Bodil Astrid Larsen

October 17, 1938 to August 28, 2023


Bodil was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 17th 1938. She moved with her family to Chicago in 1949 for her father’s professorship in plant physiology at the University of Chicago and then to Bergen, Norway in 1952.   She got her doctorate at the University of Bergen in 1973 based on work with red blood cells and immunoglobulins in hibernating hedgehogs. She is predeceased by her father, Poul, her mother, Ellen, her brother, Oluf, and her sister, Agnete.  She leaves behind her sister’s three sons Torbjørn, Øystein and Stig, her brother’s two daughters Ellen Katrine and Torill, and several grandnieces and grandnephews.

Bodil came to Newfoundland in 1973 for one year as a postdoctoral fellow in immunology in the new medical school. She stayed for the rest of her life.   She joined the Faculty of Medicine in 1974 working and teaching in immunology. She retired in 2004 after 30 years of service.  She was known as a generous and considerate mentor for numerous undergraduate and graduate students. She was also a meticulous and passionate researcher investigating the immunogenetics of several diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, a disease she, herself suffered with. Among her many research accomplishments was a paper describing the protective immune genes involved in its development.  But a large part of her heart was in the world outside the lab with flowers and plants and growing things.  She grew up in a family where genus and species names were part of the conversation.  Very early in her life in NL she volunteered at the Oxen Pond Botanic Park, now the MUN Botanical Garden and was a founding member of FOG (the dedicated volunteers of Friends of the Garden) and served on its board a number of times as president and treasurer. She was instrumental in starting the Newfoundland chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society in the early 1980s and chaired that society for many years.  Her love of alpine flowers brought her to the mountainous regions of Europe, North and South America and Asia and continued through her attendance at various plant conferences in both North America and Europe. In 2018 Bodil won the award of Merit from the North American Rock Garden Society for her outstanding contributions to rock and alpine gardening.  The Alpine Trough display at the Garden and many of the potted plants in the Alpine House and the rare prehistoric Wollemi pine were all from generous donations provided to the garden by Bodil. Cats were an important part of her life.  They accompanied her on many a trek through her garden and lands and many evening lap sittings. She was a quiet, unassuming person but a person of strong will and a fierce determination which made her a wicked Scrabble player and which carried her through a number of health problems. She left this life as she lived this life, on her own terms.  Mourned by her beloved family in Norway and bereft old friends in Newfoundland.  Donations in her memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders or to the SPCA.








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I first met Bodil in the late 90s. I was fortunate enough to have visited her garden on a number of occasions, usually in conjunction with the Rock Garden Society. What a fabulous garden, filled with the most unique plants that she had collected on her many trips to other countries. She was an amazing green thumb, able to grow things that simply weren’t supposed to grow here in Newfoundland. I was especially envious of her arisaema collection, a plant I am also taken with. Rest in peace, Bodil. Eden awaits you in heaven.

Kind, generous and strong person. I still appreciate her encouragement and assistance with an exchange fellowship with the University of Bergen. She did so much to build and support this exchange program between MUN and the University of Bergen.

Bodil Larsen was singularly special. My personal introduction to her was in the early years of establishing the botanical garden (Oxen Pond) at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. During my experience as the horticulturist from 1977-1991, it was a pleasure to connect with such a remarkable character. Bodil was one of a small core of supportive folks that became our Friends of the Garden. These people were more than volunteers; they grew to be our close friends and family. Bodil volunteered countless hours over decades.
Bodil had a sterling integrity about her. She was humble, gracious, respectful, well read and well spoken. She was ever loyal and assisted our small staff when we faced new projects and new challenges. She was always full of ideas and optimism, a visionary. She gave us the gift of time, in spite of her busy and very productive academic career.
Bodil was such a knowledgeable plantsperson. We shared a love of wild alpine areas and the culture of treasured gems from near and far, pushing plant hardiness boundaries. I remember the micro-meeting where we considered, and agreed to initiate, the NL chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. She never wavered in promoting the long-term success of that organization.
Bodil seemed to thrive on the rugged beauty of Newfoundland and the authenticity and simplicity of life ‘out around the bay’ in Outer Cove. Her simple ‘bay house’ was not far from mine and I know what hard work and fortitude it took to live and garden there but, oh! on a brilliant day, what great pleasure to look out across the Atlantic towards her Norse roots. I imagine she has found peace in her Valhalla. Dianne McLeod

