A memorial was held for Len on Sept. 5, 2008. This is the eulogy read by Rev. Diane Rollert.
This is hard. I loved this man. What a treasure in our community. I will never forget the first time I met Len. It was my very first Sunday two and half years ago.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world," he told me, smiling that big smile of his, as he shook my hand.
Just like most Sunday mornings, he had cheerfully ridden the bus to church by himself that day.
What a surprise it was to learn that he was in his early nineties.
This church was extremely important to Len. He was quick to point out that he and his wife Mary Turnbull had been married by Angus Cameron in the old building on Simpson Street in 1942, and that through Mary he could claim a connection to the church going back to our founding in 1842.
Even the celebration of his 92nd birthday couldn’t keep him away from a service celebrating the settlement of the church’s first female minister.
He was a generous man with an open mind and a big heart.
Often, when an individual reaches the respectable age of nearly 94, their connection to a church becomes a distant memory. Yet Len stayed engaged in this community nearly to the very end of his life.
What a joy to see him here again on a Sunday this past May, after a rough winter fighting cancer. Despite the odds, I think we all thought he’d go on forever.
He was proud to be his doctor’s oldest chemotherapy patient, and he told me that his goal was to make it to 2010 for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Navy. If anyone could have done it, it would have been Len.
When I asked Len how he wanted to be remembered, this is what he told me: Tell them how I loved my wife Mary. She was a good Navy wife and we never argued. We loved every day of our lives together and I miss her terribly.
Tell them about my service in the Navy (a career that spanned twenty-five years from the Second World War to 1965, from the reserves to the Royal Canadian Navy, including time on a UN peacekeeping mission). Tell them how much I loved my work as a Navy instructor.
Tell them how I was a mentor to the newcomers at the Griffith-McConnell, (Len’s residence for these last years of his life).
Tell them how much I love my daughters, how grateful I am every day for their care and how proud I am of the wonderful relationship they have with each other.
Tell them how I love my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, how very important it is that they are part of my life, how I miss them, how proud I am of each of them, how I admire their adventurousness and their interesting lives.
“Oh, Diane, they have such interesting lives!” he said to me.
“I want to be remembered as a person who was very approachable,” he said, “who loved mentoring and helped others, who visited Ben Shulmer every day after he fell.”
“I like people,” he told me, “But not everyone!”
He went on to tell me how he was the middle son in his family, which was, as his mother always said, the best position to be in.
He told me that he learned to be a good counselor through his experience in the Navy and through his work as a high school French teacher – a career that was launched at the age of 60 when he returned to school to acquire a Masters degree in Linguistics at the University of Montreal.
He never did stop giving valued counsel to the young people he met along the way – as the caregivers and the staff at the McConnell and at the hospital will tell you.
Even in his illness, his care and concern always shone on others. He gave counsel and support. He shared his positive outlook on life. Each day, his daughters learn of yet another person who saw Len as a mentor or a surrogate father.
“We’re learning how we’ve shared Dad,” Marilen told me.
Len had no expectation of an afterlife. One life, he told me, was enough, and in his one life he was very blessed.
As Emerson wrote:
To go down to dust and dreams,
knowing that the world is a wee bit better,
and that even a single life breathes easier because we have lived well, this is to have succeeded.
Well Len, you succeeded and we have all been touched by that success.