The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Published 5/29/13 | Log In
Felix Lagasca washed dishes for nearly 25 years
Published: October 3, 2012
Felix Lagasca washed dishes with an artisan’s touch.
“He took a lot of pride in his work,” said Greg Crouch, who was friends with Lagasca since he and his brother Bob started washing dishes with him at Gwinn Commons 23 years ago.
Whether it was the grill or a dish-rack, Lagasca wouldn’t stop scrubbing until he got all the rust out of it, Crouch said.
“He would spend an hour trying to fix something,” Crouch said.
Lagasca died in an ambulance on the way to Harborview Medical Center on Sept. 22. He collapsed at Third Avenue West and West Cremona Street after getting sent home early from the breakfast shift at Gwinn.
He was 71 years old. His 25th year at Gwinn would have started in January.
His official cause of death was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease—more commonly known as a heart attack, according to Samantha Jasso - a spokeswoman for the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“He would have been great as a watchmaker,” Crouch said. “He had a fanatical, precise mind.”
The Crouches first met Lagasca after he invited himself over to their house.
“He kept asking if he could come over and see where I lived,” Bob Crouch said. “So eventually I invited him over.”
Lagasca grew up in San Francisco and played football and basketball at the Catholic school he attended.
He worked for 10 years as a hotel clerk in Los Angeles before moving to Seattle.
“He was tired of California,” Greg Crouch said. “He wanted to get out of the rat race.”
Even though he never went to college, Lagasca was a lifelong learner—reading book after book on everything from snakes to collector coins.
“He would have excelled in college,” Greg Crouch said. “But he was stuck in blue-collar jobs.”
He scoured yard sales and antique sales looking for low-cost treasures and kept his extensive coin collection in folders with plastics sheaths.
“He was super happy in a thrift store or yard sale,” Greg Crouch said.
Lagasca never knew his mother and only drank hard liquor once a year to remember his father who died in 1984, Greg Crouch said. Lagasca never married and had one son, although they didn’t keep in touch, he said.
Lagasca had four siblings but didn’t contact them often, Greg Crouch said. Sodexo tried contacting them after Lagasca died but was unsuccessful in doing so.
“He pretty much lived alone,” Greg Crouch said. “He was a bachelor.”
Lagasca was an avid bowler and found his second family in a bowling league at the former Sunset Bowl in Ballard.
“I would see him at 5:30 in the morning walking across the Ballard Bridge in the rain just to go bowling,” Bob Crouch said. “He would have breakfast there and spend all day bowling.”
He lugged a camcorder to every bowling game and stored all the tapes in files at his home, Bob Crouch said.
“When they closed down, he looked like he had just gotten divorced,” he said.
Kim Karstens, a Sodexo general manager, said her interactions with Lagasca were usually limited to a head nod or a grunt.
But when they did talk it was always about bowling.
“He would always invite me and the managers to come bowling with him,” Karstens said.
“I always thought there would be time later to do this,” she said. “I would have like to see him bowl.”
While talking about Lagasca outside of Gwinn Commons, Greg Crouch pointed to a white, plastic trashcan on wheels faded and stained from servicing the droves of students that pass through the dining hall every day.
Lagasca would scrub the can until it was perfectly white again—which took more time and patience than most would give it, he said.
“He was like a pit bull,” Greg Crouch said. “He would just lock on something until he fixed it.”
By CORY MINDERHOUT