|Leonard Mark Tomaszewski|
|September 20, 1957 - May 13, 2003|
| I will miss you, Len.
I will miss your sense of humor. I will miss your intelligence.
I will miss the way you dominated a room,
first by your sheer size, then by your personality,
which was many times bigger than your physical size.
I will miss going for sushi with you. I will miss our Sunday morning conversations during DNFL season. I will miss your "Happy Paczki Day" greetings you sent out each year on the day before Ash Wednesday. I will miss the homemade birthday cards you sent me every year that made me laugh.
Mostly though, I will miss your spirit. I will miss your generosity and decency.
Be at peace my dear friend, in a better place than here. In a place with no pain. A place with no infirmity. A place where our dreams are reality.
I first met Len when I walked into the back room of Waldenbooks in Northbrook, Illinois, and my life has never been the same since.
I was a little bit in awe of Len, then - I was a lot younger and he was a pretty big guy, even then.
But he made me laugh and relax and since then, no one has ever been able to make me laugh like Len could.
I've met many of my closest friends because of Len; I'm in the DNFL because of Len. Because of his generosity of spirit, his generosity with his time, with his bountiful reserves of laughter that he always managed to share no matter how much pain he was in. No matter the occasion - be it the draft, a night at a bar, the holiday party - Len was the center of that occasion. He owned the room - talk about stage presence, Len had it to spare!
He was my dear friend, my big brother, my Buffy mentor, my comic relief - he was one of my favorite people in this lonely world and he's left it far, f ar too soon. But he died trying to make a better life for himself, and I'll always respect him for having the courage to do that. So long, Big Guy - I know you're in a better place now, but I'll miss you every day.
Len had a quirky sense of humor, but fundamentally his humor was always full of humanity.
It was a loving humor instead of being nasty or hard-edged. He looked at the world sideways--like sending you a Christmas card for your birthday.
That was his take on life. You could always count on him to lift your spirits.
That made him beloved.
As a writer, when Len wrote an article he was so knowledgeable, but he was inclusionary, not condescending. He made you feel a part of the article, opening up his arms with what he wrote. His writing had verve. There was such a liveliness in his writing and immediacy, like he was there with you.
Most people are remembering Len's humor, but I want to remember when he was most serious.
When there is more than one candidate for DePaulia editor, the one who doesn't get picked for the editorship usually gets named associate editor, and then ends up quitting because they don't want to work with the person who ran against them. Len was one of the very very few who didn't get the editorship, was named associate editor, and didn't resign.
This was an incredible act of courage and an incredible act of responsibility, putting the good of the newspaper, the staff, and the university ahead of his own feelings. It was an impressive act at the time in 1977, and becomes even more impressive as the years go by, as we see political and business leaders at the national and international levels acting like pouty children. Len, at the age of 20, showed more maturity than all the leaders of today put together.
It's the old concept of the 'loyal opposition'--that any organization runs best if there is a diversity of opinion. Having Len as associate editor offering a different viewpoint made me a better editor and made the DePaulia a better newspaper. There were two very important incidents in Len convinced me to follow his advice instead of my own opinion, and I was damn glad I did because it turned out he was right and I was wrong.
He was the best, and I was proud to work with him on the Gazette for the last 20 years and prouder to have been his friend for 28 years.
Another thing people may not remember if they only think about the last few years was how great an athlete he was. He always was big, but for a lot of those years he was big and in great shape. Not many of us probably remember that in the Sheridan Park softball league in 1982, he was probably close to 300 pounds but actually played all ten positions that year, including positions for fast little guys like shortstop and centerfield. We had the worst team in the league and we nearly beat the best team that year with Len in centerfield of all places, catching everything that the other team's bashers hit at him. Incredible.
There are so many emotions and memories that bubble up to the surface when reflecting on a wonderful person like Len.
He is the stuff from which legends are made! And like any good legend, his passing brings us laughter and tears, questions and answers:
Len's passing is about love. We loved him. He loved us. He loved his family. He loved life.
Len's passing is about heart and soul. His generosity of spirit gave us all a deep well of memories to help us get through this loss.
Len's passing is about commitment. He knew what was important and he knew what to do about it. He was a "go-to guy" and never let a friend down.
Len's passing is about remembering the halcyon days of youth--the '70s, the fun, the laughter, the lack of responsibility, the adventures, the excitement of unlimited possibilities!
Len's passing is also about compassion. He taught us a little something about pain and how to deal with it courageously and with dignity. He touched so many lives and lived so "out there" that many people who would have never understood the suffering brought on by obesity had an opportunity to grapple with real, sincere compassion (not pity!).
I am honored to have been Len's friend since 1976. I hope that, right now, he is shooting baskets with Double Jay.
I remember the first DePaulia function, a dinner on campus, I attended with
my brother Mark. I got to meet that night people with whom I'd become
friends with and see over the years, long after my friends at IIT, where I
went to school, all went their own ways. There were a lot new faces at that
dinner function that night, faces I'd come to know
over the next 25 years. We'd root for the Blue Demons together, travel
to Salt Lake City for the Final Four together, play touch football at
Peterson Park together, get killed in 16" softball at Sheridan Park
together, and meet at the Tomaszewski house in Niles, and later the Kuziel
house in Lemont, for annual DNFL drafts. The DePaul gang never made me feel
like an outsider. They welcomed me as a friend, and for that I've been
Through the years, although I've played less and less football and softball, I've always looked forward to DNFL draft day. Getting together with a certifiably crazy bunch of guys in late August was always a Summer highlight for me. I loved to walk into the room and see the usual cast of loonies: Hudo, Alcantara, Kelly, "Len's brother" (who was one fine softball player as I recall), etc., etc. But . . . there was one guy who literally lit up the room and who made draft day special to me. That was the big guy, the Commish, Len.
