PASSINGS: Harry Lawenda, Axel Axgil, Phyllis Love


Harry Lawenda

Interior design firm’s creative force

Harry Lawenda, 87, an interior designer who was the creative force behind the influential Kneedler Fauchere design firm founded by his late wife, Dorothy Kneedler Lawenda, died at his Los Angeles home on Thursday, one day before his 88th birthday. He had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to company spokeswoman Susan Ducey.


A New York native, Lawenda moved to San Francisco in 1949 after studying at the Parsons design school in New York. Dorothy Kneedler hired him to work at the import and design studio she and her initial business partner Lucienne Fauchere had established a year earlier in San Francisco.

The couple were married in 1950 and transformed the business into one of the top wholesale showrooms featuring furniture, fabrics, lighting and other high-end home decor.

The Lawendas opened a Los Angeles showroom in the 1960s and moved into the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood soon after it opened in 1975. Today, the company also has a Denver showroom.

While Lawenda specialized in wall coverings and furniture, he and his wife represented a range of artists and craftspeople, including master woodworker Sam Maloof and textile designers Jack Lenor Larsen and Angelo Donghia.

At the time of his death, Lawenda was chairman of the board at Kneedler Fauchere. His wife of 58 years died in 2008. They had two sons, Kent and Kevin.

Axel Axgil

Pioneering Danish gay rights activist

Axel Axgil, 96, whose struggle for gay rights helped make Denmark the first country to legalize same-sex partnerships, died Saturday in a Copenhagen hospital of complications from a fall, said the Danish gay rights group LGBT Danmark.

Axgil, born Axel Lundahl-Madsen, was among the founding members of the organization — one of the oldest gay rights groups in Europe — in 1948.

On Oct. 1, 1989, he and his partner Eigil were among 11 couples to exchange vows as Denmark became the first country to allow gays to enter civil unions, with nearly the same rights as heterosexual couples.

In the 1950s, both were sentenced on pornography charges to short prison terms for running a gay modeling agency that issued pictures of naked men. The men melded their first names into a new surname, Axgil, and used it in a public show of defiance.

Eigil Axgil, whose given name was Eigel Eskildsen, died in 1995 at 71.

Phyllis Love

Stage, movie and television actress

Phyllis Love, 85, a stage, movie and television actress whose roles included Rosa Delle Rose in the 1951 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” and Mattie Birdwell in the 1956 Gary Cooper film “Friendly Persuasion,” died Sunday at her home in Menifee, her family announced. She had Alzheimer’s disease.

Love acted in eight Broadway plays from 1950 to 1960, including “The Member of the Wedding,” “The Country Girl,” “The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker” and “Bus Stop.”

Besides “Friendly Persuasion,” she had a supporting role in the 1961 drama “The Young Doctors.”

From the early 1950s to the mid-’70s, Love appeared in dozens of TV shows, ranging from anthology programs like “The Philco Goodyear Television Playhouse,” “Playhouse 90” and “Studio One in Hollywood” to such episodic fare as “Gunsmoke,” “Perry Mason,” “The FBI” and “Bonanza.”

Born Dec. 21, 1925, in Des Moines, she studied at what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Actors Studio in New York. Her first marriage, to playwright James McGee, ended in divorce. She married Alan Gooding in 1983.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports