustaining lifelong friendships all around the globe. He was a warm, outgoing man, a gifted speaker, a talented surgeon, and a kind friend and neighbor. He was someone who knew how to approach and solve problems. He had a multitude of hobbies and talents, including gardening, writing, carpentry, singing, photography, reading, golf, and tennis.
Bob is survived by his brother David Larsen, of Ontario, Canada, his daughters, Micaela Larsen Brown, Kamala Evora, and Karolee Mathison, and his stepchildren, Wendy Peloso, Paige Greenfield, and Garrick Imatani, as well as numerous grandchildren.
There is no service scheduled, due to COVID restrictions.