There have been certain guys who just have this way of putting an instant smile on my face, no matter how bad the day may be going. There was a guy here at EPA where I work who had that positive effect on me. His name was Frank Rollins. Every time I saw Frank I was immediately happy. Sadly, Frank passed away three years ago. It was hard to say goodbye to my friend then. Then, there was Len ---- another guy who had an infectious laugh, a huge heart, and who simply brought me a genuine flash of joy each and every time I saw him. Each DNFL draft I'd have to go up and hug that big mountain of a man, or just slap his big shoulders or back and tell him how great it was to see him. I can still hear his voice, still see his big smile, still hear his hearty laugh, and still smell his acrid cigars (at least he and Alcantara kept the bugs away in Kuziel's backyard).
And yet, there were two situations in which I did NOT particularly enjoy seeing Len. The first was at Peterson Park, when Len was on the opposite team and my team was returning kickoffs. Somehow seeing Len coming my way, in my lane, with Jim or Kelly or my brother returning the kick behind me was unsettling. Funny how I could be running full-tilt heading west, hit Len and immediately find myself heading east backwards . I never won one of those confrontations, and eventually ---- it took some time ---- I got smart: I avoided the big guy on those returns!
The other time it was hard seeing Len was the Thursday night I visited with him and Tomo at Loyola, three days after his surgery and the night before he was discharged. It was the first time in 25 years where I saw Len and his smile and laugh did not illuminate the room. It was uncomfortable for me to see Len so uncomfortable, but I was at least glad to see him breathing better and talking to Jim and me.
I left Len that night thinking about the difficult recovery that was ahead of him. I was impressed by his courage and the risks he was willing to face to change his life and improve the overall quality of his life. And, that night, my heart was profoundly touched by the love and concern which emanated from his younger brother Jim. There was a closeness there I love to see in brothers. Len was fortunate to have someone like Jim in his corner, and Jim was blessed to have a great brother like Len all his life.
We all had such hope that this surgery would change the course of Len's life and return to him the zeal and joy he once had. When my brother called me Tuesday with the terrible news of Len's passing, my heart sunk within me, as my hopes to see a "new" Len, a "diminished" Len, a happier Len at the August DNFL draft and at next year's draft were crushed instantly in Mark's words, "Len died."
Questions continue to race through my mind as I'm sure they race through yours. However, I've quickly come to my limit of understanding; at that time I go to the start of my faith. Although His ways are often unsearchable and His thoughts are as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth, we all should find solace in knowing that the number of days for each one of us are in God's hands, and even if answers escape us, God has shown Himself countless times to be trustworthy, and we can trust His will. God numbered Len's days, as He's numbered ours, from before we were born. We should thank God for the years He's given us to know Len.
Goodbye big Len. We will miss you and we will carry your memory in all our hearts. You leave a vacuum that only memories of you can partially fill.
----- Mike Valentino
I was in shock when I got on the computor and saw the email about Len. Len was a great guy. My heart goes out to his family.
I enjoyed him coming to my parties in Niles. Len was always kind to me. I will miss him dearly. It was always great to run into him at Crivitz, Wisc.
I would be going to my inlaws place in Niagara, Wisc. and we would run into each other at the gas station. Len will not be alone.
Double Jay will take care of him. My thoughts and prayers will always be with you Len. When I go through Crivitz,
I will know� that you will be with me in spirit. May God Bless you Len.
Your friend always,
I know that Len had been having
health issues for awhile.
I think we are lucky that he was with us for as long as he was. He will be
greatly missed. I have many fond memories of fun times with Len. And lets not forget all of those DNFL meetings in his basement with all
of the stacks of Playboy magazines.
Len was my first friend at DePaul. I met him at freshmen orientation in 1975. Knowing him eased the jitters of starting college.
I had a close friend right from the start, and we were close through the college years, and after. I have so many memories of Len.
He was always there in class, on The DePaulia, at basketball games, on out of town trips, even sharing the pain when I lost family members.
Len's basement was the home for so many gatherings. There is no question it was the home of the DNFL. He meant so much to us in so many ways. With Len's passing, a big part of my life has passed now, too. But, I cherish the friendship he gave me during all the years and the memories he has left me. We are all better people because we had the pleasure of knowing Len. I thank God he was a part of my life.
Len was the proverbial big guy with a big heart. He was one of the early
members of the SDFL but he was also the commissioner of our older brother
the DNFL I think since it began in '78. He had a lot to do with shaping the
system that we inherited and which has brought us all so much fun &
frustration. The DNFL was one of Len's great passions and he made me a fan
after he made me a friend.
Life can be too unfairly short for us to spend as much time as we'd like doing the things we love with the people we love. But let's all spend a moment of the time we have to remember Len. He was a great friend to those of us who knew him personally and a kindred spirit to all of us in the SDFL.