WESTBROOK – The family of a Westbrook man whose life was tragically cut short by a falling tree is finding solace in his devotion to God and the Bible.

John Larson, 55, was killed on Nov. 23 when a large birch tree came down and struck him in the back of the head. At the time, he was out behind his father’s business, Larson’s Auto Repair, cutting wood and clearing brush.

It was the kind of thing he was wont to do.

“He’s helped more people,” said Larson’s mother, Joan “Joanne” Larson.

His father, Elmer Larson Sr., was quick to add, “He had a good impact on anyone who met him.”

Close to 300 people attended John Larson’s wake on Sunday, Nov. 28. The turnout was a testament to Larson’s impact on the community.

One of his good friends was Mike Campbell, a West Virginia native and current resident of New Sharon. Campbell said that when he moved to the Westbrook area in the 1970s, Larson reached out to him and lent a hand with some car troubles.

“We were pretty close,” Campbell said. “ He had more friends … a lot of people miss him.”

Campbell was with Larson immediately preceding his death. He was helping Larson stack wood, but then left for a doctor’s appointment. Forty minutes later, he said, he got a call that his good friend was dead.

“It kind of broke my heart,” Campbell said. “It really hurt.”

Larson’s family said he enjoyed nothing more than helping others. His favorite saying, which has stuck with his loved ones through this ordeal, was, “You do good, you get good. You do bad, you get bad. It’s as simple as that.”

His sister, Janie Whitcomb, recalled with humor the time her son tried raising pigs, which “stunk bad” and managed to get loose in their Gorham neighborhood. John Larson was able to round them up and secure them in the pen, she said.

He was also someone who had a knack for listening to others. Elaine Nicholas, the fiance?e of John’s brother, Elmer Jr., said it was “almost like he knew to come to you” to provide comfort.

“He always said ‘I love you’ to everybody and that he was thinking of you and praying for you every day,” said his niece, Taylor Whitcomb. “He’s an angel.”

He resided near the Dana Warp Mill on Bridge Street. His favorite reading material, besides the Bible, was the newspaper. Part of his daily routine included walking the paths near the mill with a newspaper folded up and tucked into his pocket. He would grab a seat on a bench and read the paper from front to back, his family said.

Additionally, John Larson was a guitarist, having learned how to play the instrument from his father. He favored country music; family said he played with such acts as Duke Knight and The Country Gamblers and won awards for his performances.

Family members described Larson as a man who loved being with family, working on cars, getting his hands dirty, learning new things, listening to others and cooking and eating good food.

But most of all, he was a man of God – something that gives the family comfort in these trying times. They said he always told them not to be sad when he passed, because he was going someplace better.

Larson grew a garden for his family last year. A rose bush he planted for his mother had two yellow roses on it that persisted through the autumn chills up until the very day he died. Joanne Larson said she is drying out those last roses with intentions of keeping them in memory of her son.

“He talked to me all the time about God,” she said. “He was a preacher, and I think that’s why God has him up there with him.”

Hours before John Larson’s burial on Wednesday, his widow, Debbie Larson, expressed her thanks to the community for the outpouring of support, and issued her condolences to everyone affected by her husband’s death.

“He was just so loved by many and he loved them too,” she said.

She also thanked Westbrook police, fire and rescue for their response following the accident. She gave special thanks to police Chief Bill Baker, saying, “I’ll never forget, chief. He’ll know what that means.”

Debbie Larson intends to use the flowers from her late husband’s funeral to spread some joy throughout the community. In the near future, she said she will hand out the flowers to complete strangers, in keeping with John’s desire to help even those he did not know.

“He just cared for others genuinely. I hope I can carry it on for him,” she said.

John Larson, in a family photo. Courtesy photo

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