On Friday, December 4, 2020, Laurence Kolding, loving brother, husband, father, and grandfather, passed away at the age of 101.

Laurence was born on April 7, 1919 in Lompoc, California to Lars and Estelle Kolding.  He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1940.  When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, he enlisted in the Army and by February 1942 was serving his country as a radar operator in Tonga, Gaudacanal, and the New Hebrides.  After the war, he returned to Patterson, California to farm with his father, Lars.  In 1960, he married Evelyn Hayton (Houk) and, together, they raised five boys:  Eugene, Byron, Lance, Jerry, and Jim.  In 1987, Laurence retired from farming and devoted himself to playing golf and teaching welding and hunter safety at Patterson High School.  He was an active member and past president of the Lion’s Club of Patterson and a life-long member of the Federated Church.

Anyone who met Laurence knew that he was a man of many talents.  He was invited to join the choir at the Federated Church at the age of 18 after his high school principal overheard him singing in the school choir.  Over the course of his long life, he was not only a soldier and a farmer, but also a poet, a songwriter, a teacher, and a loving father and grandfather.  He enjoyed teasing his grandchildren, engaging in a friendly wager on sports with his sons (win or lose), and debating politics.  And he was not above turning off his hearing aid if you were saying something that annoyed him.

Shortly after his 100th birthday, Laurence’s sons took him to play a round of golf.  An avid golfer, it had long been one of his goals to play golf after his 100th birthday.  He claimed, without evidence, that the course could not charge greens fees to players over 100.   When Laurence informed the Golf Pro of the “free greens for centenarians policy,” the man said, “Well, I’ve never heard of that policy, but then we’ve never had a 100-year old golfer either.” He gave Laurence his free round of golf, and nine holes and a couple mulligans later, Laurence had achieved his goal.  This is just the kind of person he was: determined to accomplish everything he set out to do.  Nobody remembers the score, but we all assume he won.

In April 2019, Laurence and his family gathered at the Queen Mary—once his transportation to the Pacific Theater in World War II but now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California—to celebrate his 100th birthday.  There, he shared how blessed he felt to have seen all that he had over his lifetime, how grateful he was to have his family around him, and how much he loved us all.  But we knew we were the lucky ones.  Laurence added a richness and compassion to our lives that has helped to shape who we are today.  Through example, he taught us the value of faith, discipline, hard work and, above all, love.  He will be sorely missed.

Laurence was preceded in death by his father, Lars, his mother, Estelle, his brothers Jens and Raymond, and his loving wife, Evelyn. He is survived by his sister Velma, five children, Eugene, Byron, Lance, Jerry, and Jim, as well as fifteen grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren.

Private Family Services were held.

Donations may be made in Mr. Kolding’s memory to: Federated Church, PO Box 1418, Patterson, CA 95363.

In his own words:


By the Grace of God

By the grace of God, I wake up every morning

It’s a blessing that I have my work to do.

By the grace of God, I get my rest each evening

And to serve Him, that’s the least I can do.

By the grace of God, I have the strength to witness

In my work and play, yes, everything I do

By the grace of God, I’ll n’er forget to witness

    And to praise Him, that’s the least that I can do.

By the grace of God, I’ll fail to wake some morning

 Then you’ll know that I’ve another job to do.

By the grace of God, the heavens will be waiting

          Then I’ll thank him, that’s the least that I can do.

--Laurence Kolding

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