Retired judge Henry Lasky of Petaluma wrote his own obituary
By Chris Smith | Aug 16, 2016

A few years back, Petaluma’s Henry Brand Lasky, a retired judge, steadfast community volunteer and advocate for senior citizens, sat to write his obituary.

Lasky, an Air Force veteran who worked 22 years as a U.S. administrative law judge in San Francisco, knew that interstitial lung disease would take him in time. He was at home with his family when he died Aug. 4. He was 81.

“I was born in Troy, New York, on April 30, 1935, the son of the late Reuben and Thelma Lasky,” he wrote. “A few years following my birth the family moved to Albany, New York, where I grew up.”

In the obituary that he updated just months ago, Lasky shared that he earned an undergraduate degree from Cornell University, then returned to Albany “and spent three unhappy years at Albany Law School, Union University, wondering why I was putting myself through such a grueling regimen.”

He received his degree in 1960 and a short time later was called to active duty in the Air Force. His assignment: report to California and serve as a captain and assistant staff judge advocate at Marin County’s Hamilton Air Force Base.

There he met Bonnie Berry, the daughter of a pilot. They would go their separate ways but reconnect and marry in 1989.

One thing Lasky knew for sure by the time of his honorable discharge was that he didn’t ever want to leave California.

The 28-year-old lawyer and military vet took a job as deputy attorney general with the state Department of Justice in San Francisco, “where I was bored for one year and later entered the private practice of law in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland.”

In 1978, he was appointed an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Labor. “I enjoyed every day,” he wrote, “and served until my retirement in 2000.”

He added that he “tried to be respectful and fair to litigants and their lawyers, and demonstrate that humor can be found in the most serious and stressful of situations.”

Lasky didn’t stop working after retirement but until 2013 provided private mediation and arbitration services. He also volunteered.

“I especially enjoyed serving for 10 years on the Advisory Council for the Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging, where I was Chairman from 2008-2010,” he wrote. “I was a docent at the Guide Dogs for the Blind, served as an ombudsman for Sonoma Senior Advocacy Services and was deeply involved with Jewish Family and Children’s Services...”

He was active for 18 years in Sonoma’s Congregation Shir Shalom. His contributions to his community and country will be celebrated at the annual benefit dinner of Jewish Family and Children’s Services next March.

Lasky is survived by his wife of 27 years, Bonnie Lasky, of Petaluma; daughters Rebecca Thomas, of Oakland and Paula Price, of Berkeley, brother Stephen Lasky, of Brooklyn; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service is at 2 p.m. on Sept. 18 at Congregation Shir Shalom.

Memorial contributions are suggested to Congregation Shir Shalom, Rabbi’s discretionary fund, 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma 95476; Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Palliative Care Program, 1360 N. Dutton Ave., Suite C, Santa Rosa 95401 or Hospice of Petaluma, 416 Payran St., Petaluma 94952.

Lasky concluded his obituary, “I have had a wonderful life full of meaningful relationships, successes and failures, and joys and sorrows for which I have been very grateful. I lived.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

Henry Brand Lasky.