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Leonard Panish, 86; Ex-County Recorder

July 11, 2006|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

Leonard Panish, a longtime Los Angeles County official who served as registrar-recorder from 1973 to 1984, has died. He was 86.

Panish died July 2 at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange of complications from bladder surgery, said his son David.

In his 33-year career with the county, Panish spent more than 20 years in the Department of Public Social Services, attaining the post of assistant director. He also served in six other key positions in the department.

Panish replaced James S. Allison as the county's top election official after making the highest score in a civil service examination. He oversaw voter registration, recruited precinct officials at election time, distributed ballots and conducted national, state and county elections. His office also examined petitions for initiative or referendum measures.

As the county recorder, his office made a permanent record of all land transactions and issued certificates of births, deaths and marriages. He is credited with updating the process for counting punch-card ballots by upgrading the county's computers.

Panish was born in New Britain, Conn., and his family moved to Southern California when he was 12. After initially living in Pomona, the family moved to Boyle Heights. He graduated from Roosevelt High School, where he was the senior class president and valedictorian, his son said.

Panish went on to UCLA but left his studies to work on the aircraft assembly line at Lockheed when the U.S. entered World War II. Drafted into the Army in the summer of 1944, Panish served in the European theater as an information officer.

After the war, he returned to UCLA and completed his degree in economics in 1949 before joining county government as an administrative trainee in the chief administrative office.

When he retired in 1984, Panish helped organize the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. According to his son, Panish was the director of ticketing. He arranged for the printing and distribution of tickets for each venue of the Games, which were considered a major financial, organizational and logistical success.

In addition to his son, Panish is survived by his wife of 58 years, Anna; a daughter, Daria; another son, Steven; and five grandchildren.

Services will be at noon today at Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary, 1702 Fairhaven Ave., Santa Ana.

The family suggests that any donations be made to St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton.

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