Death Penalty Focus lost a dear friend and one of its most loyal supporters last week.
Actor, activist, and all-around good guy, Ed Asner, died late last month at his home in Los Angeles. He was 91.
To millions, Asner was the gruff “Lou Grant,” the character he played in two long-running TV shows, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant.” But to those who knew him, behind the brusque, no-nonsense demeanor was a man who never forgot his working-class roots; a champion of the dispossessed and marginalized, and a tireless supporter of civil rights, unionism, animal rights, and criminal justice reform, especially the abolition of the death penalty.
“He was just a joy with a big heart, indomitable spirit, and strong and outspoken convictions on social justice and human rights, including abolition,” DPF board member Stephen Rohde said. “I will miss him dearly.”
Every year, for years, Asner supported DPF not just financially, but with his time as well. He co-hosted our Annual Dinner in 2001 and regularly participated in our annual Celebrity Auction, donating a lunch or dinner hosted by him at a restaurant of the auction winner’s choice.
“He was always happy to help us with the auction item and never said no when we asked him,” DPF Director of Administration and Finance Yoko Otani-Spurlin said. “And the feedback from those lucky enough to win was always so enthusiastic. Everyone made a point of saying what a great conversationalist he was.”
Asner founded the LA-based Ed Asner Family Center to provide support for neurodivergent individuals and their families. On the center’s website, Asner wrote, “If you know me, you know that I have done anything I can for people and a good cause. If you have come to me and asked something of me, I hope I have been there for you.”
Ed Asner was always there for the board and staff at Death Penalty Focus. We will miss him.