Thoughts on a Friends Passing – Leonard W. Lanfranco


 

People will gather in George Rogers Park, the lower level, around 11:30 the morning of Friday, May 10, 2002. The park is located on the western end of Lake Oswego, between the lake and the Williamette River, in the greater Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. I wish I could join them.

These people will be family and friends of Dr. Leonard W. Lanfranco. The gathering will be to share memories, stories, and thoughts about, and to celebrate the life of Len Lanfranco. Like countless others, my own life is a little richer because I came into contact with this man.

Leonard W. Lanfranco was born in Oakland, California, June 12, 1939. Len died from a brain aneurysm April 30, 2002. The important stuff happened between these two dates.

It is difficult to sum up a persons life. How do you judge what is important? What are the things that count?

I suspect the most important event in Lens life occurred in Vancouver, Washington, on May 1, 1965, when he married Mardell Flewelling. For Len and Mardell, their daughters and granddaughter this date was critical. The day following his death they would have celebrated 37 years of marriage.

As important as Lens wedding date was to him and his family, the rest of us probably need to look a little farther.

Most summations of a lifetime concentrate on the persons accomplishments. If this were the measure Len would indeed be worthy of praise and respect. His life was filled with important tasks attempted and achieved.

Len’s professional, educational, and intellectual achievements were outstanding. His degrees were from leading universities in his field. His professional accomplishments were in responsible, difficult positions with respected institutions, and he succeeded wherever he went. This was a man who undertook important tasks, and completed them.

You can often tell a lot about a person by looking at the investment they make of their time, outside of the office.

Len came through in this arena also. He was willing to back his ideas and convictions with time and effort. I met Len when IOBAs former president Deb Graham, told me she had a great new member whom I needed to get involved with IOBA. I called him and we emailed back and forth for several days. I had recently been elected to succeed Deb, and was looking for intelligent, motivated people to fill a few slots on IOBAs board.

I asked Len to take on the task of PR Committee Chair, and to sit on IOBA’s board. Len’s mother had died shortly before I contacted him and he was wrapping up her affairs. Len had a history of heart problems. When we met he had just gone through a change of medication that caused him difficulties and loss of energy. He battled the heart problems throughout our acquaintance, but very seldom complained. In addition to these personal challenges, Len was in the process of conducting his annual Oregon Book Fair. Most people would have told me their plate was full, and to find someone else for the job.

Lens only request was that I give him two weeks to wrap up a few of his loose ends before taking on this new assignment. This was typical of the man. His life consistently reflected a high level of commitment. His efforts for IOBA more than met my expectations.

He gave IOBA his energy, his intelligence, and his tremendous good will. Personally, I learned to consider him a friend, a trusted confidant, and advisor.

Lens commitments were undertaken with purpose and resolve. He was a founder of the American Advertising Museum, and served as a member of its board of directors. His other involvements show a consistent pattern of thoughtful, compassionate commitment. When needed he was willing to battle for his causes.

When the Oswego City Council moved in 1999 to change and reduce its commitment to the public library, Len Lanfranco was in front of the council. His recorded testimony is intelligent, insightful, and well organized. Although I wasnt in the council chambers, I am sure it was also presented clearly and confidently.

In 1991 when the Oregon Senate Committee on the Judiciary considered changes to the states law on public access to legal documents, Len was there, testifying clearly on the potential effects of the law, and their consequences. On numerous other occasions, Len took stands to defend principles. He believed ideas were important, and he was willing to stand and be counted.

These involvements are important parts of a persons life. Perhaps even more important are the other lives one touches, and how these touches affect others.

Here again Len made a difference. I only knew him at the end of his journey. When I met Len he was a mature, considerate, gentle souled man. This was not a secret I alone discovered. I have contacted dozens of Lens acquaintances. Each has told me of his generosity of spirit, and the high value they placed on the friendship of this good man. These contacts go back more than forty years.

Dr. G.T Hurley was Lens professor at Cal State in the early 1960s. Despite the thousands of faces that have come and gone since, Dr. Hurley still retains detailed, warm memories of a bright, motivated young man with the world in front of him. Len Lanfranco touched peoples lives wherever he went, and those people remember him with love, respect and admiration.

So after all, what is important? What is the true measure of a man? We each decide upon our own set of values. For myself, I believe that what we do with our lives has meaning, that our dealings with each other are important, and that in the end it is what we do with what we were given that counts.

Len was able to “talk with crowds and keep (his ) virtue”, and “walk with kings” without losing the “common touch “. He definitely forced his “heart and nerve and sinew to serve (his) turn long after they were gone,” and he “(filled) the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.”

I believe Kipling would have called him a man. I know I called him friend.

Leonard Lanfranco, I’m glad I met you.

