02 Dec Senior in Action – Leonard “Len” Leventhal
Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.
Senior in Action – Leonard “Len” Leventhal
by Marilee Marrero Stefenhagan
Are you willing to reveal your age, Len?
Sure, I’ll turn 90 on December 10, 2018,.
How do you fit the title, “Senior in Action?”
For one thing, I belong to OLLI, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSU Fullerton. It’s the largest Lifelong Learning Institute in the country with over 1600 participants. Philanthropist Bernard Osher provided funding to keep it going. Classes are available six days a week. Cost is roughly $260 per year, which includes campus parking. I’m Historian for OLLI, and was once on the OLLI Board. I chose to live at Sunnycrest because I can use their bus to travel to OLLI classes at CSU Fullerton, a great perk. Due to macular degeneration, I can no longer see well enough to drive.
What OLLI classes have you taken?
An OLLI class I coordinated, Roman and Byzantine History, was taught by a retired judge. I operated his slide projector, set up his wireless microphone, and prepared a humorous introduction for each session. I took the Life Story class and wrote a book of memoirs which I printed, titled My Life As I Lived It. Another class I enjoy is Genealogy. Family history is my main hobby; I’ve researched both my family tree and my wife’s family genealogy to pass on to our children. NBY readers can learn more about OLLI campuses and classes online at https://www.calstate.edu/extension/about/osher.shtml
Any family stories you’d like to share?
My parents raised me in Chicago, until we moved to Oklahoma City when I was 15. My father never finished college; he took care of inventory at an IBM “Selectric” typewriter warehouse. He outsold the salesmen! My mother occasionally worked retail in department stores. I had one sister. She fell in love, married a man from Peru and lived in Lima for ten years, then moved to Israel. Unfortunately, she was a smoker and passed away in her late fifties from lung cancer.
I earned my BA in Economics from the University of Oklahoma. After graduation, my first stop was in Yuma, AZ as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Army. Those were my footloose and fancy-free days. I measured ballistic test-firing of artillery and stared at cactus. After a year I had heard enough explosions, so I moved to Los Angeles. My future wife Theda and I met at a Youth Group fundraising committee for the Jewish Community Center in the San Fernando Valley. We enjoyed a 57-year marriage, raising a daughter and three sons. Theda developed ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and died in 2014. It’s comforting that three of my four children live nearby; my oldest son moved to Australia. My five grandchildren, ages 13 to 26, give me great pride in their accomplishments.
When I moved to Sunnycrest, I never expected a second chance at romance until I met Sandra, a fellow resident. We both like to dance at the Fullerton Community Center. We started dancing together, and now we’re “going steady.”
What other interests do you pursue?
When I was young, I was in Scouts for short periods, but the Scoutmasters kept getting drafted into military service during World War II. My three sons were involved in Boy Scouts, and two achieved Eagle Scout rank, as did one grandson. I volunteered forty years as a Scout Commissioner, working with Cub packs and Scout troops. In recognition of my passion for scouting, the Boy Scouts of America presented me the Silver Beaver Award for Distinguished Service to Youth by the Orange County Council in 1989. (see photo)
To stay fit, I used to run. Now I mostly walk. At the Senior Olympic games in Pasadena, I participated in eight track events, and came home with a bunch of medals. Outside my window, you can see my favorite walking route; the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt and Trail that winds through Fullerton. I also like snorkeling and marveling at underwater creatures.
Was your career related to your hobbies?
No, my 40 years of professional work can be divided into two periods: (1) a statistician in the defense and aerospace Industry from 1951 -1970, and 2) financial activities with the Los Angeles Unified School District from 1971-1993. Both involved numbers but one set was probabilities and equipment specifications and the second involved dollars.”
Thank you, Len for sharing your story and introducing NBY readers to OLLI. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes are offered at CSU Long Beach, CSU Fullerton, and UC Irvine.