Monday, November 9, 2015

The King of Anything

As some of you are aware, my uncle, Leonard Hochman passed away on Wednesday, 11/4/15 after a long, hard fight against cancer (a fight that included overcoming pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal types). As in many such circumstances, at the last, cancer ended up being almost incidental to other tangential medical issues creating a cascade effect that proved impossible to overcome, even for him.

I was given the privilege of saying a few words at his memorial service and I thought I’d share them here. I modified the original somewhat to reflect this written version.

Given that Lenny was an incredibly vivacious, larger-than-life character with a great sense of humor and an equally great capacity to see the humor in himself, I began by taking a show-of-hands poll of those in attendance to determine how many of them have personally voiced or thought the following sentiment during an interaction with him:

“Lenny! For God’s sake!”

Naturally, a large percentage of the attendees raised their hands.

That, my friends, is the mark of a life lived out loud.

Alternately hilarious, loving, generous, insightful, helpful, and at times, thoroughly exasperating, Lenny was absolutely impossible to ignore. He was formidably tough, physically and mentally, a perpetual and charismatic showman, and a one-man family history encyclopedia. In short, he lived life ferociously. He was the King of Anything with an opinion on everything.

This latter quality often made for some entertaining… well, let’s call them “discussions” between him and his sister, my mom Carol. Both are fiercely intelligent and passionate about their beliefs, and though their routinely disparate opinions were usually well-considered and well-informed, Lenny was not entirely innocent of periodically employing information that can only be described as “factualish” when the actual facts did not fully suit his opinion. Regardless, these discussions often concluded as they went to their separate corners with my mom rolling her eyes and muttering (not unkindly) one of two things:

1) “Uh! He’s impossible!” (which brings to mind a snatch of dialogue from “The Big Bang Theory” in which Penny declares to Sheldon, “You’re impossible!” As she heads for the door in exasperation, Sheldon responds, “I can’t be impossible. I exist. I’m improbable.”).

2) After a particularly heated “discussion,” Mom would use a variant: “Uh! He’s such an idiot.”

I remember one occasion where they were haggling over some issue and after a few minutes, I heard Lenny say, “Wait, we actually agree?” and my mom replied, “Yes. We actually agree,” resulting in a momentary phenomena akin to the appearance of Hailey’s Comet, which comes around every 75 years or so: They were both speechless.

Perhaps Lenny’s greatest magic was that his impossibility never quite precluded him from being eminently endearing and lovable. If I had to pick two especially fond moments to remember him by, I would pick these:

At some point in recent years, Lenny was at my mom’s house. He seemed to have a special fondness for my daughter Julianna and would always take time to speak to her and make her laugh. On this particular occasion, Lenny somehow came upon the topic of egg creams. Jules had never had one, of course, and within moments, he was briskly preparing one for her. His grin of proud satisfaction as her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “Wow! This is really good!” on tasting it was heartwarming. Though you can be sure that at some point in the near future, my family and I will be drinking egg creams in his honor, I’m quite confident they will not be anywhere near as good as his.

The second moment I’d like to share took place at Lenny & Tina’s apartment in Queens. We had gone over there for dinner to celebrate his birthday. We did not generally exchange actual gifts on such occasions but I happened to come across a quote that I thought he’d appreciate so I formatted it for presentation and printed it out for him. I can still hear that big, booming voice announce, “Oh, Stevie, this… this is perfect,” as he tacked it onto the wall.

The quote, by the writer Gore Vidal, could quite easily serve as Lenny’s epitaph (or at least a PS). It reads:

“There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”
          -    Gore Vidal

The world was a far more interesting and entertaining place with him in it and it will certainly be less interesting and entertaining without him. If the phrase “one-of-a-kind” could be applied to anyone, I think we can all agree that someone would be Lenny Hochman.

He will be sorely missed. We will not see his like again.

Thanks for reading.


  1. That's a wonderful description. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Perfect Steven, simply perfect.

  3. Thank you Max and Cheryl for your very kind words. They are very greatly appreciated!