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Larry Dawson

July 3, 1935 ~ December 3, 2021 (age 86)


Larry Dawson died on Friday, December 3, in Napa. He is survived by his loving wife of 61 years Mary Ann. Together they have three children and six grandchildren: daughter Teresa brought up Tim and Hendrik Knoess in Boston; Paul had Franklin, Camille and Linus in London; and Dan -- Napa wine advisor and frequent contributor to this newspaper -- brought Talia into Larry's life nine years ago. Larry loved his family, his church, deep friendships, laughter and golf. He was a staunch Democrat (and democrat), a great Giants/Warriors/Niners/Tiger fan and a traveller of the world.

Larry was born into a working class family in Ottumwa, Iowa, the youngest and most ambitious of six children. He studied for the Catholic priesthood for years but then pivoted in favor of having a family one day. He used his Latin skills to get a teaching job in Keokuk, Iowa. There he met and married teaching colleague Mary Ann Bullis in 1960. Within a year, they emigrated to Eureka CA with baby Teresa nestled in a cardboard box in their black Plymouth Valiant. Paul was on the way. While teaching in Eureka, Larry, triggered by the terrible smell belching from the nearby pulp mill, became a proto-environmental activist. He ran for office, won, and served two terms on the city council on a clean air ticket. Around the same time, he built a summer cabin on the Trinity River with his own hands -- with skills acquired mostly by asking lots of questions at the hardware store. Good times followed with friends the Kirkpatricks just a few inner-tube minutes downriver. He then helped build cabins for the Friels and the Storms just a few miles upriver. Along the way he earned a Masters Degree in Psychology at Humboldt State, changed jobs, and taught that subject at College of the Redwoods, where he became Chair of the Humanities Department.

Larry retired at age 57, with Mary Ann retiring not long after. Then followed several years of sun and golf in Tucson, punctuated with myriad long-haul flights to see his far-flung grandkids. Camping trips, restauranting, theatre trips and ocean cruises filled the gaps. He became tea-total, and kept slim logging untold hundreds of miles on the elliptical trainer.

Larry and Mary Ann moved from Tucson to Napa in 2013, just after new granddaughter Talia arrived. They lived at Towpath Village first, then bought a place on Hidden Valley Road. They returned to Towpath in 2018 when Larry's health began to fade. Throughout his last years, Larry continued to embrace all sorts of new experience. He loved the community at St Apollinaris and his daily walks in Napa's lovely city parks. He had pancreatic cancer, compounded with Multiple System Atrophy. Nevertheless, his independence was propped up by the good people at Collabria hospice services. He saw out his last few months at Aegis Living, and then finally The Meadows of Napa Valley.

There will be a committal ceremony of his ashes at the Tulocay Cemetery Mausoleum in Napa on Thursday, Dec 16, at 3:00pm, with a wake to follow at home. All who knew Larry are welcome and encouraged to join in. If you wish to make a donation in Larry Dawson's honor, in lieu of sending flowers, please consider Larry's preferred charity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. For the Napa branch, go to; for the nationwide charity go to

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Larry Dawson, please visit our floral store.


December 16, 2021

3:00 PM
Tulocay Cemetery Mausoleum, Napa

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