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Niki Lapenieks, Founding IDA Member, Dies

By Paula Haller

Niki Lapenieks, one of the founding members of the IDA, passed away July 30, 2012, at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, of heart failure. She is survived by her sister, Zinta Konrad, in Chicago. Born in Riga, Latvia, Niki left Latvia with her family when the Soviets invaded for the second time. A graduate of Stephens College in Missouri, Niki earned a BA in international affairs at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  She began her career working in public relations in New York City for Robert Block Associates.

What could have been more fun and challenging than launching a worldwide documentary organization?

Niki was an amazing person and she was right there at the beginning of IDA. Her experience running political campaigns and arranging events was invaluable. She was responsible for IDA's first substantial donation, from her friend Kristin Caperton. She organized our first events in an amazingly professional way, and as she was a gourmet cook, she even catered some of them!  She brought attorney Michael Donaldson into the IDA family. Niki arranged for Mayor Tom Bradley to declare the date of the IDA party honoring John Huston's documentaries as Documentary Day in Los Angeles. Brava, Niki.

Niki continued to be invaluable as an active and devoted IDA Board Member for many years.

Niki had a refined sense of elegance and style and loved the finer things in life. She was a designer of custom sweaters, and one of her passions was knitting; she was even known on occasion to hang upside down on a trapeze-her idea of personal fitness-training.

Above all, Niki was a wonderful person and all of us who worked with her at IDA will miss her and remember her fondly. We all had such fun in those early years! Niki's steady enthusiasm and commitment to documentary helped a small band of us fledge a new organization honoring those like her late husband, cinematographer Vilis Lapenieks, who devote their lives to this art form.

We honor Niki.

In loving memory,

Linda Buzzell
Founder, IDA

Paula Lee Haller
Founding Member and former Board Member, IDA

Gabor Kalman
Former Board Member, IDA

Harrison Engle
Past President, IDA Board of Directors

If you would like to make a donation to support IDA in honor of Niki Lapieneiks, click here.