The Life of Eileen
“He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.” — Luke 20:38
In the beginning
Eileen Judith Larson was born on October 7, 1944, in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada, to Swedish immigrants and hardworking homesteaders, Algot and Ragnhild Larson. As the youngest of six siblings, she followed Gordon, Roy, Lorraine, Helmer, and Shirley, rounding out the Larson family.
As the youngest in the family, Eileen shared a special bond with her father, Algot. From a young age, she would accompany him on long walks across the fields of central Alberta while he attended to farm work, and when Eileen’s little legs grew tired, Dad would lovingly carry her back home.
“As a father shows compassion for his children, Jehovah has shown compassion for those who fear [respect] him.” — Psalm 103:13
Eileen’s mother, Ragnhild, was a wellspring of practical wisdom, imparting lifelong skills to her daughter. Eileen carried forward her mother’s love for gardening, making sure every home she lived in had something planted, nurtured, and harvested. She also inherited her mother’s talent for sewing, knitting, and crocheting, finding joy in crafting for her children and later, her grandchildren. From hemming pant legs to repairing seams, Eileen’s handiwork was a constant in her family’s life.
“You will eat the fruit of your hands; Happy you will be and it will go well with you.” — Psalm 128:2
Eileen’s eldest brother, Gordon, was more than just a sibling; he was Eileen’s spiritual father. He was a keen student of God’s Word and took an interest in his little sister’s spiritual growth. Although Gordon passed away many years ago due to illness, Eileen often recalled his kind, thoughtful words and good conduct. Gordon helped Eileen grow closer to Jehovah.
“Let no one look down on your youth; instead, be an example to the believers in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” — 1 Timothy 4:12
In her teenage years, Eileen found joy in watching her other older brother, Helmer—the “quiet one”—play baseball for the local farm team. This early interest in baseball blossomed into a lifelong love for the New York Yankees. Whenever the Yankees were on TV, Eileen was sure to be watching. Those who wondered about her love of baseball need look no further than her memories of Helmer for the answer.
At school, Eileen did well academically, took to the basketball court, and was an avid reader—often reaching her library borrowing limit every week only to return for a fresh stack of books the next. Alongside her secular studies, she enjoyed reading the Bible. This spiritual interest, along with a personal interest others took in her, helped Eileen develop spiritually, grow closer to God and set spiritual goals.
“Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, so that your advancement may be plainly seen by all people.” — Timothy 4:15
After dedicating her life to Jehovah, Eileen got baptized on December 20, 1958, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was 14 years old.
“My son, do give your heart to me, and may your eyes take pleasure in my ways.” — Proverbs 23:26
After graduating high school, Eileen moved to Calgary in 1962 and began pioneering. Back then, to begin pioneering you had to have an active Bible study. Eileen was diligent but alas couldn’t find a willing student. When the Circuit Overseer visited, he took notice of Eileen’s goals and struggle. He told her one morning “Alright, you’re with me. This morning, let’s find you a Bible study”. To her joy, they did. So began the next chapter of Eileen’s life.
“Commit to Jehovah whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” — Proverbs 16:3
In 1967, Eileen was invited to serve as a Special Pioneer in the province of Quebec. At the time there was a great need there for volunteers willing to teach others the Bible, and Eileen, like many others in Western Canada, was ready to “heed the call” and move out east to help where the need was greater. The only problem was, Eileen didn’t speak French—the first hurdle to overcome. She enrolled in French classes, studied hard, practiced, and elle a appris à parler français—that is, she learned to speak French.
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith produces endurance. But let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” — James 1:2-4
In the late 1960s, Special Pioneers were asked to spend 150 hours each month as volunteer teachers on a modest allowance of $50. To make ends meet, Eileen often sought additional work. Yet, as she would later recount to her children, Jehovah always provided. In one poignant example, Eileen prayed for “just two days’ work” to make ends meet that month. Lo and behold, a temp agency called a few hours later. “We need someone to fill a position, but unfortunately it’s only for two days.” Eileen replied, “That would be fine.” Experiences like these happened many times.
“So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to wear?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” — Matthew 6:31, 32
While pioneering in Alberta and Quebec, Eileen had many pioneer parters. One, notably, was Lorraine Boettger, with whom she became life-long friends. As one of Lorraine’s children put it, “Eileen was a second mother to us”. Over the years, many expressed similar sentiments.
