We want to celebrate Len’s life, so have decided that I should say a few words.
Len celebrated his eightieth birthday a few short years ago, and I am going to read (with some obvious amendments) the words I said on that occasion ….
Len, or Dad as I liked to call him, entered the world on 5 November 1935 on the same day that a certain Mrs Piggot was giving birth to a foal called Lester. A reference Dad would always delight in quoting.Len was born in very sorry circumstances. His parents Barney and Mary, were sorry that he was not born a month or two later. Due to the dubious date of his parents’ marriage, the ketubah said March 1935 (do the maths). Indeed, this was also a reference he would always delight in quoting.His birth took place; again as he delighted to tell us, at what was traditionally called “Mother Levy’s”, the Bearstead Memorial Hospital.
Unlike the aforementioned Lester, he did not have a stable home life as the intervention of war led to his being evacuated to Rushden and Leeds, among other places, and his father Barney was called away to do his bit for King and country. However, Barney would rather do his bit for Mary and Len and was successful in obtaining his transfer out of the Royal Corps of signals back to civilian life, and then doing a different type of bit, which produced Len’s late sister Audrey.
Life during the war was difficult for everyone of course, and particularly upsetting for Len, as he lost a few playmates in the saddest of circumstances being victims of a V1 attack. Home was in Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill where he remained until he married in 1958.
He was barmitzvahed as one of several boys at Egerton Road Shul in 1948, nicely coincidental in the same year as the establishment of the State of Israel. He was a grammar school boy, attending Parameters school, and he did very well.
well before Red Ken there was slightly pink Len
He was a very keen scout, and achieved the Queens Scout award. However, he gave up scouting when one of his fellow scouts was asked to leave because of his communist beliefs. Len felt that this had nothing to do with scouting principles, and I guess his socialist ideals were formed from that experience, and the circumstances he grew up in. So well before Red Ken there was slightly pink Len!
His ambition to be an aeronautical engineer was swiftly stopped by his father, who decided that Len would be an accountant, even though Barney was not really sure what that meant or entailed. Dad’s big regret was that he never went to University, but his time was served by becoming an articled clerk at Fisher Conway. Qualifying in 1958, he remained active as an accountant until early January this year. It was a profession he loved.
One day, as a young twenty year old, he travelled from Stamford Hill to Streatham ice rink for a dance, and whilst there, he met a girl who lived in Wallington, Surrey, who was originally from Stoke Newington. Vast distances were covered in regular meetings with this girl, and finally, being fed up of these endless journeys, they got married. So now he became a wed Len!
Maralyn, or Mum as I liked to call her, and Len set up home in Cranwich Road around the corner from Barney and Mary in Stamford Hill. By now, Len was a chartered accountant and in a steady job, eventually setting up to go into a partnership. Mum and Dad moved shortly afterwards to Queensbury NW9, which is where young Jewish couples were beginning to set up home.
two children the same age, but they were not twins
In 1960, and then again in 1961, two boys were produced, me and Simon, one year less eleven days apart. Once a year, Dad took great delight in saying that from 6 September to 16 September he had two children the same age, but they were not twins.
Business was difficult, and after dissolving a business partnership, Len worked from home on Marilyn’s dressing table or the dining table. Things slowly improved, and another son came along in 1965, Gary.Things improved again, and a move to Kenton was made in 1967.
Dad wanted his two elder boys to join the cubs, because, as I said, he had been a keen scout. There were no places available at the 11th Kenton Cub pack so this was not going to happen, unless he would like to be an assistant scout leader, which he said he would do, and then the boys were in. Two weeks after becoming an assistant, he was promoted to leader.
Things were going well and business was taking off. Then the miners struck in 1974, resulting in Mr Heath’s three day week. Maralyn’s contribution to the cause was to present Len with a very special thirty ninth birthday present, her Naomi.
Our Red Len liked to read The Tribune and Labour Weekly, and I remember that one day, the paperboy inadvertently delivered the wrong paper, the Daily Telegraph. The door was flung open, and the paper was dispatched with a, “I’m not having that rag or something similar in my house.Take it back!”. It is ironic that this is the paper he read for many years.
On another occasion, Gary was asked to go down the road to Waitrose and buy some bread. Asking Gary to do anything was always fraught with danger, as you never actually knew what he was likely to do in any circumstances. For example, he had been looking out of a window, and somehow fell out. Then, when playing with a bike, he nearly cut off his finger by trying to stop the wheels spinning by putting his finger in the chain. I guess Gary gets it from Dad, as who else can put on snow shoes indoors and slip on a wooden floor severely injuring themselves before even getting outside. Anyway, buying the wrong bread received the same reaction and treatment as the Telegraph.
a great husband to two wonderful women
It was a lively household with lots of screaming and shouting, coupled with lots of love and cuddles. Sadly, Maralyn became ill, and Len sought every kind of treatment there was to help her, but to no avail. Eventually, she was unable to do anything for herself. Len was not going to be parted from her, and made provision to have Maralyn looked after at home, mainly with the help and self sacrifice of Maralyn’s mum, our Boobie Queenie. Len cared for Maralyn, having to forgo a full night’s sleep for many years to see to her needs, and many other sacrifices in business, and a full and proper family life. G-d took Marilyn in the great storm of 1987.
This left Len alone with a young daughter, as the three boys had left home to pursue their own family lives. Fortunately, he met Shula, who had also suffered a great loss of her husband, also called Len, and they were both able to find happiness together. Len became a proud step father to Martin, Jonathan and Debbie. A marriage and his move from Kenton to Borehamwood ensued, and also a different way of life with religion playing a more pronounced part, along with more shouting and screaming, coupled with more love and cuddles.
Circumstances caused his not being able to retire when he wanted to, and had to make another move in Borehamwood, mainly to save the long walk to shul. He also had to virtually start again in business, and with the love and help and support of Shula and Shula’s sister Judy, he was able to get through. With all seven children now married and producing offspring, he often lost count of the number of grandchildren who were a constant source of delight to him. At the last count, there are seventeen.
He was a wonderful father and stepfather, grandfather, and a great husband to two wonderful women. As a family we are all richer for that.
He will be a blessed memory for us all.