Stillwater has lost one of its famously colorful characters, a man who became a local legend.
Stanford Eugene Lassen, more commonly known as “Buster,” died at age 87 June 10 at the Golden Living Center on Greeley Street.
“In my mind, Buster represents the last of the more colorful people we’ve had in Stillwater,” said Nile Kriesel, a Stillwater native and former city administrator. “Growing up in Stillwater we had a variety of people who brightened our lives, and Buster was one of them.”
“Everybody in town knew Buster and had stories about Buster,” said Dick Anderson, owner of St. Croix Boat & Packet. “Buster was one of a kind.”
Nile Kriesel’s brother, County Commissioner Gary Kreisel, called Lassen a “gentle giant” who knew how to enjoy the journey.
“A lot of us look for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but he enjoyed the rainbow,” Gary Kriesel said.
A former marine and boxer, Lassen was known for walking around town wearing multiple layers of clothes and carrying a stick. He had a habit of jumping out and scaring people.
“He would scare the living daylights out of people,” Anderson said.
For a while, the Stillwater police would get a call once a week because Lassen was frightening people downtown, Nile Kriesel said. So the police would go talk to him.
“He’d always have that smile on his face,” Nile Kriesel said. “He was a harmless individual. We never ever worried about him hurting anybody. … He was always just a nice gentleman. … He seemed a little slow, but he wasn’t. He was actually pretty sharp, pretty astute. …
“The other thing he was famous for doing was he’d walk up to a street sign … and he’d hit it one time, and that street sign would almost come out of the ground, because he was very powerful.”
Others tell stories of Lassen diving in the ponds at local golf courses to collect golf balls and sell them around town.
Doug Lacher, a Gazette employee and longtime St. Croix Valley resident, used to buy golf balls from him.
“You could name the style of the golf ball, the compression of the golf ball,” Lacher said. “His whole living room he’d have boxes (of golf balls).”
Many legends have sprung up around Lassen and his personal history — some more credible than others.
“There’s a lot of stories about Buster,” said Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historial Society. “He was really the last of the characters in Stillwater. … You can’t really talk about Buster without smiling.”
Lassen is survived by his siblings, Warren Lassen, Elaine (Andy) Salitros, and Beverly Follett.
A funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, at Simonet Funeral Home, 6429 Osgood Ave N, Stillwater, with visitation one hour prior to the service. A private family burial will be at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]