Los Angeles Times

Friends of Otto Jensen express shock, sadness over his death

Those who knew Otto Jensen — the 101-year-old Burbank photographer who was struck and killed by a 91-year-old driver Tuesday night — were in a state of shock and mourning this week as they recalled a man who was as much a devoted volunteer as he was a friend.

Jensen, who moved to Burbank from New York in 1940, established his Olive Avenue studio across the street from the Joslyn Adult Center, where he often played pool and ate his lunch, said his friend Harry Fisher.

“He taught me to play pool,” Fisher said. “He taught me everything I know about that game.”

Fisher marveled at Jensen’s stamina, describing how he could play game after game without taking a break.

Jensen was also one of the two 100-year-old Grand Marshals for Burbank’s centennial celebration parade last year. Posted in the window of his studio are photos with city officials at his 100th birthday celebration.

“He was a legend here in Burbank,” Fisher said of the man he met nine months ago. “More than that … in the short time I knew him, he became almost like a brother to me.”

The former photographer, who worked with Hollywood stars and sports celebrities over the years, was struck and killed by Burbank resident Mary Beaumont Tuesday at about 8:15 p.m. as he crossed the street mere feet from his studio on Olive Avenue near Griffith Park Drive, according to police.

Jensen was pronounced dead a short time later at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center.

Beaumont remained at the scene and was released by police after questioning.

Burbank police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said Jensen was crossing at the corner of Olive and Griffith, which is legal, “although there is not a marked crosswalk there.”

A former Olympic boxer and a long-distance runner from Denmark, Jensen was in great physical shape, Fisher said.

Fisher and another man who were playing pool with Jensen walked out with him Tuesday night, just after the center closed its doors at 8 p.m., Fisher said.

“See you tomorrow,” Fisher recalled saying before he turned and walked the opposite way to his house.

Norman Sutcliffe, a writer who lives west of Jensen, said he was watching “American Idol” when he heard what sounded like a loud car crash.

The sound of the impact prompted Sutcliffe to run outside, barefoot.

“I thought someone had totaled a car outside, it was really loud,” Sutcliffe said. “It sounded like metal on metal, that’s why I flew out the door; I thought someone had had a major accident.”

Sutcliffe saw a car pull into his driveway and thought the driver had come to tell him his car, which was parked on the street, had been hit.

The driver, a woman in her early 20s, was hysterical and shaking, Sutcliffe said.

It took Sutcliffe a few minutes to calm her down and get her to speak, he said.

“He flew through the air,” the woman told Sutcliffe.

“Who flew through the air?” Sutcliffe asked.

“The old man, someone hit him,” the woman said, pointing down the street.

Sutcliffe said he and the woman walked over to Jensen, who was laying face down on the street, a few feet away.

“I saw his eyes flutter, I saw his chest go up and down, just slightly, and then there was no more movement,” Sutcliffe said.

After the accident, Sutcliffe lit a candle and left flowers at the sidewalk. By Wednesday afternoon, a poster with photos and quotes by Jensen had been added.

A couple of months ago, Sutcliffe bumped into Jensen, who “did this boxing thing, like he was going to shadow box with me,” Sutcliffe said.

“I thought he was 70 — the way he moved,” Sutcliffe said. “My mom is in her early 70s and doesn’t move that well.”

Los Angeles County coroner's officials and Burbank police continued to investigate the incident.

Anyone with information was asked to contact police Det. Sam Anderson at (818) 238-3100.

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