Hilmar Lassen
Hilmar Frode Lassen

May 8, 1914November 11, 2012 (98 years old)
Hometown: Camarillo, CA
May 8, 1914November 11, 2012
(98 years old) | Camarillo, CA

Life Story

EULOGY  (Given by Ida Lassen Chugg, Daughter)

My father Hilmar Frode Lassen was born on
8 May 1914, in Aalborg, Denmark.

He was the fifth and youngest child of Lars and Anna Kristine Lassen.  A year later my father's mother Anna Kristine became ill with tuberculosis.  She had to leave home and go live in a sanitarium as this disease was contagious.  This must have been a very difficult trial for her to have to leave her husband, children, and be ill with an incurable disease.  My father's older brother, Robert Viggo died in 1917, when he was 4 years old, and my father was three.

I have been told that my father’s mother would lie in bed and knit socks and try to sew clothes for her children.  She was a good seamstress.  My father remembered a package arriving from her and one time seeing his mother from a distance while she was at the sanitarium.  They waved to each other.  But he really does not remember having a mother.  Apparently his mother’s talent of being a good seamstress was passed onto my father.  After the war in Denmark, cloth was scarce, and he and mother sewed Birthe and I some nice bib overalls made of corduroy with silver rings that the shoulder straps could be laced through.  My father was very proud of how the corduroy bib overalls fit, not being too baggy in the back.  Anna Kristine, my father’s mother, passed away on March 25, 1923 when my father was 8 years old.

When young my father remembers his aunt Alma taking him on a trip by horse and buggy and going on a train ride south of Aalborg to visit relatives.  Alma also took my father to different churches as she was looking for the truth.  My father’s father Lars was a carpenter and he built boats.  He won prizes in sailing with his famous sail boat named Agnes II. Lars loved the feeling of mastering the sail with the wind, along with the quietness of sail boats.  This love of sailboats has been passed on to my father.  His father, Lars, taught him to sail and love the ocean. 

When my father was young living at home, everyone shared in the housework.  His older brother Byrge did the washing.  At one time he washed my father’s pants with gasoline to get them clean because they were so dirty.  My father helped with the cooking, even when he went to school. He would peal and boil the potatoes, and his father would fix the meat when he got home.  Eventually, my father cooked the whole meal and remembers that his father never forced him to eat food he did not like.   Everyone cleaned the house.  My father felt like it was a challenge to grow up without a mother.  He often felt like other children would look down on him for not having ironed shirts to wear.

Because there was no mother at home, grandfather, Lars would keep some coins in a top drawer in case his sons needed anything.  Father said there was a bakery around the corner from where he lived. He and his brother would take a few coins when they would come home from school, and go to the bakery and buy some crumbs.  There was a cutting board at the bakery where cakes and bread was cut on.  The crumbs would be swept off, put in a bag, and the boys could buy the crumbs cheaply, which were almost straight sugar at the time.  Grandfather would not get unhappy with the boys if they used a few coins. 

One time when Hilmar was about 9 years old, his father caught him smoking. Grandfather told my father to use a pipe instead of cigarettes, and when he ran out of tobacco, he would go and buy him some more.  Father got very sick smoking a pipe, so he quit smoking until he was about 16 or 17 years old when he started again because it was the acceptable thing to do.

When my father was 14 he joined the Merchant Marines and worked on a freight boat as a cook.  My father sailed to all parts of the globe for the next 12 years working on ships painting and repairing them as a crewman.  Father came to America for the first time in 1933 when the Olympics were in Los Angeles.

In between trips he would get some time off.  It was doing these breaks that he met his future wife at a dance.  He was 20 and Oda was 15.  Father asked mother if he could walk her home, but mother snuck out the back door.  Father was 20 and mother only 15.  They later met again and were married in 1939.

I was born on Oct. 4, 1941.  At my birth, Denmark was occupied by the German Nazi Army.  On the way to the hospital, air raids were sounding, warning the people to seek protection in bomb shelters.  Due to the war, nearly everything was being rationed and there was little soap, even at the hospital.  Food was also scarce.  Mother told me that the only fruit she got to eat when she was expecting me was two apples. Her and father each had an apple, and my father gave my mother his apple to eat because she was pregnant with me.

The German soldiers were living in the schools, churches, and other public buildings in Denmark.  They put a curfew on the people, took their food, and forbid the Danish people to have guns, or any other kind of ammunition for protection.  The Danish people had to be in their homes by dark and not be in the streets.  Denmark being such a small country did not stand a chance against Germany.  So the Danes formed an “underground,” to help defend themselves.  My father joined this underground.  There were many times during the war that my family felt protected.  One time the German soldiers broke into the apartment directly above ours.  The apartment belonged to our landlord, Palle Hansen, a childhood friend of my fathers. Palle was a leader in the Danish Underground, and apparently when the Germans had heard about it, they had come to get him. Fortunately, Palle had feared that the Germans were on his trail, so he had told my father that he and his wife were leaving town and where he would be.  My father was to take care of things in his absence.  On that terrible night, the German soldiers marched up the stairs to Palle’s apartment and pounded on the door.  Our apartment was just below Palle’s.  When no one answered, the door was knocked down and the soldiers stomped around in their big boots, going through everything in Palle’s apartment.  Hearing all of the commotion above us made my sister and I wake up and cry.  Everyone living in our apartment building was frightened because they all had one or two guns hiding in their apartment, as well as cigarettes and there was also a parachute in our basement apartment building.  There was even a gun hiding under my crib.  It was customary if these
things were found, all of the families in the apartment complex would be taken as prisoners and the whole building would be burned.  After this scary night, my father took all of the guns in the apartment complex under a cover, across town on the bicycle wagon he used to deliver milk with, while someone else took care of the cigarettes and the parachute. 

