John Charles Hassenplug passed away on Dec. 31, 2022, at his home in Carnelian Bay. Throughout his life, John served his family, friends, community, and country with dedication and thoughtfulness.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 1939. In 1952, his family moved to Pittsburgh where he attended Shadyside Academy in Fox Chapel. He studied civil engineering at Bucknell University, where he also played football and was the life of the party at his fraternity. In 1971, he received a master’s in public works and civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. John also served in the U.S. Army as an officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel; he was a reservist for as long as the Army allowed.
As a civil engineer, he first worked with his father, Xenophon, designing and improving golf courses, including the sprinkler system at Augusta National, home of The Masters tournament. In the late ’60s, he moved to California to work on infrastructure projects with Caltrans, including the J-Street Bridge in Sacramento. He and his first wife, Nancy, welcomed their daughter, Suzanne, in 1970.
He moved to Carnelian Bay in 1972 and lived there for the next 50 years. He first joined the North Tahoe Public Utility District as the supervising engineer and later was appointed general manager in 1976 until he retired in 2004. He loved, and was beloved by, his employees, advocating for their benefits and proudly sharing major accomplishments with them, including better bike paths around the lake, a world-class regional park, and cleaner and better tasting water through the first UV water treatment plant in Lake Tahoe.
John was also a leader in the community, serving for many years as the president of Little League, a member of the Old Brockway Rotary Club, and more recently, the Tahoe City Rotary Club. He was on the Rotary’s Tahoe Truckee Community Scholarship Committee (and even did their taxes up until the last year of life). John made a tremendous impact on the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe; he served on the board for 19 years and was instrumental in establishing the partnership between that group and the NTPUD.
John’s first love and obligation was to his family and friends. During his early time in Tahoe, he married his second wife, Susan Kathleen Rath, in 1978 and they welcomed their son, Chuck, in 1980. Together they (literally) built a log home here, and John spent the next 30-plus years putting the finishing touches on the house to include adding a deck for Chuck’s wedding and accommodating Susan’s boundless desire to redecorate. Together they created a warm, welcoming environment to all that reflected how they felt about the Tahoe Community. He applied his many skills and talents to helping his family members improve their homes as well.
John had so much admiration and appreciation for the Hispanic community of Kings Beach, that he and his wife, Susan, were inspired to buy a home in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, where they spent much of the year during their retirement, integrating into the local culture, socializing, gardening, and volunteering.
John was a positive, supportive bedrock of our family and community, quietly helping us all weather sunny and stormy moments with empathy and humor. Not one to express his emotions in words or to ever complain, it was nevertheless clear in his actions how much he loved those around him; he gave generously his time, energy, money, and wisdom to all. In the words of his daughter, Suzi, he was “always in your corner.” He was a wonderful father and grandfather, who loved to attend all his children and grandchildren’s shining moments. From band concerts to cross-country and tennis championships, to musicals and short films (including as an actor), he was their biggest supporter.
And he was fun! Naturally outgoing and social, he loved public speaking and attending parties. Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers while enjoying his famous hot smoked sausage recipe was his ideal way to spend a snowy Sunday in Tahoe.
To sum up his humble and practical approach to life, John often shared that while “I have made many mistakes, I have never made the same mistake twice.”
John is preceded in death by his wife, Susan. He is survived by his daughter, Suzanne, son, Chuck (Marta), step-son, David (Katie), grandchildren Julian, Ava, Maya, and Lucas, mother-in-law, Jane, brother-in-law, Bob (Jeannine), and dog, Alfie, who was by his side until the very end. His family is blessed to have spent a lot of time with him.
The Hassenplug family and the Tahoe community have lost a legend, but we all have benefited from his love and dedication. His legacy and impact on all our lives will endure and inspire others to live meaningful lives helping others while asking nothing in return.
A celebration of life service will be held in Tahoe at a future date. In lieu of flowers, donations in John’s memory can be made to The Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe online at: bgcnlt.networkforgood.com/projects/177784-support-bgcnlt-2022-23.
~ Submitted by the family