This obituary was written by Matt ChesseElysian Park has lost it’s mightiest Oak. A good friend of the park and a long time resident of Echo Park, Peter Lorentz Lassen, passed away peacefully in his sleep on August 8th, just days short of his 79th birthday.
A neighborhood fixture, and a champion of good causes, Peter will be remembered by all who knew him for his broad smile and hearty laughter. He spread joy everywhere he went, and gave so much of himself to everyone. His list of committees and community commitments was exhaustive.
His father Sven Lassen was a Civil Engineer and Bio Chemist from Denmark, who was knighted by the Queen, and as a young man drove dog sleds across Greenland. Born in Denmark, Peter’s mother Sigrid was part of the Danish gymnastic team that participated in the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1918. A physical therapist, Sigrid emigrated to Los Angeles, a journey that took two months, to take a job at Children’s Hospital. There she met Sven. Born August 22nd, 1939 at Good Samaritan Hospital, Peter was a native Angeleno, and spent most of his life here. Graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.
In the 1960’s, while serving in the U.S. Army, Peter sustained a lower spinal cord injury thus making him a paraplegic. After his convalescence, he relocated to Washington D.C., taking a job as executive director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, where he continued to advocate for people with disabilities, and worked for the Veterans Administration, developing accessibility standards for all. Peter Lassen helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act. This led to his studying architecture, receiving a Masters degree in architecture from the University of North Carolina Raleigh.
Returning to Los Angeles, in the 1980’s, Peter set about solving every problem he saw. He worked on designing and developing housing for the homeless and teamed up with at youth at risk, planting over 15,000 trees all over Los Angeles, with the L.A. Conservation Corps. A member of the Steering Committee of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park for 26 years, he consulted on a number of park projects, especially in ensuring that the handicapped have access to all areas of the park. He team taught Handicapped Accessibility in the Landscape Architecture Program at UCLA
Extension for a decade. He was an original Council District 1 representative for two decades on the City’s Community Forest Advisory Committee, which advised Urban Forestry on tree issues. An opera aficionado, he frequented the L.A. Opera, being especially fond of the contemporary avant garde works. His disability didn’t stop him from doing anything he set his heart on, and he was an inspiration to all.
An avid reader, a marathon runner, using his wheelchair in 40 plus marathons!!!, an exercise buff who worked out in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, an artist, and a supporter of the arts, Peter was a man who loved to start his day with a big cup of black coffee, meeting up with friends at coffee shops to philosophize about world issues. He was quite a talker and made friends easily. Everyone loved Peter Lassen.
He is survived by his brother, Eric Lassen of Santa Barbara, his sister Karen Lassen of Berkeley, as well as his niece Susie Lassen, nephew Christopher Lassen and grand niece Ashley Varga.
A memorial for Peter Lassen will be held Tuesday September 4th from 5-8 pm at the Grace E. Simons Lodge, in Elysian Park. In the spirit of Peter’s love of diverse cuisines, friendship and community this event is a potluck dinner. Please bring a tasty dish. Beverages will be provided. For more information, Please Contact Matt Chessé: [email protected]
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