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By Eric Heinz
If you’ve ever seen one of Disney’s classic films or Hanna-Barbera shows or some of the Charlie Brown editions, there’s a good chance Don Lusk worked on one of them. Lusk’s career as an animator includes a staggeringly impressive list, such as Bambi (1942), Fantasia (1940), and Alice in Wonderland (1950).
But it was San Clemente where he ended up spending his final years. Lusk died on Dec. 30 at the San Clemente Villas by the Sea at age 105, according to close friends and entertainment media outlets.
According to his close friend, Juliette Paskowitz—the widow of famed physician and surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz—she befriended Lusk during his final years, as they both resided at the San Clemente Villas.
“He’d been here five years, and I’ve known him for three, and one of my young sons who is an artist and gave him a beautiful painting,” Paskowitz said. “We were so close. I knew all about his life, wife, children, and he confided in me. Like Josh (her son) says, he was such a unique person.”
Paskowitz said due to random and assigned seating, she was introduced to Lusk for the first time a few years ago. While she said she didn’t think she belonged at the residence that is meant for retired people, she quickly found companionship with the famed cartoonist.
“I came downstairs for dinner and came to see my son, Izzy, and he said, ‘Pretend like it’s the first day of school,’ and he introduced me and, you know, I never realized that behind all those gray hairs are beautiful stories, and I’ve met so many good friends here, including Don. He was just amazing and so smart and so funny.”
Paskowitz said then-post-centenarian Lusk would tell her all kinds of stories, not necessarily related to his work with Disney, Hanna-Barbera and other entertainment titans. She said although he would ask for seconds when they had wine with dinner, he would frequently share.
“After the other people would leave, he was so slow to finish, so I always sat by him, and we would go through the tales of his life together,” Paskowitz said, adding that their friendship was like two spirits passing each other between this world and the next.
Lusk’s career may be the most complete of any animator in history. He was a character animator for Lady and the Tramp (1955) and worked on episodes and movies of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang, The Jetsons—the list just keeps going.
Details of Lusk’s memorial were not immediately available.