Celebrating a Life Well Lived
Monday, August 20, 2018, is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of our Founder, Oda Lassen. Although we lost her in 2013 (at the age of 94 1/2), her spirit and spunk have stayed with us.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how at the age of nearly 53, she bravely opened the first Lassen’s in 1971 (you can read that post here) and this week I just want to celebrate the person that she was.
Oda was unafraid to say what she thought. I don’t know if it was the fact that English was not her native language that made her so blunt, but she would just tell you what she thought. When some of our boys were teenagers with long hair, she complained to me about it. I told her it was just hair and not a big deal, and she replied, “But it looks so awful!”
Oda was very willing, and often anxious, to pass on her wisdom, regularly with humor. She had heard someone say that the only reason you should raise your voice at home is if the house was on fire. One day she came into my house and caught me yelling at — well, who knows what. She just said, “Where’s the fire?” That made me laugh, and, as you can tell, I don’t even remember what all the yelling was about.
Oda had a quick wit. During a Sunday dinner she scolded one of her grandchildren for being so sassy. He replied, “Well, I can’t help it since I got it from you!” She shot right back, “You couldn’t have gotten it from me because I’ve still got it!” She was well into her 90s and hadn’t skipped a beat.
Oda was very smart. She loved learning everything that she could about Natural Foods and Supplements. She was constantly reading and studying so that she could help her customers in the store. She also loved to read magazines that carried stories about people and products, and in the 1990s was even featured in one of the bargain magazines with an article about how Green Magma had helped her arthritis. That laminated article was on the wall of the store for a long time! She was very proud of that!
Oda also had quite a head for math, and could keep track of every expense and sale. She watched the books very closely, and didn’t make risky moves in the business. This vigilance carried into her personal finances — If we went to a store together and she paid for both of our items, you can bet she would make sure that she was repaid in a timely manner, and to the penny!
Oda put her family first. She had a large family — seven children — and a large extended family but everyone knew that she loved them. Most of all, her husband Hilmar knew it. One day I was at her house in the morning when she left for work at the store. After a few minutes she came rushing back into the house with an explanatory, “I forgot to kiss my husband goodbye!”
There was no greater Bedstemor — Danish Grandmother — than Oda. Sometimes, when my kids were little, she would call me and tell me I needed a break. She would drive to our house, pick up the children, and take them for a walk or to the park while I had some time to myself. She was also a great Svigermor — Danish Mother-in-law. One of her daughters-in-law tells about how Oda would show up at their front door with a broom, mop, and bucket and announce that she was going to mop their floor. She’d sweep and mop, then be on her way.
After she and Hilmar downsized from their home, they came to live in a granny flat next to our house. Our children grew up with Bedstemor and Bedstefar just a few steps away, and that enriched their lives every single day. I would often go see what she and my children were up to, and they were making cookies together or watching Shirley Temple or Disney movies, or just sitting on the couch, Oda patting their little legs, listening to music. When the grandchildren were babies, she was in heaven. She would swoop up a screaming baby, hold him close, and dance and sing until he calmed down. Her trick was to sing louder than the baby was crying. She had a special “dep-a-dep” song that all of the Lassen children, grandchildren, and most of the great-grandchildren can still sing.
Oda was blessed with beautiful olive skin (not a standard pale Dane!) and a thick, full, head of hair. I liked to tell her that she had enough hair for three people, and several of her children — including all of her sons — inherited that thick hair. So lucky!
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss Oda. She was a woman of incredible integrity and perseverance, even in the face of real hardship. Honest, hard-working, and loyal, all of us in her personal and business family knew that we could count on her, no matter what. There are so many things that we have been able to accomplish and experience because she paved the way. It is our quest to honor the legacy she left for us. It’s what gives us our values: Passion, Commitment, and Respect.
Happy birthday, Oda!
All of your family and team at Lassen’s