This blog post is about Lenny. It is in memory of Lenny. While not about me, it is also for me. It is part of the recovery process from grieving. He was my best friend and like a brother to me. We experienced and enjoyed life together.
Lenny and I met when we were ten years old, at summer camp in the Catskill Mountains in New York. It was a time like now of health care fears; then it was polio. Parents wanted to get their children away from New York City for the summer.
We went our separate ways when each of us went to college. By chance in 1973, when I came to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I found out through a mutual friend that Lenny had also ended up in Gaithersburg, MD. We rekindled our friendship and have been best friends for almost 50 years. We spoke on the phone almost every evening at 10:15, talking about the news, our families, and our work. We spoke every evening while he was an inpatient at NIH, and I spoke to him every evening when he was in hospice and no longer able to speak to me. He was Deputy General Counsel (and frequently the Acting General Counsel) of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) until he passed away from an aggressive cancer about two months ago. When he passed away they flew the flag at half-mast above the Washington, DC headquarters of GSA.
As part of grieving, I wondered what makes a friendship such as ours so special. I came across an article in Psychology Today about the 13 essential traits of good friends. I see them as the core values of friendship. They are divided into three groups: group 1 – trustworthiness, honesty, dependability, loyalty, and being able to trust others (being comfortable with vulnerability); group 2 – empathy, non-judgmental, good listening skills, being supportive in good times, and a defining trait of being supportive in bad times; and, group 3 – self-confidence, fun to be around, and the ability to see the humor in life. While no friend ever practices all of these traits all of the time, I would say Lenny and I clearly worked on all of them, without even knowing they existed.
Psychology Today calls the group 1 traits, traits of integrity; group 2, traits of caring; and group 3, traits of congeniality.
We trusted each other implicitly. We solved financial issues together. He was my lawyer and I was his scientist. When I had any legal documents to sign, he read them first. When his pregnant daughter accidentally broke a mercury thermometer, I helped with the disposal of mercury. He could depend on me and I could depend on him. When he ended up on the auto train on New Year's morning at 6 am, without an auto (a story for another time), I was there to get him and his family. When we moved into our current house and were panicking because we still had items to move and only a few hours until closing on our old house, he organized things and hauled valuables.
We cared deeply for each other. When family tragedies occurred, we were there for each other. When celebrations were in order, we celebrated together. When the Baldrige Program lost funding in 2012, he was there to listen and support me. When he upheld legal and moral principles and was accused of not supporting political decisions (a story that reached the national press), I was there to listen and support him.
And we certainly knew how to have fun; in good New York fashion, we teased each other for the entertainment of others. People always wanted to sit at our table at weddings and any get-together because they knew they would be entertained by our banter. For his last birthday, my son and his wife did a brief video that mimicked the banter on our old nightly phone calls:
Despite COVID-19 attendance restrictions, I had the privilege of being a pallbearer at his funeral. And, his family buried him with a phone, so we could talk at night. I miss the discussions, but I do talk to him.
I hope all of you have the opportunity to have a friend like Lenny. If you haven't been in touch with an old friend for a while, why not make contact today? And remember the core values that will make each of you a better friend. Personal core values are a source of ethical and practical guidance.
Rest in peace, my friend and brother!
My deepest sympathies to you, Harry. What a blessing to have such a friend in your life, and what a tremendous loss... With kind regards and best wishes always, Steffani Webb
Great tribute to your friend and friendship Harry. My condolences for your loss.
Harry this was the best Friend Blog Post I have ever read. So many of us would savour the opportunity to have an eternal friend like Lenny!
You both were so blessed to have such trust, compassion, fun, and on-going engagement with each other throughout the 50 plus years.
Thank-you for sharing your heartfelt story about you and Lenny! I have always wanted to have a friendship relationship like this and appreciate your sharing your story!
You just made my day!
Thanks so very much!
So sorry to hear about your loss Harry - we all need friends like Lenny Loewentritt!
So sorry for your loss but celebrate the life you shared. Thanks you for sharing with us. Namaste
Very touching Harry. How fortunate for you to have a friend like Lenny for so many years. Bruce
A wonderful , touching remembrance , Harry. Sorry for your loss, my friend.
Harry, such a wonderful tribute! Empathy with you as I too miss a bff who has transformed to the next world! We shall take our criteria forward and sounds like your Cat 7 results with your friend are ALL EXCELLENT! Good memories =love
Beautifully put. We miss you, Lenny!
Harry, I was saddened by the loss of your best friend. Your article is a wonderful tribute to your friendship
What a beautiful remembrance of your dear friend, Harry. You were blessed with each other.
I am so sorry for your loss but what a blessing to have had such an incredible friend. Thank your for taking the time to share this and make us all think about how important our friends are.
So sorry for your loss............................
Thank you to everyone who sent me condolences. I will cherish my friendship with Lenny always. I appreciate the indications of friendship from each of you. Each of you, please call a friend this weekend!
Harry - my condolences and sympathy. What a wonderful friendship!
Harry, what a wonderful tribute to your best friend. I am so sorry for your loss. My ROTC Class from college is going through similar feelings as we are about to intern a classmate at Arlington National Cemetery and keep searching for the right words to share with each other as we keep sharing memories of our time together on campus. I think I will share the Friendship Core Values to help us focus our grief as it has you and perhaps fellow BLOGRIGE readers. So glad you were able to be a pallbearer. I know Lenny was comforted having you at his side.
Amazing friendship! Beautiful and loving dedication to a lifetime friend. All who know you Harry, love you and consider themselves fortunate to know you. As a friend, Lenny may have understood you best of all. So very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing, it is an honor to be part of your grieving process.
Oh Harry..what a beautiful tribute. You said the things I feel Lenny was truly a special, caring and lifelong friend. Thank you.
Thanks Trudi. It is so nice to hear from you.