In Memoriam: Weston, Schmidt, Larson

Weston valued personal connections

David Weston dedicated his life to meeting people and connecting with them. Weston as struck and killed by a Duluth Transit Authority bus while outside at Miller Hill Mall September 9. He was x64 and a lifelong Duluth resident.

Weston was a longtime client of the CHOICE, Inc. program, which aids adults with disabilities. “He was a person that made a friend wherever he went,” said Kristie Buchman, executive director of CHOICE, Unlimited. “Dave was just an incredibly friendly person who was always so positive, always asked people how they were doing, what they were up to and was just such a happy, friendly person.”

Weston took part in CHOICE Inc. arts, dance and theater programs and was employed there for a time. He liked to visit Miller Hill Mall and exchange greetings with everyone he met. Mall employees he befriended said the place was a second home for him.

“Dave loved playing bingo,” Richard Rowson, a support staff member at CHOICE who worked with Weston, told the Duluth News-Tribune. “His favorite number was I-22 and whenever it was called he would say ‘two, two, two’ and it was always met with laughter and other people would join in with him.” A homemade bingo card with I 22 circled was placed at a memorial outside of the mall.

He also loved visiting places of worshoip to look at stained glass windows, and was in the midst of a mission to visit every place in Duluth and Superior.

Weston only had one immediate family member, a brother who is also in a group home. Businesses at Miller Hill Mall set up a GoFundMe page and are raising funds to pay for Weston’s burial.

Schmidt was dedicated to special education

Special education teacher Laurie Schmidt was considered to be a “modern-day female Mr. Rogers” by former students and colleagues. Schmidt died recently of breast cancer. She was 57 and lived in Jordan.

Schmidt, who taught reading, writing and math to 12 to 16 autistic students each year along with communication and social skills. She most recently taught middle school students in the Jordan school system.

Schmidt was named Minnesota Middle School Educator of the Year in 2020. Rose Johnson, a teacher of students with special needs at the school who had nominated her for the award, said Schmidt became an expert on autism by continually studying the subject. She was sought out by other teachers for information and advice, Johnson said.

She would take students on summertime field trips so they could learn social norms, including visits to the Minnesota Zoo and to a program that packed food to send to children overseas.

Born in Minneapolis and raised in St. Louis Park, Schmidt received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth and a master’s from St. Mary’s University in Winona.

She taught elementary school in Superior, Wis., before taking a substitute teaching job at the Jordan school in 2004 and becoming a full-time teacher there the following year.

A cancer diagnosis in 2013 didn’t stop her adventurous spirit, her love of history and her love of her students. She traveled to every state except Hawaii, so colleagues heal a Hawaiian luau for her during the summer.

She is survived by her father, mother, siblings and other family and friends. Services have been held.

Larson a leader at Options Inc.

Barbara Anderson Larson is remembered as a dedicated volunteer, including work as a volunteer and board chair of Options Inc. in Big Lake. Anderson died recently at her Twin Cities home. She was 68 and had been living with dementia for several years.

Larson attended Mankato State University, after graduating from Wayzata High School. She was a devoted volunteer, working with many organizations. She was a tireless advocate for people with developmental disabilities and board chair at Options, Inc.

She is survived by her husband, two daughters, a son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren , her father and sisters. Services have been held. Memorials preferred to Epilepsy Foundation, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society.