Melissa R. Larson, 41

Melissa Larson, 41, died Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at home in Lake Geneva after battling non-smoking lung cancer for more than five years.

Melissa was born Feb. 21, 1969 in Manitowoc, the daughter of Harvey and Lois Harrison Larson. The family moved to West Bend in 1969 where Melissa graduated from West Bend East High School with the class of 1987.

She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for three years, majoring in archeology.

She changed her major to apparel design and transferred to Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, graduating in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in apparel design.

While at UW-Madison, Melissa pledged Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. She was also a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Melissa received many honors at Mount Mary’s senior fashion show, including Best of Show. In 1991, she won the State "Make it With Wool" contest, but was unable to compete in the national contest due to her travel to Paris where she studied at the Fashion Institute.

She was employed at a children’s clothing company, Bambini Z in Brookfield while attending Mount Mary.

After interning at Canvas Backs clothing manufacturer in Milwaukee, Melissa was employed in Bourbon, Mo., at Paramount Hat Company. Her other employers included: ShopKo in Green Bay, where she worked in the apparel design department and Sears in Hoffman Estates, Ill. in the apparel design department.

While returning to Chicago from a business trip to Europe on 9/11 her plane was diverted to Newfoundland for five days, where she slept on a church pew until a kind family invited her to be their guest.

Melissa moved to California where she became a licensed aesthetician.

She then was diagnosed with stage four cancer, went into restage/remission.

She went back to school, receiving an associate degree from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), at the San Diego Campus.

She was employed at the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado. When Melissa became very ill in 2007, she returned to Wisconsin to live with her parents in Lake Geneva.

The original diagnosis on Christmas Day 2004 gave her three to six months to live. She called herself a survivor when she surpassed 5 years.

Melissa is survived by her parents, her brother Gregg (Beth Kaplan) Larson of Madison, sisters Meri (Scott Cox) Larson of Eau Claire, and Lynn Larson of Coronado, Calif., nephews Eric and Nathan Larson and niece Lillie Cox, very special friend Mark McGuire of San Diego, and AFS sister Lissie Doerrer of Brussels, Belgium.

Melissa was preceded in death by her grandparents Melverne Harrison and Margaret Bartenbach of Lake Geneva and John Albert and G. Mildred Larson of Valders, Wis.

There will be a Memorial Service celebrating Melissa’s life at 11 a.m on Saturday, May 1, 2010, at Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church, Park Row, Lake Geneva.

Visitation will begin at 10 a.m.

Memorials may be made to UW Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, Wis., or Immanuel Lutheran Church Building Fund.