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Eric Peterson, Published November 08 2013

'Johnny Appleseed' of curling to be inducted into US Curling Association Hall of Fame

FARGO - A skiing injury helped steer Jerome Larson to curling, and he got his start at a club in north Fargo.

“The first curling stones I threw were with a walking cast,” Larson said with a laugh.

More than 50 years later, Larson is returning to where his love for curling started. The Fargo Central High School graduate is being inducted into the United States Curling Association (USCA) Hall of Fame.

Larson’s induction – along with Jon Mielke of Bismarck – will be during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling that starts Sunday at Scheels Arena in southwest Fargo. Larson will be inducted at 2:15 p.m. next Friday. Mielke’s will be at 2:15 p.m. Nov. 16.

“It’s going to be really, really cool, that’s all I can say,” said the 73-year-old Larson, who now lives in Rio Vista, Calif. “I’ve gotten so much out of curling. It’s really enhanced my life.”

Larson will enter the Hall as a “builder,” meaning an individual who has played a major role in promoting and developing the sport.

“I don’t think I have ever heard Jerome say ‘no,’ ” said Rick Patzke, the chief operating officer for USA Curling. “He has either jumped in himself or found someone else. I think he’s just been a force in curling development in the country.”

Larson’s passion for promoting the sport has earned him the moniker the “Johnny Appleseed” of curling. He’s played a key role in helping the sport spread, especially in the Western states.

Larson graduated from Central in 1958 and then attended North Dakota State University. During his first year at NDSU, he was skiing in northern Minnesota and broke his ankle. That’s when he decided to try curling, a sport his neighborhood friend, Steve Larson, had talked about.

“One day he hobbled into the curling club because I had mentioned it to him,” said Steve Larson, who now lives in Park Rapids, Minn. “I knew he tried to do what he could do that day.”

Jerome Larson said that curling club, which no longer exists, was located near the old Barnett Field and where Fargo North High School now stands.

“We had a key to it,” Larson said. “I was down there constantly throwing stones.”

Larson moved in the late 1960s to the San Francisco area, where he continued to curl. He represented California at a couple of national championships.

Larson eventually played a role in helping start curling clubs in the Western states from Portland, Ore., to Scottsdale, Ariz.

Larson recalls hauling 60 curling stones with his friend Dave Peck from California to an ice rink in Scottsdale. That was about 12 years ago.

The rink manager, who wanted to get curling to the area, would have been happy to get 25 to 30 people to the rink, Larson said.

More than 200 showed up.

That area now has a curling club, which is expected to open a dedicated curling facility in January.

“His footprint, especially in the western U.S., is extremely significant for our sport,” said Terry Kolesar, the USA Curling director of communications. “He made it happen and doesn’t take any credit for it.”

Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona all have USCA member clubs. There are only five states in the United States that don’t have a curling clubs, according to the USA Curling website.

Larson has served on a variety of local, regional and national curling boards for the past 35 years. He has served as a statistician at two Winter Olympic Games, in 2002 and 2006. He has also served in that role at several world and European championships.

Larson cherishes all of those experiences, the friends he’s made through the sport and places he’s seen along the way.

“Curling made my life really neat,” Larson said. “I’ve been blessed.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com