Sylvia Jeanette Larsen (Lewis), of Tooele, Utah, passed away Nov. 3, 2021, following a long illness. Sylvia was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She had survived polio as a child. She was an artist, a master of her craft, a mentor and a devout Mormon. She was 82.
From the time she was young, Sylvia expressed her creativity in multiple forms of art. She first picked up charcoal and pastels and later watercolor, collage and jewelry-making. She spent many hours alone painting in her home studio, exploring National Parks with her camera, and walking neighborhoods and city streets searching for inspiration to infuse into her art. Her artistic expression was inspired equally from nature and architecture.
Sylvia was born on Feb. 8, 1939 in Salt Lake City, Utah to architect Willard “Bill” Lewis and seamstress extraordinaire Myrtle Stroud. She was the first female grandchild of Salt Lake City firefighter Luther Arthur Stroud and Jeanette Wilson. She was doted on by her aunts Ruth and Helen, and great-aunt Bella. She often donned fancy dresses, handmade by her mother. She looked like a doll, the family would recall.
But a career in painting called to her. Sylvia’s first “canvas” was her grandfather Luther’s favorite hunting dog. The English Setter stood patiently while the preschooler painted her with green house paint. “Grandpa hit the roof!” But Sylvia, without a drop of paint on herself, was very proud of her accomplishment.
Sylvia had three younger brothers Bill, David and Gregory Scott. The family settled in a house on 11th East in Salt Lake City. Sylvia would often sit in window nooks of the Victorian-style house, reading novels and dreaming of the future.
She had become a tall and elegant young woman.
Sylvia attended public school graduating from West High in the spring of 1957. She attended the University of Utah studying fine art.
She met a young U. S. Marine, Rex Rel LeFevre on a blind date. The couple corresponded through letters for a year and a half, while he was stationed overseas. He often sent her gifts from Japan. They married on July 27, 1960 in Santa Ana, Calif.
The couple welcomed their first daughter, Patrice Helen on July 22, 1961 in Salt Lake and their second daughter Suzanne Christine on May 3, 1965. Their only son, Steven Rex, was born October 10, 1969 in Tucson, Ariz. Followed by a fourth child, Heather Jeanette on Sept. 13, 1972, also in Tucson.
The family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970s, where Sylvia took watercolor classes taught by Claire Haitani and Jade Fon Woo. Here she discovered new painting techniques and would often spend her weekends in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She developed her signature style combining loose, wide brush strokes, bright color pops, and hints of tiny detail.
Sylvia shared her love of art with her children, often taking them to exhibitions at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Outings with the children also included camping in Columbia State Park, Yosemite National Park and the annual Christmas pilgrimage to the Dunsmuir House in Oakland, Calif.
In addition to working retail and other customer service jobs Sylvia never turned down an opportunity to serve faithfully at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She was a lifelong member. She spent a lot of time on each lesson or talk she was asked to deliver.
In the early 1980s, the family returned to Salt Lake City, and Sylvia’s artwork expanded to include collage and jewelry.
Every house Sylvia lived in became a showcase for her framed paintings that were hung with museum precision. Her kitchen was filled with smells of fresh-baked breads and other goodies.
She loved animals. She provided a loving home for many rescue cats and dogs.
After 31 years of marriage, Rex and Sylvia divorced. Then Sylvia met the love of her life Gary Larsen in the mid 1990s, they married April 17, 2004. They were sealed in the Bountiful Utah LDS Temple on June 6, 2013.
With all of the children grown and gone, Sylvia had more time to spend on her artwork and became a valued member of the Utah art community, serving as newsletter editor and president of the Utah Watercolor Assoc. She was a member of Sandy City Watercolor Guild, and Intermountain Society of Artists. Her artwork was on display at numerous art galleries and art co-ops along the Wasatch Front.
Sylvia developed and launched an Art Therapy program for inmates at Salt Lake City County Jail. She was also an art instructor for Community Education for Midvale Middle School and a workshop instructor for Utah Watercolor Society.
“No matter where a person is or has been in life's experiences, art has a magical way of healing and bringing gratification to those who participate and explore,” she said about art.
Sylvia is survived by her husband Gary Larsen, brother David Lewis (Michelle) of Sandy, Utah, her children Patrice Baumgardner (Patrick) of Saint George, Utah, Suzanne Ashe 0f Los Angeles, California, Steven LeFevre (Rebecca) of Salt Lake City, Utah, Heather Hale (Duane) of Pleasant Grove, Utah, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, along with numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13 at Tooele East LDS Stake Center, 751 N. 520 E., Tooele, UT. A light lunch will be served following the memorial. There will be no viewing or graveside dedication, as per the family’s request.
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