Wadena veteran receives Quilt of Valor

The quilt honors his service and is intended to provide comfort after his years of service.

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Lynne Toensfeldt (far left) and her sister Laurie Bedford (far right) sit with their dad Roland Larson. Behind them are their husbands Steve T. and Dave B. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

In the colder days ahead, WWII veteran Roland Larson can take comfort under the stars and stripes of his new Quilt of Valor presented to him Saturday, Oct. 31, by members of the Homespun Quilt club in Wadena.

Larson, a recent resident to the new Lincoln Park townhomes, has been a lifelong resident to the area. He celebrated 94 years of age in October and can still recall much of his early days leading up to his service to the country from 1944 to 1946. He first grew up in Parkers Prairie before enlisting in the Navy at age 17 in an effort to avoid being drafted into the Army at 18.

“My dad was in the Army in WWI. ‘When these recruiters come around,’ he said, ‘stay away from them. You don’t want to be where you got to sleep on the ground, where if it’s raining it’s raining and if it’s snowing it’s snowing. As long as you wanna go into the Navy, I’ll let you go,’” he said of his conversation with his father at a time when many were already being drafted.

Upon his graduation, Larson left to serve as a cook aboard the USS Fleming DE (destroyer escort)-32. While Larson was down below cooking up a storm, a storm of sorts was taking place in the skies overhead. While performing convoy and escort duty in the Pacific Ocean, the Fleming was able to sink one Japanese submarine and to shoot down several kamikaze planes that intended to crash into it, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Larson went from watching out for kamikaze to a transport ship called USS Gen. John Pope AP-110.


“Wherever they want you, that’s where you go,” he said. “When you're in the Navy, you just go where the ship goes.”

He recalls going back and forth several times either taking troops over or bringing them back. Meanwhile he worked to do nothing but cook for the thousands of men aboard the ship.

He said he wasn’t a great cook and it didn’t come natural to him. His daughters say he taught his wife how to cook, though. His wife, Gloria, died in September 2019 at 87.

Following his return home, Larson had a stint as a barber then as a member of the Minnesota State Patrol, stationed out of Wadena. He remained there for 30 years. Around Wadena he also did painting and operated a farm with cattle and crops.

Presenting the quilt to Larson was LeAnn Evans and Linda Macklanburg of the quilt club. They have been part of presenting these quilts for three years. The first year it went to LeRoy “Bebe” Kresien, then Tom Malone last year. Kresien passed away in September at age 94. They are all WWII veterans so far and the club has been making an effort to give these quilts to those few remaining.

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Roland Larson looks over the fine details of the quilt made just for him by Homespun Quilt members as part of the Quilts of Valor project. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Evans said the Quilts of Valor Foundation project began in 2003 in an effort to bring not only the physical comfort of a warm quilt, but it brings a mental comfort to those who have seen so much in their lives. Like many veterans, Larson has not shared much about his time in the service with his family or the public.


“It was a different life,” Larson said.

And at 18 years old, it was a time in his life that shaped the rest of his days. Larson and his daughters spoke in appreciation of the VA and the assistance that Larson gets to continue to live on his own. Two of his daughters, Lynne Toensfeldt and Laurie Bedford were present during the recognition on Saturday, they brought along their husbands Steve T. and Dave B. Larson’s other two daughters Patty Reineccius and Barb Wagner were not present.

The Quilts of Valor would have been presented during the Veterans Day ceremony at the Wadena-Deer Creek School, but as that event is now virtual due to the coronavirus, the group decided to recognize Larson early. Evans said the quilt is not only a comfort, but an award for the service he agreed to take on at age 17.

"Things were different at that time, they were waving the flag and everyone wanted to go to end this thing," Larson said of the war.

The group thanked Larson for his service and draped the large quilt over him before allowing him to return to visiting with his family.

LeAnn Evans (left) and Linda Macklanburg hand a Quilt of Valor to Roland Larson, Saturday, Oct. 31, in his home in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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