Suzanne Lasko, a longtime Fort Worth activist and advocate for the arts and mental health awareness, has died.
Mrs. Lasko, 75, died last week of Parkinson’s disease.
Mrs. Lasko served as executive director of the Arts Council of Fort Worth from 1976 to 1982 and again from 1987 to 1989. During her second stint, Mrs. Lasko led an effort to broaden the organization’s outreach.
The council had long served as the major funding arm for the city’s symphony, ballet and opera, but Lasko thought the council should help grow the arts citywide and provide funding for smaller, less known projects.
John Giordano, who served as music director and conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for 27 years, said this move left a lasting impression on the arts community.
“Suzanne changed the whole philosophy of the Arts Council and how it supported arts across Fort Worth,” Giordano said. “For the first time, small organizations could receive the support they needed. This changed Fort Worth for the better.”
Mrs. Lasko was born May 22, 1939 in Fort Worth. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, where she was a member of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa, and she later received a master’s degree in American culture from the University of Michigan.
Family members say Mrs. Lasko loved her hometown of Fort Worth and felt drawn to community service.
As the daughter of an artist, she saw the importance of supporting arts throughout the community. And when her sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Mrs. Lasko devoted much of her time to increasing awareness of mental health issues, said her son, Ed Miles, of Spartanburg, S.C.
Mrs. Lasko served many years as chairwoman of Tarrant County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services. She created the nonprofit Mental Health Housing Development Corporation, which develops affordable housing for mentally ill people.
In 1996, Mrs. Lasko was named Tarrant County Mental Health Association’s Advocate of the Year. The same year, she received the prestigious Frank Adams Individual Award presented by the Texas Council of MHMR Centers.
In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Lakso was instrumental in the formation of Historic Southside, Inc., organizing businesses and homeowners to revitalize the Magnolia Street corridor, Miles said. Drawing funds from the national Main Street sources, the improvements on Magnolia provided a structure that draw residents and businesses to the area. She was also a trustee on the Fort Worth school board, from 1982 to 1986.
For years, Mrs. Lasko’s accomplishments “flew under the radar,” Giordano said.
“Suzanne never sought the spotlight, so to this day I don’t know if she ever got the recognition she deserved,” he said. “She played a very big role in Fort Worth.”
Mrs. Lasko is survived by her husband, Bernie Lasko, children Kim and Ed Miles, Gary Miles, Anne and Steve Lasko and Sharon and Chris Doan; sisters Linda Kay Lowry and Lana Lowry Hadlock; and seven grandchildren.