Bennett ‘Bud’ Hassink, 1926-2008

By March Hajre-Chapman
Tuesday March 25, 2008

Bennett James Hassink, known to his many friends as “Bud,” died in Berkeley on Monday Feb. 25, 2008, at the age of 81, from congestive heart failure.  

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in March 1926, where he was married to Mildred Pugh. Bud and Millie could be considered one of the early “bohemian” couples during the early 1960s. Millie, a talented artisan and jeweler, bore him his first daughter March. Their home on Wadena Street in East Cleveland was always full of interesting people, listening to electronically combined sounds and bits of recorded music that Bud mixed on reel-to-reel tapes, with lots of conversations, philosophical discussions and chess games. The music Bud made was far ahead of the synthesizer music and sounds of the’70s, and it had an ethereal yet melodic quality. He was routinely involved in the Cleveland music scene.  

Bud regularly brought his daughter, March, to the local be-ins in the park, and then went backstage at the La Cave Club to meet some of the musicians who played there, such as the Velvet Underground and Janis Ian. Bud came to the Bay Area in the mid ‘60s. He was an early member, along with his good friend Ron Thelin of the SF Diggers. Together the Diggers went on to start The Free Clinic and Food Services for Poor Youth in San Francisco. Bud hung out in the Bay Area during the height of the counter-culture movement, befriending many—Peter Coyote, some of the members of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, etc.  

Bud received a part in the film The Last Movie with Dennis Hopper, Michelle Philips, and Peter Fonda, which was filmed in Peru and released in 1971. He played a cowboy that was a member of Billy’s Gang.  

Another life-changing event was to happen in 1970, when Bud was staying with friends in Mendocino County and was shot by an acquaintance five times at close range with a large handgun. The details of exactly what happened that night never really emerged, but Bud miraculously survived. He always said afterwards that he didn’t hold anything against the person who shot him, and thought that the shooting had given him a second chance at life—that he was indeed reborn. 

By 1973 Bud settled down in Berkeley, in the Elmwood District. Here he met Alice Meyers, and his second daughter, Cebelle, was born in 1975. He worked for many years for the Berkeley public schools, supervising the playground during lunch time and recess, reading to children from the Great Books program in the Library, helping kindergartners open their milk cartons, helping them all find their way around the school, nursing their little hurts and truly befriending the youngsters. He made a huge impact on many young lives as evidenced by the number of young adults who would visit the bookstore where Bud later worked to say hello and tell stories of how he took care of them in their elementary school days.  

During this same time, Bud was a frequent regular at Ozzie’s Soda Shop at the corner of College and Russell. He could often be found there with his good friend Ed Lindsey, sipping on a chocolate malt and discussing the day’s events. Their meetings and regular attendance at the Soda Shop was even chronicled in a book on the history of the Elmwood District. 

From 1985 to the present, Bud worked at Lewin’s Metaphysical Bookstore on Ashby Avenue. Literally hundreds of people, both regular and new customers of the bookstore, would stop by to say hello, buy a book, or most affectionately, have an interesting and dynamic conversation with Bud on an incredible variety of topics. On the days he wasn’t in the bookstore, he would attend the Arthur Young’s Institute presentations or UC Berkeley academic colloquiums and engagements.  

In April of 1991, Bud traveled with his friend Alvin Warwas to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. There they visited the Mayan ruins and sites. Bud was keenly interested in the historic development of the Mayan Calendar. The archeological site of Dzibilchaltun was a particularly important town to Bud among those they visited. Recent visitors to the bookstore would usually be asked when their birthday was so Bud could look up their symbol, or glyph, in the Mayan ritual cycle, and then help them read and understand what the cycle symbol meant. Bud was indeed, in many more ways than any of us really knew, a World Bridger 

Surviving Bud are March Hajre-Chapman, daughter of Mildred Pugh; and Cebelle Hassink, daughter of Alice Williams Meyers; and Bud’s long-time partner, Yvonne Lewin. 

A celebration of Bud’s life will be held on Sunday March 30 at 2247 Ashby Ave. starting at noon, with a tribute in his honor at 1 p.m. Please RSVP to 649-8980. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to any Berkeley Public School in his name.