Longtime Minnesota State House and State Senate lawmaker Cal Larson celebrated his 90th birthday this week—making him perhaps the oldest living Minnesota legislator.
photo from earlier in his career in St. Paul.
Cal and Loretta Larson, both Concordia College graduates, have called Crystal Lake and the Pelican Rapids area as their “second hometown” since 1954.
Cal Larson, early in his
career at the legislature

90th birthday gathering plans sidetracked by COVID-19 pandemic, but Larson looks ahead to 91

With his 90th birthday on August 10, Cal Lason is one of the oldest politicians around these parts. 

From what the longtime, former lawmaker can determine, he may have the title “oldest living ex-legislator” in the state of Minnesota. 

A Crystal Lake seasonal resident since 1954, Larson served in the State House from 1967 to 1974. He re-entered politics, and served as State Senator from 1986-2006. 

Fergus Falls was home base for much of his career, with his insurance agency and his political life. But Crystal and Pelican Rapids have always been a second “hometown” for Cal and Loretta. 

“It’s been a good life. When I was born in 1930, the average life expectancy was 59 years old,” said Cal. Of course, as an insurance man, he knows this because he was always tuned into the actuarial charts. 

Longtime Zion Lutheran Church members, Cal had been planning a 90th birthday gathering at the church. The COVID-19 pandemic spoiled the party. So, Cal is looking ahead to a 91st birthday celebration next summer. 

Larson reflected back on politics, and life in general, recently, as he approached the nine-decade mark. 

Between Larson and Roy Dunn, the pair represented the area for more than half of the last century. Well-known as the owner of Dunn’s Lodge on Lake Lizzie, Dunn was a Republican House legislator for 40 years. Larson picked up the banner in 1967. 

In total, Larson served with six governors; and 500 legislators during his 28 years.

His favorite governor? 

Republican Harold Levander, back in the 1960s. 

Second on his list may come as a surprise: Rudy Perpich, a colorful, Iron Range Democrat. 

Though a lifelong Republican, whose first presidential vote was cast for Republican Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Larson generally considered himself a moderate who could work with the other party. In fact, Larson would like to return to the “non-partisan” ballot, where legislators did not declare a party affiliation for the general election. 

At least one Democratic legislator said Larson was “his favorite Republican.” Thou,,,,,gh there was seldom any doubt in the public’s eye that Cal Larson was a Republican guy—he was well known for his bi-partisan spirit.

“Politics has become so mean, so nasty,” lamented Larson. “There’s a swamp in both parties,” he said. 

He supports President Donald Trump, whose campaign became linked with the slogan “drain the swamp.” 

“There is a swamp out there in Washington D.C. Once they taste that Potomac River water, they want to stay there,” said Larson.

As an outsider, Trump isn’t stuck in the swamp. “He’s outspoken, and he says lots of things I don’t agree with,” he said, but he is very concerned about the “socialist” element in the Democratic party today. 

A “rail kid,” Larson grew up in small-town Great Northern train depots, after his 1930 birth by midwife in Glyndon. He graduated from Badger High School in 1948, finishing in the top ten of his class. “We had a senior class of 11,” laughed Larson. 

From there, it was on to Concordia College-Moorhead, where he played baseball and hockey, and graduated in 1952, and met Loretta Pederson—a smart Enderlin, North Dakota gal, who was the only female math major on campus. They were married in 1955. 

His introduction to the lakes area was in 1952, when he hitchhiked to Crystal Lake from McIntosh, Minn., where he was working and playing town baseball. 

Serving in the Navy at the end of the Korean war, Larson served four years to 1956. 

Settling in with his Fergus Falls instance agency, Larson was active in the community—and helped bring ice hockey to the city in 1964. 

Crystal Lake, Zion Lutheran, Pelican Rapids, Fergus Falls—along with politics­–have been constants for the Larsons. 

Also, golf. 

It took a few years, but Cal Larson finally had a lucky stroke on the fairways. At age 81, he aced his first “hole in one,” playing the short course at Shoreham, in Detroit Lakes. 

And with further good fortune–and a bit of good luck–the COVID-19 pandemic will be under control a year from now. Then, Larson will be able to celebrate his 91st birthday publicly, with friends and family.