Author’s Note: I wrote this post below and shared it on my “Maria Mitchell’s Attic” blog for the MMA. Since that time, I lost my Dad to Blastic Mantle Cell Lymphoma. After being diagnosed in 2009 and having a stem cell transplant, it returned in April 2013 but was held at bay with Rituximab. That December, tumors again returned and he pretty much lived on chemotherapy. I don’t know anyone who could do what he did. Few knew he was sick, including many of his clients and others; he never complained and powered through as he always did. He went to work everyday, took scads of pills – both for the lymphoma and for his heart since he had chronic heart failure and lived with an implanted pacemaker/defibrillator since about 2007. Ironically, it was likely one of his heart medications that caused his lymphoma. My family is very private and not many knew he was sick – we never look for attention or sympathy and certainly not a crutch. That’s how I was raised. He “gave” Nantucket to us – a lasting legacy – that was begun by my Nana and Other Nana – his mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law whom he both loved as his own. He first came to Nantucket at age 18 to visit them and my mother. The rest is history.
He wanted nothing for an obituary or service but my Mom twisted his arm to get him to write something. He was that private. We did add to it. Unfortunately, locally, some of it was left out; most importantly the poem by Walt Whitman which we chose for him because it says a lot about who he is – and Whitman was his favorite poet. I am taking this space to re-post my blog from the MMA and also his obituary as much as he might be mad at me; he taught me “Do it right or don’t do it at all.” My parents, my family, are my world, and writing about them is the way I can express to them how grateful I am for them and all that I have learned from them. I am, frankly, still in shock; I keep pretending and hiding. People seem to think I am okay; we are okay. We are not and never will be. We sob uncontrollably; he was our world - the strong center of our family that even if he said nothing, his presence was strongly felt. The amount of people who have written us notes – people my parents have not spoken to in years or clients who were no longer clients even – have reached out and its been shocking. We knew how much he did and how much he helped others without being asked or asking for anything in return but his simple presence even seemed to help others. Even his clients have cried. As one said, "who loves their CPA?" Obviously, they all do. So you will see, that the quotes I discuss, really do apply. He leaves a lasting mark – he gave and never took.
There are two quotes of Maria Mitchell’s that I deeply love. The first one is, “Standing under the canopy of the stars one can scarcely do a petty deed or think a wicked thought.” The other is, “The step, however small, which is in advance of the world, shows the greatness of the person, whether that step be taken with brain, with heart, or with hands.”
I have literally looked up at the stars on an evening and said that first quote aloud to myself. I like to think that everyone is looking down on me from above, keeping me in check, and keeping me on the straight and narrow path in some ways. I have been influenced by, taught and mentored by, and loved by so many people – and I have loved them in return. They have carved out a path before me; guided me on my way, and they are the stars who shine over me.
The second quote is something I repeat to myself when I think of certain people. In particular, I think of my parents when I read this quote or repeat it to myself. It means that no matter what you do, no matter how big or small what you do is, it can make a difference and have an impact. My parents are, of course, my stars. But they have also made a difference in my world and the world at large, as I am sure your parents and others have.
Brain: Two very intelligent individuals, they nurture, educate, and expand our minds and help us to better ourselves. They continue to do so and now they also lead the next generation – their three grandchildren. They teach us right from wrong; they are there with wise advice and another way of looking at something. And they put their knowledge and ability to good use, helping others, not just their children and grandchildren. They have taught us well. And, continue to do so.
Heart: They love us unconditionally and they have instilled in us the desire and belief in giving to others and to helping those in need. Compassion, understanding, sympathy, love. Their action of love and support for others has taught us how to be better human beings and better parents. It has taught us that even if we have the last scrap of food on the Earth that there is someone else who needs it more than us and that scrap goes to that person in need. Now, even as my parents suffer, they see others who suffer too and it hurts them even more deeply than what they are going through.
Hands: They have put a roof over our heads. They have wiped our noses, combed our hair, bathed us (sometimes in a small amount of tepid water, Dad!), and hugged us close when we were scared or upset (“The sun is going to burn out, yes, but not for a LONG time, Jascin.” I am sure my Mom wonders why she let me watch “3-2-1 Contact” – so much for children’s science education programming on PBS). They have dug in the Earth and created beautiful life in plants and spent a hot afternoon that was a beach day inside hanging wallpaper – all in order to give us a more perfect surrounding. They have built the world around us.
They have asked for nothing from us is return except that we live our lives to the best of our abilities, help others, and be happy and compassionate individuals.
This is not an easy post to write. Not sure I have done this justice. Words are escaping me. But, I know that when Maria first wrote these lines, she was thinking about her parents, William and Lydia Coleman Mitchell, just as I think about my parents. Thank you, Maria, for putting it so beautifully. And thank you, Dad and Mom, for being incredible role models and such compassionate and loving people.
Lyme- Jack (Alphonse) Leonardo of Lyme, Connecticut died at home on February 13, 2016 after a long battle with Blastic Mantle Cell Lymphoma.
He was born on June 22, 1946 in New Haven. He leaves his loving wife of forty-seven years, Melodee. In addition, he is survived by his daughter, Jascin (Eric) Leonardo Finger of Nantucket and his son, Jarrod (Stacey) of Lyme. He leaves three beloved grandchildren: Elise Grace and Holden Matthew Leonardo and Nolan Absalom Leonardo Finger. He was predeceased by his parents, Alphonse P. and Mary Leonardo. Jack was the Presidential Scholar of his graduating class of 1968 at Quinnipiac College. He served four years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. A talented and highly respected C.P.A., Jack had a practice in New Haven, later moving it to Branford and finally Lyme; Leonardo & Associates P.C. He was a long-time treasurer of the Lyme Congregational Church and the Lyme Public Hall giving generously of his time and talents.
Jack and his family would like to thank Doctors Dennis Cooper and Stuart Seropian of Smilow Cancer Hospital in addition to Julie Baker, APRN and the wonderful team of infusion nurses and other personnel of the Hematology Department on the seventh floor of Smilow for their kindness, expertise, and exceptional care.
Per Jack’s request, there will be no services.
Contributions may be made on behalf of Jack to the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, P.O.Box 1002, Lyme, CT 06371 or Defenders of Wildlife, 1130 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036.
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun
and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every
one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants,
argue not concerning God. -Walt Whitman
The Nation of Nantucket
The “Nation of Nantucket” was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1847. It was used by Edward Byers as the title of his 1987 publication on Nantucket society and politics from 1660 – 1820. Both men spoke of the isolation and uniqueness of Nantucket and that such a title was fitting for our tiny spit of land far out at sea. I, too, feel that it is appropriate – on many levels. I use it as the title of this column because here I intend to regale you with all sorts of stories about Nantucketers, island life, island institutions, and the history (good and bad) of a small island that had an enormous influence on the world. My focus will be mainly on Nantucket women, of course, but I will add some other things of interest to me – and I hope you – as well. Stay tuned and to read my blog for the Maria Mitchell Association go to “Maria Mitchell’s Attic.” And to read more about Nantucket's daring daughters, check out my new book The Daring Daughters of Nantucket Island: How Island Women from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries Lived a Life Contrary to Other American Women available at island bookstores and on Nantucket Chronicle's Marketplace.
Jascin N. Leonardo Finger has served as curator of the Mitchell House at the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association since 1999. She holds a Master’s in History. Her passions are her family, all things Nantucket, good food, weaving, and photographing historic architecture. The island has been a part of her life since she was introduced to it at age 1½ by her parents. She lives year-round on the island with her husband, a naval architect, their son, and their Siberian Husky who takes them on long walks from one glorious end of the island to the other.