Dr. Robert (Bob) Larson died on December 30, 2020 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He contracted COVID-19 and suffered complications from the virus.
Dr. Larson was born in Oak Park, Illinois on November 17, 1932. The only son of Ralph and Evelyn Larson, he and his elder sister Carolyn grew up in Chicago. An Eagle Scout, he was a graduate of Foreman High School, Augustana College (B.A.), and University of Illinois (M.A., PhD). A longtime resident of Hershey, he had been a resident of the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania since 2016.
While Bob was working toward his PhD in food technology, he met Judith Anne Larson, who became his wife of 54 years. While completing his degree, he spent six months active duty in the US Army training as a hospital orderly, followed by six years in the USAR-MEDS.
In his first professional position at Whirlpool, he led a team studying the science of fruits and vegetables as living organisms and designing the “Kitchen of the Future” which included the development of food for NASA’s burgeoning space program. His work led to the development of bacon bars and chicken soup that astronauts could eat at zero gravity. His favorite project from this time was a sugar cookie cube, the only cookie to go to the moon, which was compressed into bite-sized pieces and coated with gelatin to prevent crumbs floating in the spaceship. Food he worked on was eaten in space missions, from the Mercury to the Skylab programs.
He later worked for General Foods on freeze-dried foods and low-calorie breads (leading to a shared patent for the method of producing and baking frozen yeast leavened bread). Upon moving to Hershey in 1984, he worked in new product development, creating the Bar None candy bar. Bob and his team made the Guinness Book of World Records (for a few weeks) by making the world’s largest chocolate bar.
In retirement, Bob and wife Judy travelled the globe for adventure and developed their love of archeological and cultural studies. They traveled from the Arctic to Antarctica, the Aleutian Islands, Russia and Turkey, and the Middle East; they were in Syria the day the current civil war started. Wherever he went, Bob’s interest in food led him to closely study evidence of prehistoric agriculture and what was on the local grocery store shelves. His passion for gardening led him to walking tours of the rhododendron forests in Bhutan and the lifelong cultivation of varied and pampered home gardens.
Bob was widowed in 2014, and he is survived by his sister Carolyn Carlson, daughter Kara Larson, son and grandson Rorik and Ryan Larson, and niece Marnie Harbach. Due to the dangers of gathering during the pandemic, no service is scheduled at this time. A memorial will be planned when it is safe.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 310 Elm Avenue, Hershey, PA 17033 or the Humane Society of Harrisburg, 7790 Grayson Road, Harrisburg, PA 17111.
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