For the media

They can’t wait to get on the road again

By The Health News Team | August 14, 2020
Ken and Lavinia Brass with their 1938 Packard and 1965 Volkswagen Beetle

Ken and Lavinia Brass share a love of life, travel and cars, including their 1938 Packard and 1965 Volkswagen Beetle.

At age 91, Ken Brass has had a variety of experiences and challenges, and he’s perfectly happy to share the life lessons he’s learned with the rest of us.

For example, from the heart health concerns that began in his 80s, he teaches us perseverance and hope. Finding love with his wife, Lavinia, just seven years ago, proves love knows no bounds. And with the purchase of his dream car, a 1938 Packard in 2011, he is the living, breathing — and cruising — example that age doesn’t need to slow you down.

Like all good things, let’s start with love. Ken and Lavinia’s love story is one for the ages, and not just because they met in their 80s and have only been married five years, but because they seem to have enjoyed enough love, companionship and fun for a lifetime. “Love,” Ken says, “is not just for the young!”

However, their romance never would have begun if Ken didn’t have feelings for a certain other lady — a vintage maroon, four-door 1938 Packard Touring Deluxe Sedan, which he purchased on eBay and restored over several months. Once she was raring to go, Ken joined a car club, and there he met Lavinia and her candy apple red 1965 VW Beetle. He was smitten.

Together, Ken and Lavinia entered their cars in car shows, parades and tours. They even participated in a grand tour of all 21 California missions, from San Diego to Sonoma, documenting the trip with Lavinia’s photography and articles she shared in three publications.

“I’ve always been interested in cars, airplanes and boats,” shares Ken, an ever-adventurous former firefighter. “As a kid growing up, I even raced soapbox cars, and I raced motorcycles in my early 20s. I’ve always loved motorsports and I want to keep it going.”

The couple’s ability to keep going has more than a little to do with the fact that Ken is one of the oldest people in the U.S. living with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) — a mechanical heart pump, which he received at Sharp Memorial Hospital in 2015 at age 87. While other doctors at a hospital outside of San Diego told him that there were no further treatments available for his end-stage heart failure, Sharp’s Dr. Brian Jaski knew that the LVAD could help.

It is because of the additional years of life the LVAD likely afforded Ken that he and Lavinia are able to enjoy their cars, their social life — before COVID-19 precautions dampened some of the fun — and their grandchildren. It is also the reason they both find it so important to support Sharp’s cardiac programs through donations to the Sharp HealthCare Foundation.

“We’re just so grateful to Sharp and the staff for the care we were provided,” Lavinia says. “We feel they saved Ken’s life and we’ve been blessed with additional time together. And they’ve always been very kind to me, answering my questions and making sure I was also taken care of. We’re happy to be in the position to be able to contribute.”

Ken agrees, saying that if you have to be in the hospital, Sharp is the place to be. “I am very grateful to Dr. Jaski and Sharp,” he says.

And while many of the activities Ken and Lavinia enjoy have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they don’t seem to be slowing down one bit. Noting that you can’t let great vintage cars like their Packard and Beetle sit idle for too long, Ken and Lavinia share that they continue to hit the road, thrilling neighbors and other drivers who wave as they go by.

“So much had to be canceled because of the virus, but we can’t wait to get back to the car shows, go to dinner with our friends and continue enjoying our life. Until then, we are enjoying life together at home,” Ken says.

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