Monday, May 11, 2015

A Life Lived Well


Sad News
Leonard Cremona passed away on Friday May 1, 2015



5/3/2015
Memorial to Dad

It is a rare thing to witness a giant's leaving the public stage. Rare, and the inspiration for a jumble of emotions. We tend to live our lives in a constant state of  "to be continued". It is  the human condition, I suppose, and it rattles us when someone departs from that stream of being. When something or someone is, and then suddenly -- it always seems like suddenly, no matter how much one prepares for, is no more

We are here over the next two days to celebrate and honor the life of Leonard Francis Cremona.  Impossible as it may be to fit all that he was on a few sheets of paper, I will try to tell you a bit about his life and the accomplishments he was most proud of.

He was heard to say:
"You will hear no complaints from me on my life over the long haul.  Isolated periods and incidents of discontent here and there, yes, but all-in-all life has been good to me.  My life has been full and productive."

Dad was 93, looking at the long list of his accomplishments, would make you think he and Methuselah were one in the same person.

Just to give a bit of history of  his life and achievements:

He was born in Manhattan and for a good part of his young life lived in "cold water flats"
with a bathtub located in the kitchen, heat was provided by a wood stove, and the food was kept fresh in an "icebox", which required large chunk of ice be carried on the back of a man and placed in the "icebox" and used until it melted, at which time another block of ice was ordered.  There was no Radio or TV.  Dad jokingly referred to these times as "the good old days"

These were also the days of serious threat from diseases like Diphtheria, Polio, Influenza Epidemics and even Smallpox was still prevalent at that time.

Then there was the Great Depression from 1929-1939.  Dad was 7 when it began and 17 when it ended. His family had to move often during these times, which accounts for his wanting to provide a stable living environment for his own children to enjoy. 

His father died when he was 16.

In High School, he was captain of the Fencing Team.

At the age of 18 he apprenticed as tool & die maker, earning 50 cents per hour. 

He met and later married an attractive young woman, by the name of Marie Lanteri, at a Sweet Sixteen Party.

Soon the drums of war could be heard as Hitler's  insanity marched across Europe. 

In 1941 at the age of 19 Dad enlisted in the Marines and survived boot camp on Parris Island.  He saw the aftermath of the destruction left after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  He was stationed at Oahu and then at Midway as a Mechanic and Rear Gunner on an SB  Dive Bomber.  These bombers dove at speeds around 236 miles per hour, and in his position as a Rear Gunner in the plane , he experienced the dives backwards.  I can't even handle a roller coaster ride facing front!

In 1943 while on furlough, he and Marie got married in a civil ceremony, followed by a church ceremony, as Marie's mother was not accepting of  marriage performed outside of church and without the sacraments bestowed by a priest.

During his enlistment Dad served ultimately as a Master Sargent and later as Provost Marshal in charge of the Military Police at Cherry Hill N.C.

Dad received an Honorary Discharge from the Marine Corp in July 1947. 

Marie and Leonard began soon after to start our family.

His first job was with RCA Communications, and attended Photography School,  he performed all photographic work in the northeast metropolitan area for RCA.  He soon gave up his pursuit of photography as he realized the competition in the field of commercial photography was great, and it would be a difficult row to hoe while raising a family. 

During the 1950s he was an administrator for Combustion Engineering, and received an award for his contributions to the Shipping-Port Atomic Power Station, and the nuclear facilities on the nuclear powered Nautilus submarine and Savannah submarine tender.  During this time he also pursued an Applied Mathematics degree at Pratt Institute, later transferring to the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.  This was all done while raising a family.

While at Combustion Engineering  Dad was approached and asked to participate in the USA's growing Space activities by a company called Teledyne Isotopes.  At Teledyne, he was involved in just about every major NASA space program, including but not limited to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Space programs, and was involved in classified investigations of the Russian nuclear test programs. 

In 1965, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Teledyne Isotopes.  The results of this research were classified, as they applied to nuclear weapons, but the information also contributed to the knowledge of the weather forecasters permitting them to extend forecasts from three days to five.

After retiring at 65, he devoted much of his time to two of  his many interests, stamp collecting, and writing.  He participated in a worldwide philatelist community.  He cataloged about 125 volumes of stamps.  He was published in a European magazine twice in recent years.  The subjects were Austrian and German history.  Last year he started his own on line Blog and called it Scribbles in History. He loved the idea of his being able to share his thoughts and interests even long after he left this Earth.

He volunteered at an organization called 40+ for people who lost jobs during the 1980's recession, helping them to rewrite their resumes, hone their skills at being interviewed and find their way back into the work environment.

He volunteered time at the local schools to talk to children about another of his interests  - Egyptology.

In 2005 he underwent surgery for Spinal Stenosis, which allotted him many years of quality time to pursue his many interests, one of which was writing numerous essays, many of which you can find on his blog. 

He has always loved many types of music, mostly classical, and Opera.  I introduced him to the classical music of India. After a Ravi Shankar concert at Carnegie Hall, he became a big fan, to the great dismay of my sister Wendy.

I am grateful to have been able to enjoy much of his life and interests with him, Music, Science, Whale Watching, Birding, Astronomy, History, although not his mastery of Mathematics, he lost me there.  We would discuss everything from World events to the Weather, but never chit chat, he did not know how to do that !

Dad loved everything about his family life. He and I devoted quite a bit of time over the past  five years to recording a Family Tree, and both of us learned so much from the experience.

He not only raised six children but was able to enjoy the experience of being there to help raise second family.  He was not only Grandpa but also Dad to Joe, Laura and Ryan.

He was always there for them whether it was helping them, as he had done for me and my siblings, with school work, or shuttling them to sports events, offering sage advice or just lending an ear during their troubles.  He was always so proud of their achievements.  And they have also always been there for him.  Dad has had a number of health issues over the past ten years, they were by his side every step of the way.  I can attest to the support they offered during the past months and especially the last two weeks in the hospital. 

He is greatly loved and has loved us all through thick and thin.

Anyone who has spent any time with Leonard, was touched by his Intelligence, his Humility, his Love of Life and his Humanity in general. 
He was the kindest, most caring and gentle Human Being, even during his most trying times during his illness. 

As I said at the beginning of sharing Dad's life with all of you:

It is a rare thing to witness a Giant's leaving the public stage. Rare, and the inspiration for a jumble of emotions. We tend to live our lives in a constant state of "to be continued". It's the human condition, I suppose. And it rattles us when someone departs from that stream of being. When something or someone is, and then suddenly -- it always seems like suddenly, no matter how much one prepares for, is no more.

He is no longer with us physically, but he will always be with us !