Mrs. Gloria Ann Larson (nee Peno), formerly of Cape Charles and Eastville, passed away in Bethesda, Md., Feb. 12, 2021.
Gloria was born May 21, 1931, at the family home in St. Albans, Vt., to William, a railroad worker, and Helena (Mayo) Peno, a homemaker. As a child, everyone knew her as “Honey,” but as the years passed and grandchildren came along, she was more commonly known by the nickname, “Gigi” (Grandma Gloria). She graduated from Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, where she excelled in academics and led the high school basketball team to the state championship.
Ten years younger than her twin sisters, she was often enlisted to babysit, but also relished annual shopping trips to New York City each year with her mother. Summers were spent at the family camp at Lake Champlain, while winters provided the opportunity to drive across the lake to Upstate New York. She moved to Washington, D.C., after high school and worked as a debriefer for the Voice of America when it was under the auspices of the United States Information Agency.
According to legend, she had a roommate in Washington who talked incessantly into the late-night hours, so Gloria learned to sleep with her eyes open. Perhaps it was this skill that led her to become known for her artful and uncanny winking ability. During this time, she met Leon Morris Larson, a University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate heading to Hong Kong on government assignment (no doubt smitten by the wink). The couple married in 1954, celebrating two wedding anniversaries each year – one on the date she was legally married to Leon by proxy in Washington, and another on the date the couple subsequently wed in Hong Kong.
Gloria was determined to complete their family by the time she was 30, which was accomplished four days before that mile marker with the birth of her fourth child. After marrying, her life’s work focused on family and raising four daughters who were born in quick succession within five years.
She was a tireless homemaker who made lifelong friends wherever she ventured. She loved jade plants and African violets, rearranging furniture and The New York Times crossword puzzles. She also loved to make everyone feel at home, and to pamper her children and spoil her grandchildren. A cancer survivor, Gloria was a determined woman of formidable strength. She could be as proper as a debutante and as salty as a sailor, often in the same moment. This skill exuded charm and elicited both envy and respect from anyone who happened to be in her presence, usually while enjoying some Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, or Edith Piaf on the old Garrard turntable.
The family moved often as her husband’s career took them across the country and around the world. Some of the places she called home before she and Leon retired to Virginia’s Eastern Shore included not only Hong Kong, but also Zama, Japan; Corte Madera, Calif.; Central Missouri; Alexandria, Arlington, and Virginia Beach, Va.; Canton, S.D.; and Omaha, Neb.
After the death of her husband in Cape Charles in 1992, Gloria relocated back to Washington, D.C., until serendipity led her to return to Hong Kong, where she and Leon began their journey. It thrilled her to see the changes of those past 40 years, as well as to once again enjoy the peak-top views of the harbor from above the clouds.
Gloria returned to the states more than a decade later to be nearer to her daughters and grandchildren. Most recently, she had resided at a ManorCare home since 2013, where she enjoyed holiday visits with family in the area and daily visits year-round.
In addition to her husband, Gloria was predeceased by her parents; sisters, June Stearns (Walla) and Janice Massa (Angelo); niece, Mary (Massa) Myers, her husband, Steven, and their children, Jade and MacAlister. She is survived by four daughters: Tina Larson, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Laura Mulcahy (John), of Alexandria, Va., and Hong Kong, Ceri Danes (Mark), of Clive, Iowa, and Wendy Larson Carnemark (Jonas), of Bethesda; 11 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; three nephews and one niece.
The family wishes to express its sincerest gratitude to the staff of ManorCare Potomac for their years of dedication to Gloria, especially during the most challenging days of the pandemic. While a lockdown of long-term care facilities across the country prevented regular visits during her last months – a fact that is recognized with deep awareness and heavy hearts – the family appreciates those charged with her care and especially the video chats they facilitated.