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Profile of Betty Jane Lassen
Albuquerque Journal, .
by Paula Hendricks

In the Fall of 1994, Betty Jane Lassen finished her 15th year as an instructor in outdoor recreational activities with Continuing Education, a division of the University of New Mexico. They called her in 1979 and asked if she'd like to work with seniors. She enrolled in their Applied Gerontology Certification Program, and has worked with what she calls "Mature Adults" ever since. She has also worked with the elderly, the frail, and the disabled.

"I like to share my time with others, inspire others. I like to volunteer, to assist. I've designed programs and equipment for people with physical disabilities ranging from back problems, asthma, and heart attacks. To help get them outdoors. I've worked with the frail elderly from nursing homes ... and I've had a lot of community support for these programs. I could not have been so successful without help from others. I couldn't have done it alone."

"It's fun, enjoyable, helping others achieve their goals. It's worthwhile exercise ˇ learning something new, building self confidence, learning something about survival, being comfortable outdoors." Her programs include bicycling, walking, hiking, camping, back-packing, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing.

And Mary Jane Lassen is comfortable in the outdoors ˇ she loves it. It is integral to her life. Born near Topeka, Kansas, she and her family were enamored of the outdoors ˇ they went every weekend. They ate all the wild things, learned about wildlife. Her father even made their cross country skis and snowshoes.

"It's the most inspirational place to be ˇ where I found God," says Lassen. "We didn't go to church. We went outdoors."

She came to New Mexico as a new bride in 1944 with her husband, Red, and from the time they married they spent lots of time outdoors, hunting and fishing, sometimes with bows and arrows. Their love of the outdoors has also been therapeutic ˇ after Red suffered brain damage from a car accident, Lassen took care of him for seven years. "I took him along when possible and the doctors said it's what kept him alive so long."

The outdoors has been her saving grace more than once. "The year after Red died [about 5 years ago], I was a national park volunteer at Chaco. I lived in a 16' trailer all summer. I was a campground host and my specialty was the back country trails ˇ I know them almost foot by foot. I served as a translator ˇ an interpreter of Chetro Kettel ruins in particular. I did camp fire talks. I worked through a lot of my grief there. I made a lot of friends."

One of her favorite places is Lake Powell. Camping at Good Hope Bay. She'd stay a week. Go fishing every day. "Being near the water. It's so peaceful, quiet ... Not sure it's so quiet any more, but it's so beautiful. It has everything ˇ sunrises, sunsets, stars so close to the earth, beautiful skies, the full moon coming up over the red rock canyonˇyou feel like you could embrace it ... hear the water, the ripples, the birds. I love to hear the coyotes serenade the early morning."

For short trips, close-by, Lassen drives, sometimes by herself, up into the mountains, or up to La Cienega, through the canyon.

This is the first spring she has taken off ˇ she calls it 'The year for me'. "For the first time, this year, I feel great inside, a new person."

So, after some traveling this spring and summer, Mary Jane Lassen will no doubt be back sharing her love of the land and her knowledge with others. She is already thinking about new programs to develop.

"I really love the land."

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