TOPEKA — Larry Dean Woodson, Topeka, died Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at his home. He was 81.
He was born Jan. 4, 1941, in Kingman, the son of Lawrence and Vera Louise (Layman) Woodson. He was a 1958 graduate of Kingman Rural High School, and received a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Education from Kansas State University in 1964.
Larry was doing his student teaching in Arkansas City when President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Inspired by the famous Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county,” Larry signed up as a volunteer for IVS (International Voluntary Services), which was the predecessor and model for the U.S. Peace Corps.
Following the completion of his orientation, he was sent to Laos, where he would spend the next 11 years of his life during the Vietnam War years. In Laos, he completed projects and performed duties that included teaching English as a second language, training teachers and new volunteers, building new schools and classrooms, collaborating with refugees and their children, and assisting farmers with their livestock programs.
During his time with IVS, Larry was able to travel the world to places such as Switzerland, Hawaii, Singapore, and the like. The highlight of his experience abroad was when he was invited by the King of Laos to the Royal Palace for the Lao New Year reception. He played tennis with the Crown Prince, visited the King’s Garden with the Second Prince, and was invited to take photos for the Baby Prince’s wedding.
Much of his document collection from his time in Laos was sent to the Vietnam Library and Archives at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.
The impending invasion by the communist North Vietnamese army ended Larry’s service abroad, as he and the other Americans were evacuated out of the country. Upon returning to the states, Larry applied for a position with the Kansas State Board of Agriculture and spent 29 years with the department, including several years as the Director of State Agricultural Inspections.
Larry was a very civic-minded individual and served on his local township and rural water boards while living in Overbrook, as well as served a four-year term as an Osage County commissioner. He was also a Mason, Arab Shriner, member of the Overbrook Pride Committee, and Rotarian, where he earned the Paul Harris Fellow Award.
Larry married Dee Ann (Davenport) Smith Sept. 1, 1978, in Reno, Nev.
He enjoyed farming, traveling, playing tennis, playing and umpiring fastpitch softball, and more than anything else, spending quality time with family and friends.
Larry was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Steve C. Woodson.
He is survived by his wife, Dee Ann, Topeka; two sons, Scott A. Smith (Kat), Topeka, and Rod M. Smith, Waverly; and two grandchildren, Tatum K. and Macy A. Smith.
Honoring Larry’s request, cremation is planned. A celebration of life service will be 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at Dove Cremations and Funerals, Southwest Chapel, 3700 S.W. Wanamaker Road, Topeka. To honor Larry’s memory, those attending the celebration of life are asked to wear the color purple or your favorite K-State attire.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Arab Shrine Travel Fund, sent in care of Arab Shrine, 1305 S. Kansas Ave., Topeka, KS 66612, or to Lowman United Methodist Church, 4101 S.W. 15th St., Topeka, KS 66604.
Condolences may be left at DoveTopeka.com.