LORETTO, Pa. — Lucien “Lu” Lessard, 81, Loretto area, passed away Sunday, April 23.
Born April 30, 1935, in Lewiston, he was the oldest child of the late Joseph Hubert Lessard and Gabrielle Coulliard.
Preceded in death by brother, Gilles Lessard, and sister, Denise Lacasse.
Survived by his wife of 57 years, Mary Frances (Itle) Lessard; sisters, Madeleine Luce and Claudette Guerrette; his sister-in-law, Jeanne Lessard; his children, Brian (wife Margarita), Gabrielle (partner John Yuasa), Kevin (wife Joanne), Suzanne Alolga (husband John) and James and Christopher Goulden. Loving grandfather to Renae (Joe), Alec, Drew, Michelle, Derek, Kelly, Mary, David, Claire; and Kathleen, Sean, and Jillian Goulden.
Lu was a member of St. Michael’s parish, Loretto, Pa., where he served as lector, Eucharistic minister and Finance Committee member. Formerly a member of St. Mary’s Parish in Franklin, Mass., where he and his wife, Mary, trained lectors and Eucharistic ministers, taught high school religious education, were a team couple for Marriage Encounter, leaders of Evenings for the Engaged, and featured speakers for Boston Diocese Bureau Talks.
Lu was a trailblazer in the emerging technology of videotape in television, building a career doing things that had never been done before. His family and friends cherished his stories of starting “Sesame Street,” “pushing the button” to transmit the first video ever sent over a satellite, producing TV spots for both sides in the first “televised election” (Nixon/Kennedy), putting an unknown Barbra Streisand at the end of a TV program he edited (her first time ever on TV), producing Streisand’s famous Concert in Central Park, and working with Salvador Dalí to produce the first-ever video art (“Chaos and Creation”). He was often goaded to talk about these historical events and just two nights before the stroke that ultimately ended his life, he held his audience of grandchildren captive with his tales.
Lu’s life journey began as the oldest of five in a French-speaking family in Maine. He would often quip that he only spoke one foreign language: English. Lu’s curiosity and love of electronics drove him to build his own TV from tubes and components in 1951 at the age of 16. He was a graduate of St. Dominic High School in Lewiston, and in 1955 he joined the U.S. Army to learn electronics. He was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he used television cameras to teach surgical procedures to doctors in distant military hospital locations. Lu met his wife Mary through a mutual friend at Walter Reed.
In a way, Lu’s career paralleled the life cycle of videotape as a recording technology. Ampex introduced the 2,800-pound, 2-inch videotape recorder in 1956 and when Lu retired in 1999, DVDs were about to overtake the sale of VHS videocassettes. Lu left the Army in 1958 to become one of the first employees of the first independent videotape production company in the world, the Videotape Center in New York City. Lu’s job quickly transitioned from equipment technician to cameraman to director, producer and head of production. He joined New York’s TeleTape Productions in 1967 as executive VP of production and creative services. At Teletape he produced thousands of TV commercials. He also introduced videotape into industrial settings, producing the first corporate training videos for Pepsi bottlers. In 1976, Lu joined VideoCom in Dedham, Mass., and built it into the largest video production and post-production company in New England. In 1982, with three kids in college, Lu and his partner, Bill Taylor, took the risk to quit and start their own company, Video Express, which was highly successful and today remains one of the largest TV commercial distribution companies in New England.
Lu retired from the video world in 1999 and moved to Mary’s family homestead in the Loretto area. Lu turned his talents to promoting Mary’s blooming watercolor artistry and sharing art in the community. Lu and Mary are patrons of the Arts for Healing program at the Johnstown NeuroScience Center and are members of the Mt. Aloysius Art Alliance Group. Lu and Mary founded the Art Program for Students at St. Michael’s School in Loretto.
Friends wishing to add a condolence note or share a fond memory of Lu may do so at www.gibbonsfhashvillecoalport.com/obits/obituary.php?id=692036.
Lucien “Lu” Lessard