Casualties of COVID honored as posthumous grand marshals

Widows Jeannie Inouye and Joanie Larson are co-grand marshals

GUNNISON—Two outstanding men who provided healthcare services to the residents of Gunnison for many years are being posthumously honored at the valley’s 4th of July celebration.

Dr. Ernest Larson, a family dentist for 48 years and Dr. Dwight Inouye, a family physician for over 40 years, both passed away from COVID last year.

Both men and their wives have been chosen as the 2021 Grand Marshals of the Gunnison Valley Parade. Ernie’s wife Joanie and Dwight’s wife Jeannie will be riding in the front of the parade, which starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Both of these influential men have been greatly missed by many people in the valley, said parade spokesperson Kaye Pickett. And both of these couples have served Gunnison Valley in many ways.

The Larsons

Joanie and Ernie Larson have been selected as 2021 grand marshals of the Gunnison Valley Parade.

Ernie and Joanie Larson loved living in Gunnison Valley. They have been married for 26 years and both have five kids; when you combine their families together they have 32 grandchildren and nine great- grandkids.

They belonged to the Gunnison Lion’s Club and contributed to many service projects that have benefited the community. Ernie also helped with the Manti Pageant for many years.

With the help of other LDS leaders in his ward, Ernie raised money to bring back the tradition of fireworks to Gunnison Valley.

Ernie loved music and played for almost every musical at the high school. He belonged to several musical groups which he loved and gave his all.  Ernie was known as a loving and loyal friend. He was very funny and could have every one laughing by his comments. He was a sweet and faithful husband. Ernie passed away Dec. 6, 2020. He was 76.

The Inouyes

Dwight and Jeannie Inouye have been selected as 2021 grand marshals of the Gunnison Valley Parade.

Dr. Dwight Inouye, 71, started his family medical practice in the Gunnison Valley in the 1980s, after receiving his medical training.

Dwight’s greatest desire after finishing medical school and residency was to return to practice medicine in the community of his youth. His experiences in Gunnison had been shaped by individuals like Dr. Lamar Stewart and Lamar Larsen, who were committed to building a strong and caring community.

They inspired in him a desire to give back to the people who had accepted him and his family after their internment in the Japanese relocation camps of World War II.

Jeannie, after completing graduate work at BYU in learning disabilities and education, was eager to raise a large family alongside Dwight’s parents, Charles and Bessie Inouye. In 1980, Dwight and Jeannie moved back to Gunnison with their four children. He constructed a white-brick building east of the Gunnison Hospital to practice medicine.

Dwight engaged with members of the community in various capacities. He also served 23 years on the South Sanpete School Board and served briefly as a Sanpete County commissioner. He also held numerous leadership roles in the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts.

Jeannie served as a young women’s president, primary teacher and ward music director in the Gunnison First Ward. Their service enabled them to get to know the many fine people of Gunnison and the Sanpete Valley who they admired and respected for their sense of purpose, fortitude, resilience and compassion.

Dwight spoke often of the spirit of service and volunteerism of the Gunnison Valley community. He and Jeannie brought to their children’s attention the many people who regularly shifted focus from themselves to accomplish tasks that would immediately improve the lives of others.

Dwight died Tuesday Dec. 29, 2020 from COVID-19-related complications.  He is survived by his wife, Jeannie; eight children and 27 grandchildren. He is also survived by his siblings, Warren, Elizabeth Ann and Charles.