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Longtime lead gardener of Temple Square dies at age 77

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Nov 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-02 21:36:37-05

SALT LAKE CITY– He was the mastermind behind the flowers at Salt Lake City's Temple Square.

Peter Lassig, the longtime lead gardener for the grounds, died Oct. 25 at the age of 77.

Family and friends say his passion for gardening led him on a life-long journey of cultivating and tending to plants and flowers.

Peter Lassig's funeral took place Monday at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse in Salt Lake City’s Rose Park area.

“I think Peter came to this earth already as a gardener,” said Christena Gates, a former colleague of Lassig’s. “As a child, he told of stories playing in the gullies by the Salt Lake Country Club, of gardening as a small child and then, he started working, I believe at the age of 14 here in the church gardens.”

Friends and coworkers say Lassig was a delightful person who treated his flowers like humans and always taught his profession with passion and love.

“A lovable, eccentric genius,” said Lassig’s former coworker Paul Anderson. “He was poetic when he spoke. He had enthusiasm and focus for what he was doing, that was truly unusual and there was no one who was as good as he was with understanding gardens and the landscape. It was just amazing what he could do.”

Lassig was called by LDS Church President David O. McKay in the early 1970s to be the head gardener at Temple Square. He held the position for 30 years before retiring.

On Monday, friends spoke about his eccentric views on flowers.

“He believed that plants had personalities, he talked to them, and he talked about them as though they were his friends,” Anderson said.

They say Lassig loved gardening and relished in getting his work just right, so the world could enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature.

“So, he built a history of the gardens throughout the years, of always finding some way of doing something in a better way,” said Larry Tavenner, Lassig’s former colleague.

Former colleagues say he would plant as Mother Nature would plant, and not in rows or straight lines.

“Groups, planting in groups, scattered edges, he taught his gardeners how to do that through his design class,” Gates said.

His friends say they were just happy to know a man who was so passionate about his work and dedicated to making the temple grounds so beautiful.

“He touched many people in many different walks of life,” said Sue Thornton, Lassig’s former colleague.

Friends say Lassig's legacy will live on at Temple Square and he will always be remembered for creating award-winning gardens that people from around the world come to celebrate in Utah each year.

“He was really one of a kind,” Anderson said.