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Ed Lastein, a 'guiding spirit' of Flat Rock's park, dies at 59

Ed Lastein speaks to the Flat Rock Village Council during planning for the Park at Flat Rock in June 2013. Ed Lastein speaks to the Flat Rock Village Council during planning for the Park at Flat Rock in June 2013.

FLAT ROCK — Edward Harold “Ed” Lastein Jr., a landscape architect who designed most of the public outdoor space, greenways and sidewalks of Flat Rock and served over the past four years as “the guiding spirit” of the new Park at Flat Rock, died suddenly Thursday of a brain aneurysm. He was 59 years old.

“The whole community is obviously in shock and mourning,” said Flat Rock Village Administrator Judy Boleman. “He did all the landscaping for Village Hall. He was involved in the sidewalks. He was chair of the greenways committee. He’s just left his mark on this community and we’re just all so sad.”
“It’s a sad sad thing,” said Don Farr, who is the Lastein family’s neighbor in Kingwood and worked closely with him on greenways and park development for many years.
Lastein complained of not feeling well when he got up Thursday morning, friends and family members said. When he collapsed, the family called 911. Blue Ridge Fire & Rescue transported him down the steep roads of Kingwood to Kenmure’s golf course, where MAMA flew him to Mission Hospital.
“He lived long enough for all three of all three of his children to get there before he passed,” Farr said.
A native of Raritan Bay, N.J., Lastein and his wife, Sandy, wasted little time after his graduation from the George H. Cook college of Rutgers University before moving south. They made their way to Flat Rock in about 1988. Lastein is survived by his wife and three children, Teak, Kristen and Kelton, and a 13-month granddaughter, Sophia.
When the history is written of the incorporated Village of Flat Rock, Lastein’s contributions will be worthy of a long passage.
Whenever the Flat Rock Village Council talked about running a new sidewalk, planning a greenway, fighting kudzu or protecting hemlocks, Lastein was there as a knowledgeable and welcome adviser. His gentle manner and thoughtful guidance transformed ordinary public works jobs into something else, in keeping with the sensibilities of the Village of Flat Rock as a place of historical significance and a natural woodsy ambience. Sidewalks weren’t just a hard surface connecting point A to point B. Lastein recommended brick pavers instead of concrete and so it came to pass.

“He has been associated with the park and greenways committee just about from the inception of the village” in the mid-1990s, Farr said. “All the sidewalk pavers were his recommendation. He did all the landscaping design for the Village Hall.
“He has been the spirit of the park. All the things you see out there, based on planning and listening to people around town” came from a master plan that Lastein drew and carried out. “It became a reality and it came out absolutely beautiful.”
Although Lastein ins recent years was a paid consultant for the village, “the first few years it was all voluntary,” Farr said. As the Village Council, Park Foundation and Park Commission demanded more design work, “the amount of money (in the village budget) turned out to be way less than it needed to be,” Farr said. Instead of charging more, Lastein capped his hours, a paper gesture that amounted to a donation of labor. In reality he delivered hundreds of hours of landscape design, construction estimates, contract negotiations and project management for free.

Kelton, 22, said he’ll remember his dad for “his character, his integrity and his truthfulness to everyone and to his wife. He was always enjoying his time with us.”
When the boys joined Boy Scout Troop 627, Lastein became a scoutmaster, helping to guide them to the rank of Eagle. “That was a big part of our lives,” Kelton said.
“It’s pretty simple,” Kelton said. “He was a very true man who did what he needed to do for his family and his community.”
People were all the more shocked by Lastein’s death because of his healthy lifestyle. Trim and fit, he enjoyed bicycling, kayaking and sailing with his family.
“The man lived as healthy a life as a man could live,” Boleman said. “He hiked all the time.”
The family expects to set a memorial service later in August at Grace Lutheran Church.
Farr said everyone at Village Hall was still in shock about Lastein’s death.
“I was in there this morning,” Farr said. “Invariably, something would come up that he’s associated with and everybody gets choked up. He was a greatly loved man.”