Cover photo for Leonard Marton Small's Obituary
Leonard Marton Small Profile Photo
1925 Leonard 2017

Leonard Marton Small

March 17, 1925 — April 8, 2017

Remembering Lenny Small
Lenny Small passed away on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the age of 92 after suffering a major stroke four weeks earlier. Lenny was born on March 17, 1925 in Youngstown, Ohio, to Jacob and Goldie Smulovitz, the third of four brothers. During his early 20's, Lenny and his brothers changed their name to Small. The name was fitting but ironic given Lenny and his brothers' short stature and the generations of height-challenged Smalls that followed. Lenny came from a religious Jewish home where his father Jake was a Kosher butcher and his sweet Jewish mother Goldie wore the pants. Well-liked as a boy but part of a Jewish minority, he and his brothers were known to their peers as "Harold, Lenny, Morton and Sam, they're the boys who don't eat ham..."
Because his grandparents were very observant orthodox Jews who refrained from doing certain tasks on the Sabbath, Lenny served as the Shabbos Goy whose job it was to handle forbidden work such as answering the telephone, turning on an electric light, or cooking. While he waited around for things to do he began to listen to the Saturday afternoon broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with opera.
Immediately after graduating high school in 1943, Lenny joined the Navy. In spite of being a Navy man, he never set foot on a ship. During the war Lenny worked on a top secret project converting B-17s to flying radar stations. Taking advantage of the GI Bill after the war, he attended Ohio University, where he majored in business.
While attending a party at his fraternity Lenny approached a short, attractive young woman from New York City named Judy Schwartz. He asked her if she wanted to dance. She answered, "Yes, but first would you mind getting me a piece of cake?" They never danced and Judy never ate the cake. But they quickly discovered that they shared many of the same interests in music, art, theater and literature. Lenny was immediately smitten and several months later he gave Judy his fraternity pin. While Judy finished her degree at Ohio University, Lenny completed an MBA in business at the University of Pittsburgh. They were married soon after, in October 1949, celebrating 67 years of marriage this past year.

Following graduation Lenny and Judy moved to Cleveland where Lenny took a job in retailing with Sterling Lindner-Davis. During the post-war years housing was limited and their first apartment was small and wanting. It was so small that they had to share a two-doored bathroom with their neighbors -- each door leading to their respective apartments. Shortly after the Korean War began Lenny was called back into the Navy and served 18 months at a Naval base in Key West, FL. It came as quite a surprise to Judy who hadn't realized Lenny was in the Naval Reserve. Nevertheless, she followed him to Florida where they lived together in an un-air conditioned Quonset hut in the Florida heat. A year and a half later they returned to Cleveland where they began their family. Peter was born in December 1953 followed by his brother Stephen in March 1956.
In 1958 Lenny and his family moved to New Jersey where he worked for the next 18 years for various retailers including Grandway, Shop Rite, and Two Guys. Over the years he moved his way up the organizational ladder as a buyer, merchandise manager and vice president. During their years in NJ, the family lived in Pompton Lakes, a small town approximately 50 minutes from New York City. The close proximity to New York City allowed Lenny pursue his passion for opera, where he and Judy regularly attended the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera.
While living in Pompton Lakes, Lenny discovered he had a talent for restoration work and along with Judy, restored an old Victorian home on one of the town's main streets. Coincidentally, the house was next door to the area synagogue of which the Small family were members. Conveniently, whenever a minyan of 10 was needed for a Jewish ceremony, the rabbi would come next door and nab Lenny and the 2 Small brothers so that a service could be held.
In 1976, after both their sons left for college, Lenny and Judy moved to California. Lenny left the corporate world of retailing and along with Judy started Cheap Charlie's Warehouse in Huntington Beach, CA. The store featured an unusual pairing of a baby furniture and accessories and patio furniture. This odd mix turned out to be a perfect combination and the business was quite successful. Lenny loved being out on the floor talking with customers, kissing and cooing the babies and their mothers, and making people happy by offering them bargains they couldn't resist. Lenny took great pleasure in running his own store and embracing his alter ego "Cheap Charlie". After a dozen years of fun and profit, Lenny and Judy closed the business and retired to Oceanside, CA.
Retirement was a new beginning for Lenny. For the first few years he enthusiastically served as a peer counselor for older adults for whom he offered a compassionate ear. He also taught classes to adults who were interested in getting into the retail business. But much of his time and energy during his retirement years were engaged by three passions: writing, lecturing about music, and travel.

Although he could not play an instrument or carry a tune, opera, classical music, and Broadway musicals were life-long interests of Lenny's. In his retirement he developed lectures about opera, musicals and classical music that were aimed at making these musical genres accessible to more people. These multimedia presentations included music and video clips and Lenny's interpretations and insights. His thoughtful and entertaining presentations became quite popular and soon Lenny was getting frequent invitations to present at elder hostels, retirement communities, local libraries and area community colleges. He even had senior groupies who followed him from presentation to presentation.
Another passion of Lenny's was writing. For years he participated in a weekly writing group where he honed his journalistic skills. The focus of much of his work was on stories from his life, especially his mother Goldie. His "Goldie" stories were his most popular and entertaining, probably reflecting both his love for his mother and her unique personality. He also wrote short articles and stories for local and regional magazines, websites and newsletters. He received his first paycheck for a published article when he was in his 70's.
Lenny also loved to travel. He and Judy travelled the world, most often to Europe. As he got older and it became more difficult for him to walk, they took cruises, often on the rivers and seas of Europe. Learning about new places and cultures, visiting historic sites and museums, enjoying the local food and drink, collecting owl figurines and art objects, and meeting new people were among Lenny's great pleasures.
Lenny and Judy moved to the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community in Madison in 2010 after Lenny was reassured that a local theater sponsored the live Saturday broadcast series of the Metropolitan Opera. Lenny loved his time in Madison and was quick to reassure people that he was not crazy to have traded the beautiful weather of southern California for the cold, wet and wintry climate of Wisconsin. Being closer to his son Steve, daughter-in-law Gay Eastman, and grandchildren Sarah, Abby and Zach made it worthwhile. While living in Madison, Lenny felt blessed to have witnessed the marriages of both his granddaughters to wonderful men--Sarah to David Duffield and Abby to Ethan Kleinbaum--and the birth of his great-granddaughter Briella Duffield who brought him special joy.
Lenny lived a happy, full and long life. He was a smart, honest, passionate, and kind man, father, grandfather, uncle, and great-grandfather. He loved life, people, his family and opera. He remembered the good and quickly forgot the bad. He enjoyed the moment and rarely fretted about the past. He was an optimist throughout his life, always expecting that things would work out for the best. He was the Ying to Judy's Yang.
For his 90th birthday the family held an opera concert celebration in Lenny's honor. It gave him great pleasure to celebrate this milestone with his family and friends. We are saddened by his passing, but are grateful to have been touched by his presence in our lives.
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