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Boreal Community Media

Meet your Cook County neighbor: Brian Larsen

Jan 17, 2023 05:43AM ● By Editor
Submitted photo by Tristan Surbaugh

A Boreal Community Media Exclusive - January 14, 2023

Happy New Year to you, Brian!  If you are one of those who set goals for the New Year, what is one of your resolutions for 2023?

I firmly believe in setting New Year’s resolutions and sticking to them. Last year I resolved to eat more chocolate and lay about the house more, and I achieved both goals. However, it took some dedication to achieve my goals, so at times I had to make myself eat more chocolate and lay on the couch with Buttercup, my tabby cat, even when I had work to do. I resolve to do more the same this year. 

Some do not know about your ties to Grandma's Marathon.  Would you like to share the history with us?

While attending UMD, I roomed with Scott Keenan, the race director for Grandma's. Scott and I were runners at UMD, and Scott was in charge of the Duluth Striders, a running club. Both of us would serve as race directors or help out with small races in Duluth. Scott asked me what I thought about starting a marathon on the old Highway 61 from Two Harbors to Duluth and I agreed that it would make a great marathon course. That started Scott to reach out to leaders in Duluth to seek support for a new event. Grandma's Restaurant was the only one who would contribute financially ($400), so the course was named after Grandma's. At first, there was only a little support financially or any other way from the City of Duluth until the third year of the marathon. At that time, the city started to back us, and the race (5k, Garry Bjorklund half marathon, and Grandma’s Marathon) has now grown to about 21,000 competitors. It is now Duluth’s largest weekend event. I have worked as Assistant Race Director, head timer, and PR director, and done every job one can do to help the marathon over 46 years. Scott retired as race director after 38 years and has resumed helping again after a much-needed rest. The current staff is excellent and has made the race better every year. 

What is your favorite menu item at Birch Terrace?

My favorite meal is ribs, but many people come for our smoked brisket. Not far behind is the walleye or shrimp. 

In all of your years of service to the community providing news coverage, what is one of your favorite stories that you reported on?

I spent several hours interviewing Governor Jessie Ventura. He was, in a word, fascinating. He would bring his education director, health and human services director, financial director, etc., and have them fact-check the numbers he gave me. He recited hundreds of numbers from a myriad of subjects off the top of his head. These directors would sit silently in a chair next to his desk for half an hour or so, and no one had a correction. None! So, he was much sharper than I thought he would be. He also gave me some great quotes and let me push back fairly through several subjects I brought up. I left believing (as I still do) that he's more intelligent than the general public ever gets to see. Shortly after my interview, I read a letter to the editor in the MPLS Star Tribune where the letter writer complained about Ventura's "poor" grammar when speaking, calling him essentially illiterate. That was followed two-three days later by a letter to the editor from one of Jessie's college English teachers who said Jessie was a 4.0 English student and what we were all seeing was an act. As I said, he was fascinating. 

You are known for working long hours.  What is a favorite spot in the County to relax on your day off?

I only take a few days off in a year or get behind in my work. So when I stop, I like to go to the end of the Gunflint Trail or to High Falls in Grand Portage. Both areas are beautiful, and I can stop and relax and enjoy nature.

Best advice you were ever given?

By far, the best advice I have ever been given—and it's been given to me by many people—is to take one day at a time and find some joy in every day. I do that by reaching out to friends and family, reading something fun, writing a haiku poem, something to celebrate the life I have been given, and do the best I can with my time every day,