Monday, November 2, 2015

Peter Lassig Sr, a Gardner for all seasons

Peter & Janet Lassig
It's been a while since I've last written and last night as I walked through the viewing line for my dear friend Peters Lassig Sr, they had a little box to write down memories to share with the family.  I truly could have written it, but one page wouldn't have been enough and I felt like I wanted to write more. Truth be told, Peter was a friend to many, which is why the viewing line at the Church extended out in the foyer and down the hallway.  Whether as Bishop of the Rose Park 9th Ward, Master Gardner on Temple Square, Scoutmaster to a number of young men who are now fully grown, to neighbor, Peter had a great impact on the things he touched.  He will truly be missed, but I'll see him live through his children and grandchildren, the plants and trees that surround our neighborhood as well as the gardens on Temple Square and around Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri.

My first experience with Peter came when he and his first wife Sylvia built their new home on Talisman Drive in Rose Park.  There was not a lot of new construction at the time and their kids, especially their eldest daughter Lisa, were my age.  To state that Peter had some unique aspects about him, is an understatement, but that's what you love in Peter.  He also wasn't afraid to try something new, something out of the ordinary and it didn't have to happen overnight.  In fact most of the things we planted together, took years to accomplish.
Planting trees along Cornell Street for 9th Ward
service project
Shortly after becoming Bishop in 1993, I felt I would like to see our ward perform some service projects in the community.  The State of Utah, which had originally developed the Jordan River Parkway and did the original construction, lost focus on it after the floods of 1983 and it stayed the status-quo for nearly a decade.  In the early days of email (the kind where you had to use a modem and no one new what the "@" sign meant) I sent an email to then Governor Leavitt, asking for permission for us to do a project along the Parkway, near our neighborhood.  Much to our surprise they responded and met with Peter and myself to discuss options.  In 1995, we decided initially to plant some trees and combined that effort with two Eagle Projects for his son Nathan and Robert Steenblik.  Peter had discovered a unique method of using plastic tubes and tree saplings to start trees for next to nothing.  That initial year, we planted 150 trees for about $400.  I was sure that there was no way for those trees to survive and kept wondering in my mind if I had dragged people out for an effort to no avail!  However State Parks Department gave Peter 800 feet of hose to hook to his home, and he watered those trees 4 times a year around the Summer Holidays.  They not only took hold, but we maybe only lost 2 or three and that was to vandalism.  Today those trees are 30 to 40 feet tall Norway Maples and 75' tall Poplar trees.

Families worked together to plan trees at the Day-Riverside Library

Carlton planting plants with Jessica Christensen at
Day-Riverside Library

Landscaping next to 1000 N at the Day-Riverside Library

Cathy and Jessica planting plants for Day-Riverside Library
In 1996, Stuart Reid who was the City Councilmember for our area, asked if I would participate in the fundraising committee for the new Library.  As part of the discussion, I suggested that we could have renowned Master Gardner design the landscape and have the community help plant it.  It was received initially with some reservations by the Library Director, mostly because in prior projects, the follow-through didn't happen leaving the library with a problem.  However, as Bishop, I knew of Peter's ability and had called him as a "landscaping specialist" as part of his church service in the LDS Church and he agreed to do the project for free as part of his calling, which allowed him to do it on Sunday.  Since this was a unique spot up against the river, there was a concern that the landscaping wouldn't match the natural elements.  However Peter, given a charge to look past a traditional landscape, came up with a natural look that was probably a decade before its time.  Many questioned it, because it was not the typical manicured look that we appreciated in Rose Park, but we moved forward with it.  For three Saturdays, 100 plus recruited volunteers within the community came each week and by the opening, it was all installed.  The cost to the community was the cost of the materials and irrigation infrastructure.  The rest was donated.  I remember one Saturday, Peter had a number of the volunteers stand like they were plants in an open area, while he envisioned how they should be set out.  One by one, the volunteer was replaced by a plant.  When the Library opened, the landscaping and that effort were mentioned in each of the news reports.
We did a few more community projects.  Even helped Peter out once when he took out some non-native Russian Olive Trees that he had "ringed" the bark to kill.  It was all good and today, the river and its vegetation look so much better than it would have been.  A number of Eagle Projects also followed and for a number of years Peter kept watering things with that 800' of hose.  Finally about 6 years ago, through a grant from Tesoro, we were able to install an irrigation system relieving Peter of  needing to water things by hand.

Peter gave of his time to other community groups.  Frequently lectured and shared with a us little tid-bits about how God created this world to work together and letting the environment help sustain itself.
Peter was my bishop, my friend and a wonderful member of our community.  We're grateful for the legacy he and his first wife Sylvia left in the lives of their children. Her untimely death brought another blessing to our area, in his 2nd wife Janet.  Their love and dedication were reminders that like plants, 2nd opportunities can bring wonderful results that make a difference.  A few weeks ago, I felt impressed to stop by and visit Peter.  The conversation was very short, he mostly slept, leaving me an opportunity to talk with Janet.  While I knew he would not return back to a state that we all knew and loved, I didn't expect Heavenly Father to call him back so soon.    I have thought since how excited he must be to learn from the Master himself about how a world is created.  Peter, thanks for making our world here in Rose Park an even more beautiful place to live.