Len’s family has requested that any donations be given in Len’s memory to either:

Friends of the Lake Oswego Library
706 Fourth Street
Lake Oswego, OR 97034

or

Oregon Donor Program
PO Box 532
Portland, OR 97207

Comments from a few of Lens Friends

  • Greg & Julia Williams, Booksellers (IOBA) – I met Len through the IOBA. Soon after I joined, I volunteered for the PR committee, and over the past few months, Len and I had worked closely on creating some IOBA promotional material.After trading a few emails, it became readily apparent that Len was a bright, sociable and kind individual. I soon discovered that he was also gracious and generous, eager to praise and recognize the contributions of others. Our correspondence focused on the IOBA, but as we got to know each other a little bit better, we started to chat about numerous other topics, and I thoroughly enjoyed our correspondence.My wife and I will be permanently relocating to Portland later this summer. When Len learned about our plans, he was extremely enthusiastic and genuinely excited for us (despite the already-overwhelming influx of ex-Angelenos into the area). He made us feel so welcome, and it was comforting to know that the minute we stepped off the plane, we’d already have someone to call a friend in our unfamiliar new home. We’re tremendously saddened that we’ll no longer have the opportunity to get to know Len better, and our hearts go out to his family and friends.

     

  • Pat Ahearn, Quill & Brush – Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Len in person, I did correspond with him many times over the last few years. He was very knowledgeable, an excellent writer and had a delightful sense of humor. His professional experience in the PR field and as a senior trade association executive was a wonderful benefit to our organization. Len offered IOBA’s Board excellent professional help whenever and wherever it was needed. He will be missed.
  • Debbie Cross, Wrigley-Cross Books – My association with Len was through the Portland Area Used Booksellers’ Association and the Oregon Book Fair. My personal opinion of Len was that he was one of the last old-fashioned booksellers who believed in personal service and had extremely high ethical and professional standards. Of course, his field of expertise was very specialized so hand-selling was a big part of it. He knew what his regular customers wanted, always followed up with customers to make sure they received their orders, refused to mail in anything but a new sturdy cardboard box, etc
  • Jerry Blaz, The Bookie Joint – It is, indeed, a terrible loss. It is also a terrible loss to IOBA. As a member-at-large I have seen that it is not easy to get people to give of themselves to volunteer their time and talents. Len was a member of that elite group that did volunteer their time and talents, and so even if most of us knew him only as a virtual personality, all of IOBA is lesser because of his passing. May Len LanFranco, of blessed memory, rest in peace.
  • Dave Rickard, Chapterhouse Books – I was fortunate to have met Len last year when I had a booth at the Oregon Book Fair, which he ran. What I expected to be a 20-minute meeting at a local Starbucks to ask his advice turned into a two hour rambling talk, primarily about common acquaintances in journalism. I didn’t know until then he had a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, and a doctorate from the University of Missouri, and knew well some of my professors at Fresno State.What I did know was that he was the warmest of men, and every bit of correspondence from him about the book fair was accompanied by a personal message to “call me and we’ll have a cup of coffee.” 
  • Shirley Bryant, Authors & Artists – Len was generous with his time, knowledge, and help. Back in January, 2002, when I was trying to organize sending thousands of books to the Afghanistan University Library to replace those ruined during their years of war, Len volunteered information on shipping methods and was trying to contact people he knew who could perhaps help with the logistics of actually getting the books directly to the Libray. The project got put on hold as, for the time being, there isn’t a way around their political situation, but I very much appreciated Len’s generosity and help. This seems to have been typical behavior for Len, and all of those of us whose lives he touched will miss him.
  • Pat Holt, Holt Uncensored Newsletter – I worked with Len only one time, when he invited me to speak at the Fair in 1999. I vividly recall the exhibit floor as a living, breathing, organic thing that seemed to percolate with energy and love for books because Len himself was personally attentive to everyone’s needs. He knew so much about trends and issues in the industry that I followed him around taking notes as he feverishly gestured to this booth and that to illustrate his point, that change was coming to this field and we all better be prepared. He took me out to dinner with his friendly and welcoming family and made me – truly a novice to the trade – feel as much at home as if I had been coming to the Fair all my life.

Dr. Leonard W. Lanfranco

Professional Background

1996 – 2002 : Owner & Operator – Oregon Antiquarian Book Fair, Oswego, Oregon

1996 – 2002 : Owner & Operator – Columbia Books, Oswego, Oregon

1985 – 1995 : Executive Director – Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, Portland, Oregon

1981 – 1985 : Executive Director – Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Columbia, South Carolina

1970 – 1981 : Chairman, Department of Journalism, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina

1967 – 1970 : Faculty – School of Journalism, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

1965 – 1967 : Faculty – Department of Communications, Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington

1958 – 1965 : Management – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, California ; Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California ; Antioch Ledger, Antioch, California ; Columbia Missourian, Columbia, Missouri

Education

Ph.D, School of Journalism, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

M.S., School of Journalism, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

B.A., California State University, Hayward, California

Civic Involvement

Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) – Chair PR Committee, Board of Directors

Lake Oswego Friends of the Library

Lake Oswego Heritage Council

Oregon Heritage Museum, Board of Directors

Oregon 4-H Foundation, Board of Directors

Oregon Donor Foundation, Board of Directors

American Advertising Museum, Founder, Member of Board of Directors

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website