EVERETT — Gail Larson, who rose to top leadership posts at large hospitals in three states and played a key role in setting the groundwork for the high-rise expansion of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, has died.
Larson died May 25 in the Everett hospital she once ran from complications following heart surgery. She was 76.
Friends and former co-workers said Larson will be remembered for looking out for society’s most vulnerable, giving staff independence to do their jobs and for being easy to approach.
“Gail was an incredible pioneer and innovator in health care who cared deeply and advocated tirelessly for those whose needs were greatest,” said Rhoda Weiss, a national health care consultant, colleague and family friend for more than 40 years. “She was the most down-to-earth executive who touched so many lives, mentored countless individuals and demonstrated care and compassion for everyone she met — the true definition of the best there is in leadership.”
Larson, a Washington native, graduated from the University of Washington with her husband, Jack. They were married for 57 years and made their home in Tulalip, where she served on the planning commission.
She landed her first management position at UW Medical Center before earning her graduate degree in Health Administration from UCLA in 1974.
Larson later held executive posts in California for 16 years at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, followed by 13 years leading three hospitals for University Hospitals in Cleveland, a large academic health system.
In 2001, she returned to Washington as CEO of Providence Northwest, a regional health care system serving several counties. The division includes two Providence Everett hospital campuses, Pavilion for Women & Children, Providence Physician Group, Providence Healthcare Clinic, Providence Hospice and Home Care, Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse, and Providence General Foundation.
During her tenure, Providence Medical Center Everett was named among the nation’s top 100 hospitals, top 100 cardiovascular hospitals and ranked in the top 5% for clinical excellence.
One of her key staff members at the time was Kim Williams, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. Williams remembers Larson as a strong leader who was engaged in the community and understood the need to delegate and trust her staff.
Today, it is Williams who leads Providence in Everett as its CEO. She considered Larson a mentor and a friend.
“She was great to work with,” she said. “I think everyone thought highly of her.”
Larson retired in 2008 but found ways to remain involved with the hospital and other causes. She was an officer with the Providence General Foundation Board and board chairwoman for Mercy Housing Northwest, which owns and operates 54 properties throughout Washington and Idaho, providing more than 5,000 families and seniors a permanent, affordable place to call home with supportive services.
To Lori Kloes, chief philanthropy officer with the Providence General Foundation, Larson led with both her head and her heart.
“She was very personal,” Kloes said. “She always asked you first how was your family before she asked about your work.”
With the foundation board, Larson brought decades of experience in health care as well as valuable community connections, Kloes said.
Mike Butler, Providence president of operations and services, said Larson had an inclusive, tenacious style combined with a visionary mind. He said her contributions will live on in the community for generations.
“Gail Larson was a tireless voice for improving the health of everyone in Snohomish County, especially the most vulnerable,” Butler said. “Her legacy can be felt today even amid the current pandemic. Our world-class medical tower in Everett, which she helped build, and the amazing caregivers who serve there have been at the epicenter for COVID-19, delivering some of the most innovative treatments in the world with the most compassionate care.”
Larson reflected on her career in health care after she was named Snohomish County Business Journal Executive of the Year in 2006.
“It’s a human business we’re in,” she said. “When I came to Providence, I was used to working in places where our mission was to serve everyone in the community and never turn them away. At Providence, the most exciting and moving thing for me has been seeing how the spirituality and mission of the Sisters of Providence touches people, including myself.”
Larson is survived by her husband, Jack, sons Erik and Hans, daughter-in-law Rose and grandchildren Axel and Maeve.
A celebration of Larson’s life will be held at a later time, when her circle of friends and family can safely come together. In the meantime, memories and messages can be shared on her memorial webpage at memories.net. Donations may be made in her memory to Providence General Foundation, P.O. Box 1067, Everett, WA 98206 or providencegeneralfoundation.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.