A most inadequate tribute I’m afraid to a superlative rock gardener and a gentle soul,. Bodil had a fine rock garden at her home in Outer Cove, Newfoundland. A good friend for nearly 40 years we always met up for a garden tour and supper every time I was in Newfoundland on business. Her horticultural skills and instincts, determination to succeed with ungrowable plants were unbelievable. I recall when she returned from a trip to Chile in the early 90s laden with seed, she managed the impossible. I gave her many rare plants and she succeeded with them all. She had a fine collection of rhododendrons and rarities from perennials to bulbs and shrubs. A kind and gentle individual she was overly modest and never boasted, when determined nothing wou;d stop her.. She will be sorrily missed by her horticultural “buddies” here in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and indeed across Canada and the World.. We trust a tribute to her will be arranged at Oxen Pond Botanic Garden where she was a dedicated Friend of The Garden and generous donor since its inception. John Weagle & Ken Shannik

I worked in the Medical School Labs & was always delighted to be part of Bodil’s Immunology labs. She was a genuine & sweet person to deal with, meticulous, as I liked it & oh so admired & loved by her students. Our University & our Province have been blessed to have had this terrific Lady to teach our Medical Students.

I lived on the same street as Bodil in Outer Cove.. I always enjoyed her beautiful garden. For some reason her perennials always bloomed before mine. I would wave to her on my walks around our town. Another delight ever Spring was her magnolia tree in full bloom. I believe it was the only one in our town. We often chatted about her cats. I certainly hope someone is looking after them. Her contribution to education was immeasurable. She will be missed.

Hearing of Bodil’s passing brought great sadness to me but brought back many fond memories as well. I knew Bodil as a colleague of my father’s and so would meet her in his office on a routine basis. For many years (25+), however, Bodil also hosted an annual New Year’s day dinner for several colleagues and their families. I, therefore, got to participate in these wonderful events. After we had finished the delicious dinner she had prepared and listened to the thank-you poem written and delivered by my father, we would all settle in the living room and play games such as Trivial Pursuit, Balderdash or Pictionary while enjoying great discussions and debates. These get togethers became a routine event that we all looked forward to. She was generous, attentive and was always interesting and insightful. She was a pleasure to be around. Although I have now been living in Nova Scotia for 20 years and only saw her a couple of times during that period, the memories seem fresh. Her passing feels like the end of an era. My sincerest condolences to all who knew her.

Bodil’s veterinarian 😊

My last message was sent before I signed it

I was blessed to be Bodil’s veterinarian for the last 10 years. She loved her cats and I dearly loved her visits to Avalon Animal Hospital. She was a client of our hospital for the past 50 years. We talked about cats and her garden and immunology. I will miss her smile…. I had no idea that our last visit would be the last. RIP Dr. Larsen I feel I have lost a dear friend..

I was privileged to work with Bodil for 26 years. She was a wonderful, smart and kind colleague, a special person as a researcher and senior administrator in the Faculty of Medicine. Her love of plants and the outdoors was never far from mind. Memorial and Newfoundland were so lucky to have had her for a time.

Bodil was a lifelong friend and gardening mentor to Leila and myself – at least as far as our lives in Newfoundland were concerned. I shall miss her Saturday morning company and visits to her wonderful garden.

Thinking of all her family ,at this difficult time.

Bodi was one of. Kind , I am so blessed to have gotten to know her, over numerous hair Appts at the Hair Factory!
She so loved relaxing to a haircut and chat! RIP Bodi……You will be missed.