Ron Gustafson (left) with Josef K. Lesser (right)
Josef K. Lesser
Josef K. Lesser established J. K. Lesser Productions in 1962 to produce marketing, sales and training films for business and industry.
A sampling of the films they produced were for companies such as Statham Instruments (transducers for medical and aviation), American Pneumatic Tool Co., Ameron Corp. (plastic pipe, corrosion control), Hydril Co. (oil well drilling equipment), Cla-Val Corp. (all kinds of hydraulic valves), ITT Jabsco (pneumatic valves for aerospace), Whittaker Corp. (Controls Division, Dynasciences, ERI, Tasker Industries (mostly military ship and air OEM suppliers). His final production was for the company Smith-Emery (a construction testing laboratory and inventor of the seismic beam connection).
Mr. Lesser had 45 years of film production experience working together with his wife, Jo Ann Lesser.
Mr. Lesser co-founded LARHF with Ronald Gustafson over 20 years ago. He served as president and CEO of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation. He passed away in February of 2020.
In 1996 he was invited to be the guest curator at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica, designing and installing a six-month display, The Southern California Railroad Experience.
Since 1996 Mr. Lesser’s time was occupied in the day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation. With headquarter offices in Eagle Rock its public outreach program includes ten permanent “satellite” displays, lectures, panels, field trips, an extensive photography archive, ephemera collection and library. The Foundation (LARHF) has published five books. Its mission is to diligently preserve and dynamically present how the railroads and interurban systems impacted the social and economic fabric of the greater Los Angeles Basin.
Ron Gustafson, a third-generation family member actively involved with Coast Packing Company, is President and Chairman of the Board. Gustafson was responsible for rebuilding the family business into the number one supplier of animal fat shortenings in the Western United States. Under his leadership and strategic direction, he built the executive and management team, improved the company’s facilities, and modernized production, enabling the business to continue to thrive for future generations.
Gustafson first worked at Coast during the summer of 1955 at the age of 12. His initial job involved packaging bacon for retail and supermarket chains. He fondly recalls his first pay raise negotiation with his grandfather and Coast’s founder, Anton Rieder. The result was an increase from $1.00 to $1.10 per day — with Mr. Rieder reminding him it was a 10 percent raise.
Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Industrial Technology from California State University, Los Angeles, and a secondary teaching credential from the State of California in 1968. After two years in the U. S. Army, he rejoined the company full-time in October 1970 and received his MBA from Pepperdine University in 1982. Gustafson was a CAP mentor at the USC Marshall School of Business for 18 years.
A member of the American Oil Chemist Society and the Institute of Food Technologists, Gustafson was for 18 years a director of WSMA and NMA, the predecessor trade association of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). He chaired numerous committees, including long-range strategic planning, membership and education. Today, he serves as Emeritus Director of the NAMI Scholarship Foundation, which provides monetary awards to undergraduate students majoring in the animal, meat and food science plus culinary arts. In August 2018, NAMI established the Ron Gustafson Scholarship in his honor.
Gustafson’s interests include philanthropy, collecting Western American historic books and maps, and classical music. He is treasurer of three organizations – the Jonathan Heritage Foundation, the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation and the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society. Formerly treasurer for the Neighborhood Music School in Boyle Heights, he currently serves as a board member of the Finance Committee. He enjoys spending time with his wife, children and six grandchildren.