Former Jehovah’s Witnesses’ NY President Larson Dies

The late Max Larson, president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Max Larson, president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, who helped to pioneer the printing operations and property acquisitions for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, died on Saturday, Sept. 24, in Brooklyn at 96.

Larson was well-known and highly regarded around the world by both Witnesses and non-Witnesses, not only for his strong work ethic and publishing expertise, but especially for the gracious and dignified manner in which he dealt with others. He was baptized into the Jehovah’s Witnesses on June 5, 1938, in Seattle, Washington. A few months later, he began his career as a member of the Witnesses’ headquarters staff in Brooklyn, where he was assigned to operate a printing press.

In 1942, Larson was appointed as factory manager at the age of 26, supervising the global printing operations of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for more than 60 years, making him the longest-serving factory manager in the history of the Witnesses’ world headquarters.

Despite a severe shortage of raw materials during World War II, Larson was able to obtain paper and other supplies needed to meet the Witnesses’ fast-growing publishing needs and sustain publication of The Watchtower, published continuously since 1879.

In addition to his responsibilities as factory manager, in 1949, Mr. Larson was appointed as construction supervisor and property manager for the Witnesses’ world headquarters. This involved the acquisition of many properties used for the Witnesses’ facilities in Brooklyn, including 25 Columbia Heights (the current world headquarters for Jehovah’s Witnesses), 117 Adams St. (where commuters can still see the sign “Read God’s Word the Bible Daily”), and the former shipping complex at 360 Furman St. (now One Brooklyn Bridge Park).

Max Harry Larson was born on April 29, 1915, in Tampico, Montana, the second of four children born to Harry and Sophia (née Madsen) Larson, immigrants from Denmark. The young couple moved their family to a rented farm in eastern Montana, where they raised Max along with his older brother Norman.

While working in Brooklyn, Mr. Larson met fellow headquarters staff member Helen Lapshanski. The two developed a friendship and were married on April 7, 1956.

Larson is survived by his cherished wife of 55 years, Helen; his sisters, Jean Mock of Brooklyn and Laverna Semprebon of Lugano, Switzerland; and a host of nieces and nephews.

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1 Comment

Filed under Brooklyn People, Obituaries, Religion

One response to “Former Jehovah’s Witnesses’ NY President Larson Dies

  1. As a member of the Watchtower Society’s Brooklyn “Bethel Family” in the 1980s, I met Max Larson a few times. He was always a fair, evenhanded and decent person. One time, I tried to invite a relative in to work temporarily at Bethel for a few days while on vacation. It would have been a thrill for her. Such a request hadn’t been made in a long time, and as it turned out, I needed to speak with Max personally about it, who then brought the matter to the Tuesday morning Factory Committee meeting. I got a phone call personally from him in the affirmative — and then he added that, though such arrangements were once routinely made, this would be the last time such a request would be granted because Bethel had grown and become too complicated for that kind of day labor. So, I got my request, my relative got to have her wish fulfilled and I made a tiny change to Bethel operations. I guess what I’m trying to convey is that Bethel headquarters is a big institution. But with Max, you always felt that you had a voice, no matter your status in the organization.

    I’ve since left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and moved on in my search for truth. Still, I have many fond memories. Max Larson was a true gent from the old school.
    –Joel Gunz

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