[Click any image to enlarge. Note: Len passed away in 2011. ]
“Oz”… Good things come in tall packages … the lanky lover … a ready smile … “What’s that??” … subtle humor … psychology at Trinity after graduation.
Born: Not known
Died: 27-Mar-2011, Vero Beach, FL
Classmate Email Thread
[Since Len’s alarming email announcing his transfer to hospice care, we’ve been in touch with Len and shared an exchange of emails. Departing from my usual practice of getting prior permission, I am posting the entire email thread pretty much intact except for editing out content viewed as too personal. I hope no one objects. If so let me know; I’ll take care of it. I’m doing this as a tribute to Len—my way of letting his family and classmate friends know how very well regarded he was.
And so, beginning with Len’s own email alert…]
Eskey, March 4, 2011
As they say when the chips are down, the Turk comes calling. Got the word from my Oncologist on Tuesday. ‘Contact Hospice’. It looks as if I may have 5 weeks to a few months left to enjoy my family, the good life, and, your friendship. We’ll talk again in a few days.
Be well and take care.
Kent, March 4, 2011
WHAAAAAAAAATTT??? F… “The Turk”, Len! We will all be speaking to The Man on your behalf. If…can beat it so can you!
In my prayers,
Clifford, March 5, 2011
Hi Len… Just got your email. Let’s talk by phone. I’ll call you.
Castiglia, March 5, 2011
We are all pulling for your recovery. You will be in our prayers for a spontaneous recovery. Paul King once told me he was concerned he may not make it to Heaven. I told him he would but if he did not to look for me and we could hang out… Smile.
The offer’s open to you just in case and I’ll bring some WPLJ… [Ed. Not sure of the reference here…]
All the best and in my prayers,
Clifford, March 5, 2011
Re Len, just what is a “hospice”, anyway? And why is he associating a hospice w/ a “curtain call”…? I’m going to call him tomorrow and find out what I can. I’ll let you know what I find out. I know he’d love hearing from you, as well.
Still haven’t heard back from diBlanda’s son. Bugged him twice by email re date of death, obit, etc. Maybe I’ll have to call his wife now that I have their phone no.
Ottinger, March 5, 2011
Because hospice IS in fact a curtain call. You forego any further treatment designed to get you better for an end without such interventions, but designed for comfort… I started e-mailing Len in ’05 when we were doing that reunion roundup and he had lung cancer then. That’s six years with an illness that kills 85% of the people who have it, and usually in a much shorter period of time. In prior conversations I’ve had with him he’s told me that he’s been through all the treatments, chemo, etc., and has traveled elsewhere to participate in clinical trials… Now it’s time to go.
Clifford, March 6, 2011
Wise words, as usual, John! Thanks for the insight into hospice care…
As for me I can’t imagine submitting myself to a hospice. The last place I’d want to be in the bottom of the 9th is away from Ronnie and my dog, “BJ”, rough as it might be on Ronnie. During the recovery process last year, I was admitted into a “rehab” facility close to home that turned out to be little more than a nursing home w/ a couple of spare beds. Within two days I had busted out of the place and did the rest of my rehab under the care of our local VNA. And Ronnie. Never again…!
Len’s note to us did take me by surprise, given his past reluctance to discuss his illness (with me, anyway) in any great detail. It shows that he’s feeling the need for support. My guess is that he’s plenty scared. Who wouldn’t be?
To be continued…
Ottinger, March 6, 2011
Yes, more later, of course, but to be there for Len in any way we can. A lot of what he’ll be dealing with is pain management…a subject no doubt with which both you and I are all too familiar.
You don’t necessarily have to go to another facility to be in hospice. You stay home and they come in. And, yes, I was in a “nursing home” for two weeks…in 2009. Fact is, these places start out as nursing homes and then—to get the extra Medicare bucks—they make a few “improvements” so they can be certified as “rehab” facilities.
Freeman [Ohanian], March 6, 2011
Hi, Cliff. Just a quick note to see how you’re keeping and to shoot the
I assume you received Len Eskey’s stoic announcement that, as I gather, he
had received a terminal diagnosis from his oncologist. May I have the
courage and grace to do something like that when my time comes. I remember
Len as one class guy.
Not much is new here. I forget where you’re living at the moment (hey, I’m
forgetting everything), but we’ve had a hellish winter here. We’ve broken
the Heath record for snowfall in a winter already, and winter ain’t over
yet. At their peak (so far) the snowdrifts on the north side of the house
were so high that you had to lean close to the window to see a small strip
of sky over the drifts, which reached as high as the top row of windows on
the top half of the sash. And to think I gave up a cushy life in Southern
California. OTOH, no earthquakes, wildfires, floods, or mudslides in this
neck of the woods. Actually there was a mudslide, in Greenfield, where a
cemetery came loose from its moorings and deposited 150 years worth of bones
and other detritus on a city street. Happy times.
