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‘Leon Levy – Celebration of Life’

Leon Levy

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  1. A Celebration of the life of Leon Levy
    was held on a bright spring day, the Saturday just before Easter in 2011.

    The setting for the ceremony was in a treed glen on the campus of Leon’s Mira Costa College in Oceanside California. Synanon folks came from as far away as central Mexico and Florida and as you will see below, there were over a hundred of us. A small group from the central valley of California arrived close to two, the appointed gathering time and discovered the lovely sylvan setting with what looked to be about 200 chairs facing a small dais nestled in the trees. His family and friends had arranged tables of his collected music and art and photographs to be taken as mementos of a rich life ended too soon. There were photo albums of his life and accomplishments for viewing, and of course a grazing board groaning with desserts and liquid refreshments, but alas, no peanut butter.

    We gathered, greeted, circulated and schmoozed for an hour or so with many wracking brains to remember names to go with the sometimes familiar faces.

    The premiere Master of Ceremonies had been asked to preside and of course the consummate comedy figure of our community couldn’t refuse so TED DIBBLE rounded us up at around three in order to get the show on the road. He cheered us by noting how far and obscure were the bathrooms and bade us silence our communication devices.

    For a bit of historical perspective, Leon came down the hill with Francie when we closed the doors up in Badger and taught at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia until a year or so before the turn of the century. He and Francie separated in the mid nineties. Leon decided to seek his fortunes in more temperate climes and so he successfully wooed the interviewers at Mira Costa College and taught there full time until a few years ago and then remained as a consultant and part time faculty member. Leon met and courted Wanda Beck, a fellow instructor from the college, who was widowed With a bit of trepidation she told her family that she’d met a new love and the family enthusiastically welcomed Leon and the happy couple got married. Sadly, three years ago, Wanda was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and was not able to be at the Celebration.

    Mike Beck, one of her sons, paid remarkable tribute to Leon for the loving experience his family watched Wanda have in her life with Leon since they first met.

    TED said of Leon that he, “NEVER MADE A FUSS”, and that he was a true friend in deed. Ted spoke of a time when he was in terrible shape and went to bed in a serious funk only to come awake in the middle of the night to find Leon asleep on his floor ready to care for his friend should the need have arisen.

    ZOË recalled that Leon was never much for overt affection – she knew he loved her, but he would never say the words aloud. She embarked on a campaign of telling him she loved him at the end of each weekly telephone conversation. Well, it finally took and he would acknowledge that he loved her whenever they spoke. She said the last time she visited him in the hospital when she touched him awake, he lit up like a star burst and she will have that memory to cherish.

    CORY spoke of her marriage to Leon; how no one wanted them to be together because they thought she was so innocent and in her words virginal (wink wink). He would sneak up to Tomales Bay on the mail run to see her. She spoke of the joy of being part of his world of plays, music and friends; of how their union created the best person she every knew, Zoë; of when it was time to move on, their marriage ended but they remained lifetime friends. She celebrated her opportunity be there and take care of him in his final days. Here last joke was about wanting to do something different after Leon, a NY dope fiend so she married a dope fiend from Philly.

    She was humble and self effacing but she was the glue that fashioned this event. Cordelia choreographed this powerful amazing event together with help from the local folks and his family. She constructed a Facebook site and talked to almost every person who came personally before during and after. She was tireless in Leon’s care over his last time with us.

    Leon’s younger brother Phil (Lefty)joined us from the Big Apple and brought with him a song to share; one that was written for him by Leon; one he sang for the assembled multitudes accompanied by Doug Robinson. But he started off by saying, “I never really liked the guy…” which got a big laugh, and went on to recount the event that really cemented his love for Leon. As luck would have it they were having snow fights and some older kid was washing Phil’s face in the snow and his big brother rescued and protected him. He knew then that Leon loved him.

    FRANCIE, as wife number two, spent fifteen sparkling years with Leon, laughing and playing and being serious. They traveled many places and saw much together. She attested to his love of horse racing. It seems, on vacation, he took her to a horse race in Thailand where they couldn’t understand a word of what was being shouted nor could they fathom the movements of the spectators, but when all was said and done Leon had won $300.

    RICHIE GROSS acknowledged as one of Leon’s lifelong friends told of their journey to Belize for a vacation whereupon discovered himself and became a changed man. He really loved the guy.

    The charming Julie Hatoff, friend and colleague of Leon’s at Mira Vista College represented all of Leon’s close associates. Leon, from all accounts, as the Director of Community Services and Business Development made this area of the College his own. He managed to infuse his curriculum with horserace handicapping and even taught the folks at the local racetrack the finer points of the sport through a non-credit course.

    JULIAN KAISER confessed that he was actually Leon’s ‘brother from another mother’ and noted that while Leon was a master of many things and although he had a workshop filled with fine, albeit unused, tools he was no craftsman and would like as not have to be rescued from projects unwisely attempted. Julian brought the ceremonies to a close by queuing the sound man to play another song written by and this time performed by Leon -‘Out of the rut and into the groove’.

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