Remembering Larrie Wanberg

A life of accomplishments and service

Larrie Wanberg

Photo courtesy of Larrie Wanberg

The Norwegian American

It is with great sadness that The Norwegian American pays tribute to the life of Larrie Wanberg, longtime contributor to our newspaper, who passed away in May at age 91.

Larrie was born in 1930 and grew up in Towner, N.D., during the Great Depression, the son of a small-town Lutheran minister, who taught him many important values that he cherished and wrote about later in life. Larrie became an Eagle Scout and graduated from high school in 1948. 

His professional accomplishments were many. In 1952, Larrie graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and earned a master’s degree in social work from Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., in 1954, and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver in 1973. He was a Fulbright Fellow during 1957 – 1958 academic year at the University of Oslo. In Norway, he met his future wife, Bjorg. They went on to raise a family of four children and lived many places, as Larrie pursued his military career. Highlights were living in Germany, Colorado, and San Francisco, as well as raising horses and traveling internationally.

Larrie had a 20-year career as a social work leader and colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps. He was posted at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, and Letterman Hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco. He retired from active duty in 1981 at the Presidio and received the Legion of Merit Award from the U.S. Army Medical Services. 

One of his military career highlights was coordinating Project Homecoming, the return of prisoners of war to society at the end of the Vietnam War. He was also instrumental in forming innovative policies and programs for the Army in managing the social structure and needs of the wider “Army family.” 

After retiring, Larrie pursued a consulting practice back to the military, as well as social work services in San Francisco and in Germany during the 1980s. He also taught at the Washington University School of Medicine, the University of Maryland, the University of North Dakota, Schiller International University in Strasbourg, France, and the European Institute of International Communications at Castle Well. Larrie also received the Distinguished Service Award from Luther College in 2017.

Earlier on, Larrie and Bjorg were always interested in in early childhood education and founded the Evergreen Creative Preschool in 1971, and this evolved into the very impressive Evergreen Country Day school, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. After Bjorg’s untimely death in 1975, he went on to implement their previous plan to open a school in Norway and founded the Family Academy in Stavanger, focused on multicultural learning. 

Larrie also owned Vanberia Corporation, a professional services company in Grand Forks, N.D; worked with many foundation and volunteer projects in North Dakota during the 1990s; was a curator at the Dakota Heritage Institute in Northwood, N.D.; and for many years he was a writer and frequent contributor to the Norwegian American Weekly/The Norwegian American and Scandinavian Press magazine. 

In recent years, Larrie relocated to sunny California, to Solvang and Santa Barbara, and continued to volunteer on veteran projects, especially the Patriot Boot Camp, in which a scholarship has been named in his honor. 

At 91 years young, Larrie’s passion was helping others and organizing solutions to meet the needs of the veterans’ community. He had boundless energy, jumped out of bed in the morning to get on Zoom conference calls, and as futurist, loved technology. There are not many people at 91 years of age with virtual reality goggles, connected to the web, and pitched their wider use to bring people closer together. 

Larrie was interred at the National Cemetery at the Presidio of San Francisco, where he was stationed for many years. He is survived by his children, Erik, Richard, Lars, and Britt, and he had nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, with more on the way. This is an enduring legacy that he cherished. His spirit will live on in all who knew him.

This article originally appeared in the July 23, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.