So, hope you’re well and enjoying yourself.
Best – Don
Clifford, March 17, 2011
Bruce, John, Noel… I tried calling Len just now (6:30pm) and Sandra answered. Seems like Len wasn’t able to take call. Sandra suggested she/they call back tomorrow.
Len’s condition hard to believe (or maybe accept). She confirmed content of Len’s email to us–that it was the real deal. What can anyone say in the face of news of this kind…? I’ll do my best tomorrow (in talking with him), letting him know how concerned we all are for him. Then get back to you.
Kent, March 17, 2011
What a damn shame, Cliff. I honestly do not know what to do in this case. I can relate to and respect Len’s wish for privacy so will probably just spend a little time thinking and remembering him as best I can and ask God to be sure to make a place for him up there.
Thanks for the report Cliff.
Ottinger, March 17, 2011
After receiving Len’s message of a couple of weeks ago and hearing him use the term “hospice”, it appeared that he may have availed himself of that service. If so it may be that the “comfort care” which hospice is noted for may have made it hard or even impossible for him to talk when Cliff called. They use morphine pretty liberally, for example, as well as other drugs.
When I received his message of March 4, I wrote him back privately and…simply offered to be of possible help with questions if he indeed was taking this path. But, like the rest of you, I hadn’t heard back. And I didn’t tell “my” story as an example of what might happen to Len…because somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. But it could. Sometimes people drop all aggressive treatment (which hospice insists on) and actually get better for a while.
I re-established e-mail and eventually phone contact with Len only in 2005 when we were doing that reunion stuff, but have had many pleasant, lots-of-laughs conversations since then. I seem to recall that he told me about the cancer right at the beginning. That means he’s been in remission for six years or so. That’s a long time…
I plan to call, but thought if anyone else did, too, you might like to have this background. If he is in hospice he might have some quality time left.
He is a 100% decent guy and I count myself lucky to have him for a friend, even if it was long ago.
Hyman, March 19, 2011
I have [been keeping up with Len’s status] and did send one of the Jaquelyn [http:www.jacquielawson.com] cards to Len and Sandra when I first got news of all of this. In that card I expressed my thoughts and wishes. It is a terribly difficult time for family and his friends. I shall continue to keep abreast of his health and well being in the days and God willing months ahead.
We, as you know, have lost too many friends and loved ones in the past ten years.
Please give Ronnie my best and may you both continue too feel well and smile.
Clifford, March 18, 2011
[Ed. To Bruce, John, Noel, Mike]
Did not hear from Len and Sandra today at 1pm, as agreed, and don’t expect to tonite. I can only imagine (and even fail at that) what they’re going thru…
Kent, March 18, 2011
All we can do is respect their privacy and wishes.
Sent from my iPhone
Ottinger, March 20, 2011
I called Len’s number just now…and got no answer nor answering machine. I can try again later, but perhaps evening isn’t the best time.
One thought that occurred to me is that—if he is in a hospice facility rather than being treated by hospice workers at home— everyone would be there [at the hospice facility].
Or that if they had caller ID they’ll at least know I called (and maybe some of the rest of you). So all we can do is wait.
Kent, March 20, 2011
Thanks for update John. We can only pray for this good man and his family…
Bruce Kent. Sent from my iPhone
Clifford, March 21 (early a.m.), 2011
Hi John… Spoke w/ Len today. He called around 3pm in response to my call on Thursday. Nice long talk; 45 min’s or so. Len sounds very calm, even laconic. Very normal, very rational. (He has lost the basso range of his voice, however—remember?—no doubt the result of his meds, at least partially.) Overall, given the seriousness of his condition, he seems very much at peace .
Len is at home, being visited two or three times a week by RNs. Sandra helps w/ diet and medications, of course (they recently celebrated their 52nd anniversary…!). There are no current plans for Len to be moved to a hospice care facility.
Turns out he was diagnosed early in ’06 w/ lung cancer. They gave him a 2.5% five-year survival chance at the time. He said he was very pleased to have made it this far…
Len spoke about a recent “setback” some four weeks or so ago, some of whose symptoms included a loss of weight (20 or more lbs) and a waning interest in food. He also stopped working out. He mentioned that what he now expects will happen is that major organs will start shutting down one at a time. How soon, of course, nobody knows. He also mentioned a heart attack in ’04. He did repeat, however, that he is pleased that he’s lasted so long after the initial diagnosis in ’06.
