Former councilmember Tom LaBonge remembered for his magnetic personality and his love for LA

LOS ANGELES - The owner of Pink’s Hot Dogs on LaBrea says, "Tom was very very close to my family."

Richard Pink is talking about former Los Angeles city councilman Tom LaBonge. Of the former councilman who died Thursday night

Pink says, "He made you feel like... family He was somebody who was larger than life. He was somebody who had a profound and deep love for our city."

In fact, Pink says he came to eat here every week. And, last Sunday - about five days ago - when they decided to temporarily close down the famous hot dog stand because of COVID-19. Pink says Tom brought flowers to the workers.

Kind, impromptu gestures were something Tom had always done. He is being remembered by Angelenos for his endearing persona, which is why LaBonge's sudden death was upsetting to so many.

Says former LA City Council President Herb Wesson, "Nobody saw this coming. I’m in shock as is everybody else. He was like a magnet and even if you didn’t want to... his personality .. his magic sucked you in."

Wesson says the two knew each other since the 1980s when both had different jobs at LA City Hall.

When he got out of college LaBonge says he wanted to be a football coach. Talking of his past he once told us, "There were no teaching jobs. Somebody once asked if I wanted to work at city hall... and I said yes."

LaBonge represented a large part of Central Los Angeles - District 4 - from 2001 to 2015 after winning a special election to replace longtime council member John Ferraro.

Before joining the Board of Supervisors Janice Hahn worked with him as a council member. She said some of the most fun during those council meetings was generated by LaBonge. He was also respectful she says.

"He always thanked employees. He thanked people for his service. He was always so appreciative and encouraging of everybody. He was the greatest cheerleader for himself and for the City of Los Angeles," Hahn said.

City Attorney Mike Feuer heaped-on praise too saying, "He was always focused on trying to remember that we remembered the greatness of our city. Not just the big monuments of Los Angeles. But, also the smaller things."

From quiet walks in Griffith Park to the Hollywood sign LA was Tom LaBonge’s pride and joy. He loved working with us in the media and he loved taking all kinds of LA pictures and pictures of reporters in the field.

One of those reporters was Claudia Peschiutta from KNX Newsradio 1070.

She told us, "I remember covering fire in Hollywood and a few months later a picture of me covering the fire in Hollywood showed up on my desk. That was the sort of thing that Tom would do."

And, I remember all the good laughs we had. There were many. He loved LA and he was beloved as a city official.

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