They were his pride and joy and he and his wife Antoinette spent hours outside carefully and lovingly tending their plants.
“My dad loved nature,” says Leanette Bassetti, Leno’s daughter. “He would walk outside behind the house and remark, ‘this is my cathedral,’ referring to the grandeur of the fir trees and the beauty of the environment.”
Bassetti has many memories of her father, who recently passed away at the age of 97.
A longtime Woodinville resident, Leno moved to the area in 1959 and built his dream house near Cottage Lake.
He was known for being a hard worker, who believed in his ability to make something of himself despite difficult odds.
When he was five, his father died and later he had to leave school after only finishing the eighth grade because he had to help support his mother and siblings.
An athletic youth with a passion for baseball, he had intended to play the sport at Garfield High, but unfortunately, this was not in the cards.
Leno’s first job was at a sawmill in Dryad, Wash., where he was paid 25 cents an hour.
In ensuing years, he did a stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps at Olympic Hot Springs, worked for a small bulb company in Renton, picked hops in Yakima and then got hired by John Fischer, a local landscape contractor, where he spent the next eight years learning about the profession.
Eventually, Leno started his own business, Bassett’s Soils, as a supplier of landscape products and materials.
In 1970, he merged the company with Western Sawdust, forming a corporation called Bassett-Western, which continued to operate in Woodinville until 1985 when the corporation was dismantled and the company was sold.
Local businessman Cory de Jong of de Jong Sawdust and Shavings did business with Leno for many years and says, “Leno was a great guy. He was a good friend and a good person to do business with.”
Another longtime friend, Paul Thomas, adds, “Leno really loved his work and he was a very profitable and successful businessman. He was a forthright man, always honest, from the old school with a true work ethic. He was hands-on and could fix anything, from wiring problems to plumbing issues.”
Thomas comments that Leno inspired people to pursue their interests in life with an attitude of “If I can do it, you can, too.” He remarks, “Leno touched a lot of people and people really liked him. He always had a smile on his face and was a very engaging guy.”
Leanette echoes Thomas’s comments emphasizing the positivism her father always employed when faced with challenges.
She says he instilled good values in her, adding, “From him, I learned to work hard and also to enjoy life. He showed me that you shouldn’t look back, but rather ahead and just keep going with a smile on your face.”
Leanette was very close to her father and after he had a stroke in 1997, she took care of him in the mornings. When she would arrive at the house, Leno would greet her cheerfully and he never complained even when he was in discomfort or pain.
“He made me laugh,” she comments. “He had a really good sense of humor and he loved to tell stories about his life. He was a self-made man who came from a poor background and he became a successful businessman all on his own.”
The local woman wants the community to remember her father as a man who loved the land and did what he could to preserve and protect it for others to enjoy.