Larry Van Nostran
Larry Van Nostran

Anyone who knew Larry Van Nostran for any amount of time, knew he loved golf and he loved Lakewood.

The nine-time Lakewood mayor and present city councilman died at his home Friday with his wife Charlene by his side. He was 79.

Van Nostran, who suffered from a progressive lung disorder, had been released from the hospital only a week before his death, after doctors diagnosed his condition as incurable, said Bill Grady, Lakewood's public information officer.

"It is with a sense of deep personal loss and the recognition that a uniquely dedicated public servant has been taken from us too soon," said Mayor Diane DuBois. "We mourn the death of long-time Lakewood City Council Member Larry Van Nostran."

Van Nostran's love for golf and his city was only temporarily affected, when on Dec. 29, 2010, surgeons had to amputate his foot. He was home by New Year's Eve that year, attended church services on Jan. 2, and was back to golfing with a prosthesis by April. "We decided we were going to give it a try," he said in a Press-Telegram interview in December 2011. "The worst part was I wasn't sure if I could even put the tee in the ground without falling on my nose. But, I stuck it in the ground and there it sat as pretty as could be."

Van Nostran was born in Seville, Ohio in 1933 and moved to Lakewood in 1958, only four years after the city was incorporated.


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He was active in Lakewood civic life for over 50 years, including membership in the Elks Club, Jaycees, Kiwanis Club, Lakewood Pan American Association, and Masonic Lodge & Scottish Rite.

According to Van Nostran, after his amputation, his love for Lakewood was a huge motivating factor in his speedy recovery.

"I got so involved in seeing to all the necessities of the city that I couldn't leave council," he said.

His career as a Lakewood City council member spanned five decades, during which time the city overcame the challenges of political turmoil in the 1970s, responded to enormous social and economic changes in the 1980s and 1990s, thus succeeding in becoming one of the most politically and fiscally stable communities in Los Angeles County, said Grady.

Van Nostran began his service in Lakewood in 1971 as a member of the Traffic and Safety Commission. As a council member he was a longtime member of the Public Safety Committee and believed nothing was more important than keeping a community safe. That belief made a instrumental part of helping to create and maintain Lakewood's low crime rate and high quality of life in the city's neighborhoods, Grady said.

He was a strong supporter of the Lakewood Award of Valor event, where each year, public safety personnel, volunteers and residents are honored for dedication, hard work and courage.

"I've known Larry throughout my entire career in Lakewood," said Lakewood City Manager Howard Chambers, who has served as city manager since 1976. "For me, he was a mentor, an advocate and a friend. For Lakewood, he was a pillar of strength. In Larry, I saw a man who always fought the good fight, who never wavered in his convictions, and who lived and breathed the genuine spirit of his city each day."

Van Nostran, who was first elected to the council in 1975, was the longest-serving council member in Lakewood's history with 37 years. He served as mayor nine times and was currently serving his tenth term on the council.

"In each of his nine terms as mayor, Larry stood as a fierce defender of the community's values and served as a leader of the city council in guiding Lakewood with wisdom and determination," said DuBois. "I know that Larry's greatest aspiration - and one he achieved - was to keep Lakewood safe, ensure its continuing prosperity and preserve its neighborhood quality of life. We will always remember Council Member Larry Van Nostran - indomitable, loyal, true, and brave. A great leader of Lakewood has been struck down, but his enduring legacy will live on."

Among his achievements was the founding of the Lakewood Youth Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. The Hall of Fame has honored thousands of Lakewood youth over the three decades and has helped promote a vigorous sports and recreational culture in the city. It was nationally recognized by Sports Illustrated magazine when Lakewood was named Sportstown USA in 2004.

Van Nostran had served continuously since 1990 as the President of the Executive Committee of the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, the largest municipal self-insurance agency in the state.

He was instrumental in the development and expansion of senior services in Lakewood helping to create Lakewood's DASH, the senior transit system and developing the exercise and fitness programs at the city's two senior centers. He also played a big role, of modernizing the Lakewood Center mall and maintaining the business and commercial base of the city over the decades.

Van Nostran is survived by his wife, sons Dennis and David, five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Memorial service details are pending and will be made public later at www.lakewoodcity.org.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Friends of the Lakewood Sheriff's Station, 5130 Clark Ave., Lakewood, CA 90712 or to Christ Presbyterian Church of Lakewood, 5225 Hayter Ave., Lakewood, CA 90712.