The next morning we learned from a neighbor in our apartment building, Mr. Knudsen, that the German Soldiers had knocked on his door asking who the assistant landlord was of the apartment building.  We really felt that Mr. Knudsen was inspired to  say that since they had a landlord, there was no assistant.  My father was the assistant landlord, and it is very doubtful that we would have ever seen him again in this life had the German soldiers come looking for him and searched our apartment.  Since my father knew the whereabouts of Palle Hansen, he pretended that he was delivering milk and informed him that the German Soldiers had come looking for him.

The war ended in 1945 and Mormon Missionaries returned to Denmark.  Our landlord, Palle Hansen, had started talking to my father about the Mormon missionaries who had been visiting him. Palle liked the missionaries and enjoyed discussing America with them.  The missionaries had invited Palle, and any friends he might know, to come and see a movie of the parade in Salt Lake City that marked 100 years since the pioneers had arrived there in 1847.  My parents went to see this movie.

The missionaries followed through, so one day they knocked on our door.  Mother felt impressed with how nice they looked and the good spirit that they had.  They left a Book of Mormon for her to read and invited her to church.  Mother and father went to church and were asked how they liked reading the Book of Mormon?  Mother answered that it was hard for her to understand the book when she read it.  The missionaries asked her what she was doing
when she was reading the book.  She told them she would put my sister and I down for a nap, take out a cigarette, and then start to read.  The missionaries taught my mother about the Word of Wisdom. Mother knew that cigarettes were not good for her, so she decided to stop smoking, and as she studied the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets, the missionaries had left, the gospel started making sense to her and the Holy Ghost manifested to her that what she was reading was true and was from God.  My mother has a strong testimony that the Holy Ghost could not help her when she was defiling her body by smoking.  Mother began to talk to father about the church.  I am very thankful that my father also wanted to go to church, and agreed to try and pay tithing and live the word of wisdom before they were baptized. My father also felt a lot better by not smoking because he did not have headaches caused by sitting in a smoked filled room.  Cigarettes, tea, tobacco, and liquor were expensive in Denmark because they had to be imported.  My parents decided to put the money they saved by living the Word of Wisdom in a jar. 
After six months they discovered that there was almost enough money in the jar to pay their tithing plus they felt so much better.

My parents and my older sister Birthe were baptized on September 4, 1948, when I was seven years old.  It was difficult for our extended family members to understand why we wanted to become Mormons. Our family started going to church together for the first time in our lives.  Father served in the bishopric.  My parents were willing to change their friends because they no longer drank coffee, smoked, or partied with liquor.

Soon after my parents joined the Church, the desire to come to Zion started to grow in their hearts.  There were no temples in Europe, and my parents wanted to have the fullness of the gospel.  The missionary that had baptized my parents into the church offered his father as our sponsor to come to America, and we
were put on a waiting list.  Things finally came through and arrangements were made for us to come to America.  We had to sail to Copenhagen for our visas, physical examinations to determine that we were healthy and could come to America, and to get some additional shots.  On our way home from Copenhagen to Aalborg, a terrible storm came up that rocked our top-heavy boat so bad that even my Father, who had been very proud of his record of never being sea-sick exclaimed, “I need to go up on deck and get some fresh air!”

I can remember my mother and father advertising in the newspaper to sell almost all of our possessions.  They had to sell everything they had to come to America with the exception of what would fit into a trunk and three suitcases—even my doll, roller skates, sled, and bicycle were sold.  I have really realized how much my parents sacrificed for the Gospel.  But as time has gone on, we know that it was not really a sacrifice, but a great blessing in all of our lives.  I shall be forever grateful to them for making the decision to move half-way around the world to a place where my father did not have a job, nor did my parents know the language.

On our last trip to Denmark, father was called out of the audience to bear his testimony.  It was at our home ward in Aalborg, Denmark.  My father has struggled with speaking English.  He had a stiff tongue, and had a hard time being understood by other people here in America.  I feel this was a real sacrifice he had made to live in America.

To me, it was worth my whole trip to Denmark to hear him express his Testimony and to be understood by the audience.  I will always remember how he shared one of his greatest spiritual experiences he had had during his lifetime.  When my sister Anna had asked
him to come to the hospital and give her heart sick, blue baby a blessing, fathersaid that during the blessing he was permitted to see baby, Candace, as a beautiful, young woman and knew Candace would live.  Candace was healed almost instantly and did
not require any heart surgery.

I feel we have received a great blessing from our Heavenly Father in that my parents have been permitted to live so long.  I am also thankful to my family who lives close by for all their help with father and mother, and for the kind and loving help of Cherryrose and Diane.  It must be wonderful for father to meet his mother, father and siblings whom he has not seen for many years. 

I feel a scripture that is correctly related to my father.  In the Bible in Matthew 19:29 it says, “And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, wife, or children, or lands, for my names’ sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”  We saw this prophecy fulfilled when last night my sister Doris counted that my parents now have 120 descendants, with more on the way.

I know the gospel is true.  I am thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ who made Eternal life possible.  I look forward to seeing my father again. 
I Say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.