By Barbie Porter
A Detroit Lakes church and several area businesses teamed up to change the life of a former detective.
A shop was built for Fred Lassonde, who dedicated his life to solving mysteries and finding criminals to prevent further damage to citizen lives and property. When he suffered a traumatic brain injury, he had to give up his career and fully focus on rehabilitation.
While his wife Anna Lassonde returned to work, the rural Detroit Lakes man became the stay-at-home dad.
“Being at home with the kids is a lot of work,” he said. “The energy it takes to keep up is amazing. I will say I have gotten better at becoming a negotiator. When I was injured, in a way, it was a blessing. Now I get time with my kids. I’m making up for the time I lost.”
He also began working on vehicles and selling parts to chip in for the family’s monthly bills. All the work on cars was done outside and that meant dealing with the wind and cold in the winter.
“Usually, I would have to shovel a spot to work first, but I needed to do what I needed to do,” he said. “It wasn’t great. I guess I just got used to it after a couple of years.”
Leaders at Community Alliance Church in Detroit Lakes became aware of his working conditions. They began discussing ways to help the member of their church family. It was determined a 30-by-40 foot garage would be a difference maker.
The cost of the project was estimated around $30,000. An anonymous donor stepped up, and from there companies like Gemstone Masonry, Franklin Fence, Summers Construction and several more donated services to ensure the job was completed, and to professional grade.
A fundraiser was held around last Thanksgiving, as they were about $5,000 shy of having funds to cover the cost of all materials. The garage was completed in late January.
“I didn’t think it would happen so soon,” Lassonde said. “This was the biggest, most helpful thing someone could do to help my family long-term. Money does help initially, but when you’re given a way to make money, that is better.”
While he was gone for the weekend, the finishing touches were completed the 12-foot tall garage that also had spray foam insulation, tin siding, a heater, windows and a large garage door.
“If I really stacked them in, I could probably get six (vehicles) in; two deep and three wide,” he said.
Since the garage was completed, Lassonde said he’s been busy working. In fact, he’s a bit backed up with the jobs he’s taken on and is glad he now has a warm place to do his work.
“I can only work 3-to-4 hours a day, if I’m feeling good,” he said. “I do some mechanic work and some truck parts selling. Eventually, I’d like to start a business, but for now, it is a hobby.”
It was his hobby that resulted in his brain injury. While working on a car on his day off, he was under a vehicle on the floor when a skid plate fell and hit him on his right temple.
“My head was on the concrete and there was nothing to deflect that,” he said.
Lassonde said he is always careful when working on vehicles, and that was a fluke accident. However, he has noticed he is even more so careful when taking off skid plates now.
“I really enjoy working on older vehicles and I like fixing up classics pickups,” he said. “So I wasn’t going to give up my hobby. ”
His love for older vehicles began when he was around 9-years-old. Lassonde’s father tinkered in the garage, and he enjoyed sitting at his side, handing tools and picking up whatever wisdom his dad dropped.
“When I was 14, my dad brought home an old pickup,” Lassonde said, noting it was for him to haul a lawn mower around the city and make a few extra bucks. “It broke down right away, and I had to learn how to fix it. I ended up loving doing that work.”
He also always loved the idea of being a police officer. Lassonde chased that dream and started his career in Fargo, N.D. In a few years he was promoted to detective.
“For me, being a detective was the pinnacle of police work,” he said. “It is not more important than other jobs in the field, but for me it was the most interesting. I loved investigating serious crimes.”
Dealing with the shadows of evil took its toll on Lassonde. He became jaded, as those he met often were self serving and lies were commonplace.
“I didn’t know I had PTSD at the time, but all that negativity takes a toll,” he said. “I think after I got hurt, and saw the generosity in people, I realized how jaded I had become. Without the generosity my family saw, I’m not sure we would’ve survived in terms of finances.”
Accepting generosity was a whole new struggle for Lassonde. At first he said the idea left him feeling like he would owe the people that offered help. In time, he realized it was his pride that needed to be swallowed. And when he humbled himself, Lassonde said blessings that allow his family to get by continue to enter their lives.
Lassonde’s family includes his wife, Anna, and their two children Aviana, 10, and Silas, 7. He said his wife has shown amazing perseverance and support throughout their life together.
“Being married to a cop is hard,” he recognized, adding shifts are often in the evening. “The fact she stuck by me during that says a lot about her as a person. Now, we’ve changed rolls, and she is still amazing as ever.”