We had a nice time catching up and he seemed very pleased w/ our chat. He does not appear to be sensitive about discussing his condition. He also said we should do it more frequently (our last call was quite some time ago), and I agreed. On that basis and on the basis of his remarkably calm state of mind, I was pleased to hear about your attempt to reach him. There is no doubt he would consider it a big treat. I’m going to try again in 2 – 3 weeks, and will encourage Bruce and Mike to do likewise.
Ottinger, March 21, 2011
I just talked to Sandra. She told me Len can’t talk right now. Hospice is going to move him later today or maybe tomorrow morning to a hospice facility. Sandra said he’s in a lot of pain and isn’t eating. Other calls were coming in as I was talking to her. She said the whole family was there, kids, brothers, etc. I simply expressed my feelings and left my number should she, or possibly even Len, want to call.
Kent, March 21, 2011
Len always was “laconic”… :)!!!! I guess if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Do you have a mail address for him? I honestly don’t know what to say to either him or Sandra, and anyway am more comfortable and able with the written word.
Clifford, March 21, 2011
Hi Bruce… Here’s his address:
1240 40th Ave., SW
Vero Beach, FL 32968-4951
Whatever you send will be appreciated. He expressed appreciation when I told him that he is in our thoughts every day. I also noted that he preferred to talk about [other matters] rather than his [condition]. A very private guy, is right. Can’t imagine what their day was like today (did you see JO’s email…?).
Clifford, March 27, 2011
Hi Judy… I just got the bad news from Mike. I spoke w/ Len only one week ago and he sounded “fine”, as my attached email suggests. Len’s passing is going to upset a lot of people, I’m sure. John O. tried to call him the very next day (Monday) and was told that he’d been taken to a hospice. I had no idea his condition was so far advanced. I’ll be calling John this evening and otherwise get the word out to other classmates on my list.
Kent, March 27, 2011
Why I am still here and a fine and upstanding man like Len Eskey is gone puzzles me. Maybe God wants the good ones near him.
“Sadly” understates. This was a quality guy. Thanks for letting me know, Cliff.
Walton, March 27, 2011
Thanks for bringing me up to date on Len’s circumstances.
As you well know, you and Bruce brought me into Len’s life only recently, in a relative sense, and it was interesting to get to know him, as I never really did in high school. Kindly let me know if there is to be a memorial service in the vicinity of Westport, as I will make it a point to attend.
Castiglia, March 27, 2011
Cliff… Very saddened to hear of Len’s passing. He projected being very brave and accepting of our cycle of life. He and Sandra will be in Ann and my prayers… We hope her pain will soon be replaced by pleasant memories.
I still can see his smooth swing when he hit a baseball…
Clifford, March 28 (early a.m.), 2011
Noel… Maybe that’s the best tribute to Len of all: “…his smooth swing when he hit a baseball”.
I’m pretty sure of this: that’s the one Len would pick…
Basta, July 13 (early a.m.), 2011
Had a wonderful talk with Sandra. She had not received this poem. When I sent it before, I think I left some of it out. This is the entire poem.
Should You Go First…
Should you go first and I remain
To walk the road alone,
I’ll live in memory’s garden, dear,
With happy days we’ve known.
In spring time I’ll wait for roses red,
When fades the lilac blue.
In early fall, when brown leaves call
I’ll catch a glimpse of you.
Should you go first and I remain
For battles to be fought,
Each thing you’ve touched along the way
Will be a hallowed spot.
I’ll hear your voice, I’ll see your smile
Though blindly I may grope,
The memory of your helping hand
Will buoy me on with hope.
Should you go first and I remain
To finish with the scroll,
No length’ning shadows shall creep in
To make this life seem droll.
We’ve known so much happiness,
We’ve had our cup of joy,
And memory is one gift of God
That death cannot destroy.
If you go first and I remain
One thing I’d have you to do:
Walk slowly down that long, lone path,
For soon I’ll follow you.
I’ll want to know each step you take
That I may walk the same,
For some day down that lonely road
You’ll hear me call your name.
—By A.K. Rowswell
From Len’s 50th reunion greeting to classmates…
Married to Sandra [Salembier—class of ’56] for almost 48 years, son, Peter, living in Florida, daughter, Kim, living in Texas, two grandchildren…
Retired from civil engineering and general contracting…real estate investments, fishing, wood and stone carving complete my typical days…
Best wishes to all, sorry cannot attend the wonderful reunion. Would love to shoot Kit Carson’s ten-gauge shotgun again and play some poker with Ottinger.
Vero Beach, FL
I think the photo of Len and Sandra and Judy must have been taken by George Sterling and digitized by someone (at low resolution). I’m pretty sure it was Len who forwarded it to me, since I haven’t heard from Judy by email since the 7th grade… :-)