The Enduring Legacy of Irving A. Lassen
"What began as a 2 million dollar estate gift in 1973 has grown to 7.3 million+ in gifts for our community."
Irving A. Lassen moved from Chicago to Olympia in 1920. Fascinated by the many uses of electricity, he started an electrical repair business in his basement. In 1929, he and a friend combined their very different interests, and opened Olympic Sport and Electrical Shop on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia. In their shop, you could buy fishing lures and get your toaster fixed.
In 1945, Lassen started Lassen Electric Services, which offered a wider range of electrical services. Now under different ownership, it remains a successful local enterprise.
Lassen was known as a quiet man, well respected in the business community, and admired for his lifelong interest in philanthropy. He was also known for his passion for orchids, which he grew in a greenhouse near his Boston Harbor home.
When he passed away in 1973, he bequeathed $2 million of his estate to the creation of the Lassen Foundation. The Foundation’s mission was focused first and foremost on benefiting Thurston County, but it also gave grants to the Shriners, and to the Northwest Kidney Center. It was managed by several trustees until 2010, when the trustees chose to transfer its assets to an unrestricted fund at the Community Foundation. At that time, the assets had grown to $5.5 million.
As a testament to the power of endowment, the fund has grown to $7.3 million, and grants totaling more than $1.5 million have been distributed to local nonprofits since 2010. “Transferring the assets to the Community Foundation just made sense,” says former Lassen Foundation trustee Jacqueline Gavin. “It has worked out great.” Gavin, who subsequently served on the Community Foundation board, now sits on the Foundation’s grants committee, where she ensures that the memory and the mission of Irving Lassen endures.
John Clees was Chair of the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors and very involved in working with the Lassen Foundation trustees to transition the fund to the Community Foundation. “The Community Foundation was honored to be able to continue the good work of the retiring Lassen Foundation trustees,” said John. “The Irving A. Lassen Foundation Fund is a long-term reliable funding source that will continue to honor Irving Lassen’s legacy and benefit our community forever.”