Tribute to Leonard Edward Kesl
By Larry Santucci
On Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 5:20am Lennie Kesl took leave of this earthly plane.
Lennie Kesl died at age 86, surrounded by family, friends and with his beloved Barbara by his side. We took turns sitting by his bedside holding his hand and whispering inaudible prayer-like words of encouragement that we knew were to no avail. It were as though if we tried really hard enough we could will him to remain with us. It’s not so strange that the comment most frequently spoken by his friends was, “I thought that he would live forever.”
I simply could not bring myself go to his Church service, to me it would have been an acquiescence to the reality that we would never sing and laugh together again. I spent that time reminiscing the way Lennie and I did when we spent time together doing his many portraiture sittings. We talked about favorite jazz artists from the 30s, 40s, 50’s and 60s and he was especially impressed that I knew the intros and vamps of songs of the 30s and 40s. Lyrical intros and vamps that were rarely used except by song "stylists"
At first I shot Lennie at the Tench Artists Studio. After a couple of months we started shooting Lennie at local outdoor sights. He seemed to really enjoy that so we did it as often as we could. No matter where we went we always met people that he made feel as though he came just to see them. While there is only one Lennie Kesl each image on my website reflects a different Kesl. It's more a credit to Lennie's multi-dimensional personality than to my photographic skill.
Lennie was chameleonic. I sometimes think that he secretly enjoyed the fact that people found it difficult to keep up with the zigs and zags of a frenzied conversation with him. I think Robert Ponzio put it best … a conversation with Lennie was like being on a wild roller coast ride.
We were to meet at noon the day of his demise to go to Morningside Nature Center to make additions to what was to be ….. KOLORFUL KANDID KESL.
Lennie exemplifies, in the truest sense, the "Most Memorable Character" feature published in the Reader's Digest. Kesl was a man for all seasons, an artist, a jazz vocalist, a recording artist, a musician, a disc jockey, a teacher, a beloved raconteur, a mentor and a very special friend whose energy was limitless. Lennie’s knowledge of Art, Art History and Jazz (even the most obscure information) was encyclopedic. Of all of these attributes, what I admired most about Lennie was …. that he steadfastly refused to be anything other than Lennie Kesl. As a friend, he never said “take me as I am”. He didn’t need to.
It’s said that art and the camera points both ways, in expressing your subject, you also express yourself. I am grateful that my dear friend generously provided me with that opportunity. It’s been said that Lennie was … well, frugal. He was, but not with his encouragement of emerging artists. I hadn’t yet met this man Kesl yet he had an impact on me. After an exhibit reception, Linda and I looked at the exhibitor guest book. Someone had taken significant pains to fill an entire page with … SUPERB, L KESL … he wrote. Some memory of a first solo exhibit, Huh?
Requiescat in pace