”A true friend shows love at all times, and is a brother who is born for times of distress.” — Proverbs 17:17
In Quebec City and Montreal, Eileen started many Bible studies in French and English and helped students make progress, some to baptism. She also grew to love the Québécois people and French-Canadian culture. This might explain why, after meeting one particular Frenchman by the name of Emile Fournier, she fell in love. Eileen’s appreciation for Emile’s originality, generosity and genuine nature calls to mind 1 Samuel 16:7b: “For the way man sees is not the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes, but Jehovah sees into the heart.” Emile had a good heart, and Eileen loved it. They married in 1969. Even in her final days, separated from Emile by terrible circumstances, Emile was on Eileen’s mind. She lamented to Sean, “I miss that old guy.”
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
In 1970, Eileen and Emile moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they started a family. René arrived in 1973, followed by Sean in 1977. The family moved to Calgary in 1979, where Andrea completed the family circle in 1983. Eileen loved her children and was a devoted mother. She and Emile taught them to love Jehovah, be generous towards others, and to cultivate a love of learning. She also taught them to love the Yankees.
“Train a boy in the way he should go; Even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” — Proverbs 22:6
For Eileen, raising a family wasn’t all work and no play. She loved to have fun: Playing cards with friends, reading novels, organizing kids parties, taking the kids to the zoo, dressing the family up as Bible characters and re-enacting dramas, camping, taking the kids skiing, and more.
“I have concluded that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during their life, also that everyone should eat and drink and find enjoyment for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” — Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13
Eileen was a hardworking wife and mother known for maintaining a clean, organized home—and earning her the CB radio call sign “Clean Eileen” during a family road trip. She also loved to travel. In the 1970s, during cold Winnipeg winters, the family made trips to Hawaii with friends, where they played tennis, snorkelled and enjoyed a warm sun on sandy beaches. Good times! In addition to many family trips with Emile and the kids, each of her children have enjoyed special adventures with her: Travelling through the Czech Republic with Sean, visiting René in France and Russia, and journeying through Ireland and Australia with Andrea.
“She watches over the activities of her household and does not eat the bread of laziness. Her children rise up and declare her happy; her husband rises up and praises her.” — Proverbs 31:27, 28
When James met Eileen in 2007, he had just moved from Australia, beginning a new chapter in his life with Andrea. From the beginning, Eileen was the warm and welcoming mother-in-law he needed, ensuring James knew he belonged in the Fournier family. James says Eileen treated him as her own son.
“The foreign resident who resides with you should become to you like a native among you; and you must love him as yourself...I am Jehovah your God.” — Leviticus 19:34
When Andrea and James welcomed Raif into the world in 2009, Eileen discovered her newest, favourite hobby: being a grandma. This hobby grew when Raif’s little brother Madoc arrived in 2011. Then, a few months later, René and Lisa gave Ma two more bundles to hold: Rosie and Amelia. Finally, in 2014, Penelope arrived, completing the quintet. Eileen loved her grandkids for their unique gifts and personalities, and they loved her. Traditions were made of bubble baths, knitted mittens, custom sewn dresses, late night s’mores by the bonfire and always knowing the cookie jar was full of goodies.
“I recall your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure is now in you.” — 2 Timothy 1:5
“Your Word is Truth”
Eileen was a diligent student of God’s Word and loved the Truth. During her life, she always remained active in the ministry. Eileen studied the Bible with many people, some of whom dedicated their lives to Jehovah and got baptized—and some of them are in attendance with us today.
“The fruitage of the righteous one is a tree of life, and the one who is wise is the one who captures lives.” — Proverbs 11:30
“You Will Call, and I Will Answer”
Eileen had many favourite scriptures over the years, but in her final hours, her children asked, “Mom, what is your favourite scripture that you think about now?” Eileen held on to Job 14:14, 15. Talking with doctors and nurses, Eileen never gave up the opportunity to share with them her sure hope of a resurrection. Near the end, her doctor, pulmonologist Dr. Stephen Field, visited and—with a bedside manner that moved all in the room—held her hand for several minutes and just listened. Eileen thanked him for his kindness and efforts and said, “Do not worry about me, I have the hope to live again on Earth and see my family and friends again.”
“If a man dies, can he live again? I will wait all the days of my compulsory service until my relief comes. You will call, and I will answer you. You will long for the work of your hands.” — Job 14:14, 15
The day Eileen fell asleep in death, her children visited Emile to tell him the sad news. Andrea asked Dad, “How would you describe mom’s faith in Jehovah?” He thought for a moment, then answered, “One. Hundred. Percent. … I don’t think I’ve met anybody with more faith and hope than your mother.”