This afternoon I attended the final “Retirement Tour” for Lenny Emery at the Waterville Valley Conference Center. Lenny would have loved it. The Speakeasy bar and restaurant were jam packed with his family and friends. I could just picture Lenny in the middle of the throng, sitting at his piano – playing, singing, telling jokes.
Tom Corcoran, who is out of the country, sent me the following note and asked me to read it at Lenny’s memorial service; but, the place was so crowded and loud, I couldn’t be heard above the din. So, I’d like to share Tom’s letter with you.
In Fond Remembrance of a Great Guy
By Tom Corcoran, Chairman/Founder Waterville Company, Inc.
I remember meeting Lenny for the first time when he showed up in Waterville Valley in the late 1960s. He was extremely bright, with a very quick mind and a way with words. He saw humor and irony all around him, and he hated pretense. He had a rapier wit and a ready smile that concealed almost total irreverence for just about everything, including all forms of authority, which often landed him in trouble.
He was a truly gifted piano player and a natural born leader, a pied piper magnetically attracting all the young people in the valley to his side.
He was also a pain in the neck and a not-so-good influence on the younger set.
One day I called him into my office and told him to go away and grow up, then come back. So he went away and grew up and came back. As I recall he wouldn’t admit that he had grown up, but he did. And I was delighted when he returned to the valley.
He was still irreverent, funny, opinionated and quick to express his opinion, usually on target, readily given in colorful language which was always humorous but with a needle. A lot of us had missed his zest for life and welcomed his return.
I always enjoyed the many times I heard him play the piano at events in the conference center, including the two Alpine World Cup Finals and eight other Alpine World Cup events that we hosted in Waterville Valley.
He was a man with strong beliefs and emotions, and his two greatest loves, apart from his kids and Margaret, were for Waterville Valley, his home town, and for skiing on Mt. Tecumseh, where he was proud of how many days he skied each winter.
I visited Lenny and Margaret this past July and saw him for the last time. His mind was as sharp as ever. We talked for a half-hour or longer about the old days, and he did most of the talking and remembering. His vivid recollection of people and events was far better than mine, and his storytelling opened up pockets in my memory that had been zipped shut.
He was facing death stoically and seemingly without fear. But maybe that was a show for me. Near the end of my visit he recited from memory one of his poems. I think it was “A Skier’s Prayer”, included in his wonderful little book of poems. I said my good byes as best I could, gave hugs to Lenny and Margaret, got in my car and couldn’t stop crying.
He was a really good guy with a heart as big as the sun. I’ll recall him with great fondness to the end of my days, and I expect other Watervillians who knew him will do likewise.