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101-year-old photographer killed outside Burbank studio mourned

May 25, 2012 |  3:42 pm

Those who knew Otto Jensen — the 101-year-old photographer who was killed by a motorist as he crossed the street near his Burbank studio Tuesday night — were in a state of shock and mourning this week as they recalled a man who was known as much for his youthful vigor as his decades of picture-taking.

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 Harry Fisher, a friend.

“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 in Burbank’s centennial celebration parade last year. And posted in the window of his studio are photos with city officials who showed up at his 100th birthday celebration.

“He was a legend here in Burbank,” Fisher said. “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 a 91-year-old driver about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday as he crossed the street just feet from his studio on Olive near Griffith Park Drive, according to police.

Jensen was pronounced dead a short time later at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. The driver, police said, remained at the scene and was released after questioning.

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 for the night, 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 near the accident scene, said he was watching “American Idol” when he heard what sounded like a loud car crash.

Sutcliffe ran outside, where he saw a car pull into his driveway. The woman behind the wheel was hysterical and shaking.

“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 lying face down in the road.

Later, Sutcliffe said, he lighted a candle and left flowers on the sidewalk. The memorial grew.

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

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


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-- Maria Hsin, TCN

Photo: A memorial to Otto Jensen outside his photo studio in Burbank. Credit: Associated Press