March 26, 2015

Jerry, Frankie & Lenny; The End of a Powerful Era

December 7th 1941 was a day that has lived in infamy. But for the the New Jersey Builders Association, December 6th, 2014 will be the day that ushered in the end of an era, a powerful era. That Saturday afternoon, Leonard (Lenny) Sendelsky joined his NJBA brothers, Jirair (Jerry) Hovnanian and Frank (Frankie) Farinella. The three Legends of Housing, and truer legends will never be found, are eternally reunited and Heaven became that much better and feistier.

Lenny fought to the very end and anybody that knew him well knew that it was going to take more than cancer to take Lenny out. Unfortunately, we all learned on that day in December that not even Lenny could refuse God's calling him home. When I received the call, I cried. It hurt. I had become very close with Lenny and I knew he was always there for me... until now. I was comforted by my wife, Kathleen, who knew I was devastated by this news. We all knew it was coming but still, it was Lenny. He would not lose. He never did. Shock came to NJBA staff and NJBA family. Shock because we all thought he would never be taken. My thoughts went to Frankie and Jerry that night and I realized that all three were now gone. That realization hurt as much as the call from Barry Rosengarten, Lenny's long time friend and a past NJBA president, informing me of Lenny's passing.
Even though I had heard many times that time waits for no one I know that time can not take the memories we all have of these three incredible men who fought harder than anyone I have ever met to protect housing here in New Jersey and they delivered their passion to the National Association of Home Builders as well. All three brought a fierce NJ attitude to the discussions and never backed away or down, from anything or anyone, if they firmly believed they were right. Trust me, most times, they were right.

It was a cold day on December 11th, the day Lenny was laid to rest. Cold, gray skies, a snow flurry with  family and friends. The pastor spoke but I didn't really hear any of his words. I just couldn't believe that Lenny was gone. In fact, it wasn't until this past week's Atlantic Builders Convention, an event that was missing Lenny for the first time in more than 50 years, that I could finally say goodbye to my friend. NJBA had a memorial garden for Lenny, with members passing through, smiling with tears in their eyes. Current and past NJBA leadership, along with NJBA staff, sharing memories during the actual memorial service that had Lenny's family in attendance. 
I had the honor of saying a few words but for the first time in my professional life, I struggled with words. How can you explain the loss? How can I relay to those listening that Lenny was not just a mentor, but a protector and father like figure? I did my best but when I concluded I wanted to make sure all listening knew of Lenny's passion and commitment to our industry and that I would hope he touched us all the way he touched me.

When all was said and the service concluded, I walked away from the garden knowing that I can finally, in my mind, lay Lenny to rest and be peaceful within my thoughts knowing that Lenny has been reunited with Jerry and Frankie and I smile because I know that they are having some very candid discussions in Heaven.
This week at convention, and spending time just sitting in the garden area, is was what led me to writing about Lenny today, almost four months after his passing, to bring closure to reality but refresh memories that will live on.

Our NJBA state board meetings will never be the same. These three great men will never be duplicated and we will all miss those three Legends dearly. God Bless all three of you and rejoice that the gang is back together.

Lenny, Godspeed, my friend. 

Len Sendelsky seated, center, with Frank and Jerry's children. Left to right; Steve and Mary (Farinella) Caporaso. Peter and Stephen Hovnanian. All five, NJBA past presidents. Picture was taken in October 2013 when NJBA bestowed on Lenny the NJBA Lifetime Achievement Award.

 The Len Sendelsky Memorial Garden
Just a sampling of pictures and awards from Lenny's life
(A very special thank you to NJBA staff member, Lisa Obolsky, and Lenny's local EO from the Shore Builders Association, Gina Woolley, for making the Memorial Garden a reality. Click on each picture to enlarge) 

 







 submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

1 comment:

Jim Smirl said...

Lenny was always one of my mentors and friends at the NAHB BUILD PAC. I will never forget him.

Jim Smirl
California