Mort Lasnik, cake baker, cat lover, wood worker, model ship builder, stamp and coin collector, card and game player, and the Will Rogers of confections (“He never met a sweet that he did not like”), died on Saturday, July 17, 2021, at age 94.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 18, 1927, as the youngest of four boys and the son of a baker, Mort’s destiny was to follow in his father’s footsteps. When his father needed assistance in the bakery, he left high school (later earning a GED) to become his apprentice. Subsequently, Mort attended the Dunwoody Baking School in Minneapolis to perfect his baking and artistic decorating skills. In 1948, he married Lillian Audrey Frank, the love of his life for 56 years.
Shortly thereafter, they moved to Los Angeles, CA to join family members. While initially working for Van De Kamp Bakery, Mort knew that he wanted to be his own boss. Ever the entrepreneur, he started making wedding cakes from home. Within a short period of time, this became a thriving business. “Mort Lasnik Cakes” was an extremely successful bakery, specializing in decorated cakes, and at its peak, making hundreds of wedding cakes each week. Mort instilled his strong work ethic into each of his four surviving children by having them work in the family business.
In 1970, his love of the mountains, specifically the Yosemite National Park area, drew him to Bass Lake. He and Lil bought “the cabin” and it became the place for family gatherings, including the wedding of his youngest daughter. In 1974, Mort started the Drifting SAMS (a Good Sam Club), and he and Lil RV’d across the country, visiting every state except North Dakota. After retirement at age 55, they moved permanently to Bass Lake from Northridge, CA. With all that free time, they traveled to over 30 countries, and he spent time on his many hobbies (his garage being converted into a well-equipped workshop). When Lil died in 2003, Mort continued to be active and was well known throughout the Bass Lake/Oakhurst communities.
As animal lovers, Mort and Lil became an established part of the EMCSPCA (he did pet adoption postings on its website well into his 80s). He especially loved cats, and at one time cared for as many as 30, including their cherished house cats. He was referred to as the “Cat Man” in a Sierra Star article published in March 2012. He told the reporter, “I think one of the reasons I like cats is because they are very, very independent… they won’t do anything they don’t want to and that’s how I am.” True to these words, Mort continued to live independently and on his own terms, in the mountain area he loved until just prior to his death.
Known for his many clichés – he was a real character loved by many. One of his favorites was consistently uttered upon leaving a restaurant or store, usually after suggesting he was considering buying the establishment, was, “I’m done here now, you can all go home.” Alas, it was now time for him to do so as well.
Mort is survived by his four children – Elaine, Wendy, Robert, and Julie, six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren; and preceded in death by his wife Lil and son Sammy. Of all of his accomplishments, he was most proud of his family, which is his enduring legacy.
Donations in his memory may be made to the EMSPCA – specifically in support of the Mort and Lil Cat Care Center (part of the new no-kill animal shelter in Ahwahnee).
The family will be hosting two celebrations of life, one in Bass Lake and one in Los Angeles in April 2022.