I know it was a bittersweet time…but that is part of the life process. Are these the times that try men’s souls? Well not really. They become interruptions of our daily routine. We adapt to the change and life goes on. Sometimes it opens up opportunities and challenges us to do something we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Like write lots of letters which we don’t do enough of due to the telephone or e-mail.
It’s good for us to get shaken up a bit. We begin to think in terms we wouldn’t have otherwise. Like the time we sent you a turkey in Norway, or the visit we arranged while you were there. Or the trip Noni & I took to visit Heather & Bonnie in England and Joe Martell in Italy. These are the times we stash in our memories and are all brought about because of changes we have no control over. So life is what you make of it. It can be good, bad, sad, or boring. But as Sarah quotes Mae West as saying: ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.’
~ Leonard Luigi Farina, Oct 3rd, 1927 – May 29th, 2013
Len Farina was my first best friend. If you had pulled me aside at the ripe old age of three and asked me who my best friends were, I would have responded without hesitation: Bapa and Barney. From a three-year old perspective, being lumped in with the family dog is high praise indeed.
Len had an uncanny ability to connect with people of all ages, from his young grandchildren to the Keene State graduates working in the local diner alongside his peers drinking coffees at the counter, to his beloved mother-in-law. Len was the epitome of an extrovert. People are what mattered most to him, what drove him, what excited him. He delighted children with a variety of string-figures, spoke earnestly with any adult who would listen about his impassioned views on business, computers and the insurance industry, and doled out Lindt chocolates to anyone with a sweet tooth. He was equipped at all times with an arsenal of jokes — usually of the bad-pun variety — always eager to coax a smile from even the most unwilling victims of his sense of humor.
A gregarious man, there was nothing more exciting for Len than the prospect of a gathering, from holidays and parties to baked bean suppers at the lake to a simple lunch at Timoleon’s. The anticipation of a rolicking good time was almost unbearable for him, leaving him in a state of restless preparedness, ready to take action. For months leading up to any major event, he would start circulating Excel files, faxes, and letters — creating charts, coming up with coded acronyms and block-lettered lists and menus. There was truly never too much of a good thing for Len when it came to meeting new friends and celebrating the old.
I was blessed to experience the unabashed love and fierce pride he had for all of his family. A sentimental man, he was always the first to tear up at any of our musical performances, and freely expressed his admiration in writing afterwards. He would often speak fondly of his own family from Italy — passing along life lessons he learned from his father Luigi and culinary traditions inherited from his mother Adelinda. His appetite also knew no bounds. A provider and teacher at heart, he could not have been more at ease than when showing an unsuspecting house guest how to make pasta, or displaying the fine art of pizzelle making before passing off the heavy iron to a more muscular young man in the room to complete the job.
Len Farina was my first music teacher. Inspired by his own example, I was a curious student of music and more from a young age. Like his children before me, I learned about music seated beside him on the piano bench, turning pages of sheet music and happily obliging his requests for vocal accompaniment. He could effortlessly switch between leading my sister and I in singing “You Are My Sunshine” on the piano and flawlessly executing the Widor Toccata on the organ. An avid lover of music, Len donated his talents behind the organ here at St. James, the piano at Lions Club drama productions, and most infamously of all, propped up underneath the weight of his accordion, abusing his tolerant wife’s ears with a rousing rendition of “Lady of Spain.”
Len Farina was also my first employer. As an eight year old girl, my sister and I were offered the chance to rid the lawn up in Harrisville of dandelions for a price of 5 cents a blossom. I’m not sure he expected us to pick 500, but he was proud of our hard work. Pride in a job well-done was apparent in everything he did. He was known throughout this community for the business he created in 1972: Business Systems Inc, a payroll firm now operated by his daughter here in Keene. He ran his business based on the desire to help others and on the principles of efficiency, accuracy and adherence to an old-school work ethic passed down to him by his father (a successful businessman in his own right). He was so proud of his father and strove to do him proud in return, working many late evenings under the watchful eye of his father’s oil portrait hanging above his desk.
I believe in my heart of hearts that Len not only did Luigi proud, he did all of us whom he encountered proud. His enduring legacy of love for family, service to those in need, and the ability to connect to everyone he met with music, laughter and merriment is testimony to a life well lived. His example encourages all of us to take the opportunity to challenge ourselves, to work with pride, to love with free abandon and always to explore, learn, and share.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few words of comfort from Len himself, written to me on the occasion of my paternal grandmother’s passing:
Life is for the living, and we must all carry on even though we may stumble or fall. What is important is that you stay the course. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.