Biography of Harry LaFontaine (Reed, 1994) [WGS94300]

Dr. Thomas B. Reed wrote on his Biomass Energy Foundation website:

Harry Lafontaine was the founder of the Biomass Energy Foundation.

Harry built gasifiers during World War II as a cover for his nighttime activities in the Danish Underground.  When the "energy crisis" struck in 1974, Harry was happy to give lectures and demonstrations on gasification in many universities around the East.

In 1982 he set up a 501-3-C (not for profit) foundation for his activies in biomass.  I met Harry in 1985, and he invited me to be a member of his board of directors.  At that time I began to publish books at the Biomass Energy Foundation.

In 1994 Harry died (at age 80) and left the BEF to me, Dr. Thomas Reed, to continue its purposes.  I use it in my research, consulting, publishing and travel activities in the field of biomass.  We are able and willing to sponsor projects related to these purposes.

Harry was born in Denmark as Harry Jensen, in 1917.  Harry first learned about biomass energy in Denmark during World War II.  He operated a factory to make gasifiers in the daytime to cover his activities in the Danish Underground at night.  Harry was very active in the Danish Underground and played a major role in evacuating 8,000 Jews to Sweden in 1944.

Harry loved to tell stories about the Danish Underground, but never about his specific position.  He said only that at the end of the war all the members took collective responsibility for the good and bad things they did.  Over the last few years as I have heard more and more details only known to planners of operations.  I am sure he was quite high up.  Maybe they would be willing to tell more about his activities now that fifty years have passed.

Harry came to the U. S. from Denmark in the 1950s and taught Television Programming at the University of Houston.  Because of his wartime experiences he was in charge of special effects for all the James Bond movies.  He was a born entrepreneur and directed dozens of businesses in his long life.

Harry brought his gasifier experience to the U.S. in the 1974-1994 period with a great deal of work in gasifiers.  In the period 1976-80 he operated a Lincoln stretch limousine on wood gas for the U. S. Department of Energy. (See the article about Harry published in American Way magazine.)  He and his wife, Edie, traveled to dozens of Colleges and Universities in this car, lecturing on gasifiers.

He helped write "The Pegasus Unit: The Lost Art of Driving Without Gasoline" and wrote "Construction of a Simplified Wood Gas Generator for Fueling Internal Combustion Engines in a Petroleum Emergency" for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  He gave a number of his gasifiers to Wayne Smith at the University of Florida at Gainesville.  Most recently he worked with Tom Reed at the University of Colorado on wood-gas stoves for third world countries.  All who knew Harry will miss him and his contributions to biomass.

Harry was president and CEO of the Biomass Energy Foundation (501 c 3, not for profit).  Harry died in April of 1994, and Tom Reed took over operation of the Foundation.

Letter to Harry’s Wife, Edie LaFontaine                                                April, 1994

Vivian and I were deeply saddened to hear of Harry’s death, and we are still readjusting our lives to patch the hole he leaves.  I will be passing on wisdom received from Harry to my children and grandchildren and. …. I have a lot of audio tapes of Harry’s stories and a few video tapes.  We only know the depths of our regrets when it is too late.

We have a wonderful video sequence at breakfast one day when he told about his experiences in the Danish training ship – and then you told about your early days before meeting Harry.  We have another of Harry demonstrating that he could vacuum a cat and that the cat would love it. (She didn’t!)

This letter could easily go on for many pages with my memories of Harry, but I will try to keep it short, knowing you will have many letters to read and affairs to arrange.  We can talk more leisurely later.

Again, let me say how we will all miss Harry.

Your sorrowful friends,

Tom and Vivian Reed