Obituary of Andrew L. Lasda
Raise a Glass to Andrew L. Lasda (1944-2020)
Andy Lasda passed away on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Equal parts farm boy and city slicker, Andy knew how to ride a horse and pluck a chicken; yet he was equally comfortable at the conference table in a power suit.
He spent his childhood on the mean streets of Syracuse, NY’s North Side, and summered at a family farm. Andy was a bright kid, possibly nerdy, definitely a smartass. One high school teacher remarked in his yearbook about his extensive vocabulary. Throughout his life, he was a voracious reader of pulp novels and the newspaper. He did crosswords daily until he passed away.
Being the super-genius that he was, he graduated from North High School at age 16 and enlisted in the Air Force, where he fixed radios. He was known to sing Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night” over the radios to test them. He met his future wife Jan in Plattsburgh, NY where he was stationed and where she was attending Teachers’ College. Their first date was the movie Youngblood Hawke, which they attended on a blind date with 2 other friends. Andy never had a good thing to say about the Air Force, so we’ll just leave it at that.
In his early civilian career, Andy held a bunch of jobs in the defense industry, as a field engineer. He got his Associate’s Degree in Business from Onondaga Community college while his kids were wee sprouts. He climbed the ranks in several defense firms: Sierra Research, Comptek, and others. A series of promotions led him west of Syracuse to Buffalo, NY. In 1979, he saddled up the horses, loaded up the wagons and moved the family to a large Dutch Colonial home on Mill Street in the suburb of Williamsville, where he would remain until 2018.
The pinnacle of Andy’s career was spent at Automated Toll Systems, Incorporated. As a Vice President of this firm, Andy was instrumental in creating the means for electronic toll collection, a precursor to today’s EZ Pass. He got the system installed on Indiana highways, and also the Ambassador Bridge, between Detroit, MI and Windsor, ON. The Ambassador Bridge is touted as the “Number One Border Crossing” in the United States.
Andy was a foodie before the word foodie was invented. He was ever-willing to try the most unique dish on the menu and share it with his family, whether they wanted some or not. Still, he taught his children the value of a well-aged, medium rare steak and eggs over easy. He was a regular patron of the Eagle House in Williamsville, and enjoyed former owner Jack Haney’s annual “Gentleman’s Night Out” for many years. His drink was a Beefeater Martini, straight up, with an olive. Or, given the circumstances, it could be Old Milwaukee in cans at Sleepy Hollow, his dad’s farm in Lafayette, NY. Perhaps at a fine restaurant, he would enjoy a nice beaujolais; a word he enjoyed saying because the snobby sound of it tickled him immensely.
He was a competent outdoorsman who raised his kids to experience all those activities. He knew how to build fires, gut fish, tie a bowline. He felt that hunting was a time to sit in the woods, chew the fat with the guys, and shoot guns. Coming home with a felled animal was optional. He also was not out there for the prize fish: “There’s a time for going fishin’ and going catchin’,” he’d say. Chances are, he might have preferred to be under a palm tree on the beach to relax, but he spent plenty of time in the woods.
A putterer, tinkerer, fixer, and builder, he always said of his work: “If it looks right from six feet away, it’s fine.” He built his kids a huge and amazing treehouse in Syracuse, rebuilt a used swimming pool for them in the Williamsville yard, and performed myriad house and automotive repairs, to mixed success. He had experience and skills to solve many fundamental problems of owning a home and car, and keeping the kids entertained and active.
Though not a “car guy” per se, Andy had a penchant for quirky motor vehicles, owning throughout his life cars such as, the breakdown-prone green Fiat in the 1970s, the snazzy Celica GT sports car to replace it, the garnet red Cadillac with a white leather interior; in the 1980s, he had a white Chrysler New Yorker that “talked,” and the Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo, which in 1992 was one of the first cars with a touch-screen menu and an in-car telephone.
Andy was definitely a dog person, although he did begrudgingly let various family cats sit on his lap from time to time. He taught his kids the value and benefits of adopting mixed-breed, rescue dogs, when they were just called pound mutts. He had a variety of dogs through is life, from Puddin the Yorkie, to Max the off-color (Non-AKC approved grey with black spots) Great Dane; Jacques, the “sub-Standard” Poodle (too big to be toy, too small to be standard-sized); Brutus, the result of an unlikely pairing of Beagle and German Shepard; Bear, the wide-roaming, 80lb. Great Pyrenees; and Baron, a black Chow he called his “furry pig.”
Andy was primarily an introvert; yet he loved a good story. He had a ribald tale or off-color joke for any occasion. He was liberal in his dispensing of advice, and it was good advice. He was prescient; in the 1980s he told us China was a bigger threat than Russia or Japan. He always knew the best restaurant for the occasion. Although he sang the hymn “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” by repeating the words “pine tree” over and over (try it, it works!), he could also surprise you by banging out Methodist church tunes on the piano ever-so-rarely.
Andy had a real country streak, loving artists such as Dusty Springfield, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, and Charlie Daniels’ Band. Saturday nights in the 1970s and 80s were spent watching Hee-Haw, and he enjoyed watching the Dukes of Hazzard with his friend and neighbor Lee Arnold. He also liked Dick Cavett, whom he felt was too smart for TV, the music of Tom Lehrer, Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” the comedian Lenny Bruce, the Elvis Presley movie GI Blues. He liked the off-beat, not-quite-mainstream art, music, and culture of the 50’s and 60’s. And boy did he dislike the opening to Queen’s album “The Game.” He said it sounded like a buzz saw. And he was right, although years later he said we played the 8-track so much he learned to like it.
In his later years, Andy got to relax. In retirement, he would fulfill a lifelong goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in Business from Empire State College. We were able to gather the entire family for his 70th birthday at a lakehouse in Bomoseen, Vermont-- all three kids, the spouses, and the grandkids. He was beyond moved when we broke the surprise to him on his birthday. It was clear he enjoyed every moment of that summer week by the beautiful lake, with his entire family working together to organize, plan, and make the most of what we knew was likely a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
He loved his wife Jan beyond measure, was immensely proud of his three kids, and delighted at being a grandfather. We will miss his humor and even his snark, his love of food, and dogs, and family; we will miss his off-color, even sometimes inappropriate humor, his knowledge, his wisdom, and his love. As he always said to us when we departed on a trip, we say “keep it upright, and between the guardrails.” Make it home safe.
LASDA - Andrew L.
April 14, 2020. Beloved husband of Janice E. (nee Finch) Lasda; loving
father of Elaine, Andrew V. Lasda and Rachel Lasda- (Daniel) Zeller;
cherished grandfather of Andrew S. Lasda and Erin and Lindsay Zeller;
devoted son of the late Andrew A. and Eunice Lasda; dear brother of Myron
(Patricia) Phillips, Sheldon Lasda, Sheila Togias and the late Gordon
(late Linda) Phillips; also survived by many nieces and nephews. No prior
visitation. A Memorial Service will be held in Williamsville United Methodist
Church at a time and date to be announced. Memorials may be made to the Two Sisters
Foundation of Williamsville United Methodist Church, to support the music ministry.