THE END OF AN ERA
Lakin remembered for his intellect and compassion
The Gardner News
By Mary Moreau
February 28, 2001
passing of Leo Lakin after a century and two years of life brings
a feeling of loss in this community, a sense of this being the
end of an era.
For more than
six decades until recent years, this gentle man of the old school
and dean of Gardner merchants was a familiar sight walking through
the business district, greeting people with a smile. He lived
a full life, even when beset by physical concerns. Several times,
he defied the odds given by his doctors, bouncing back enough
to be in his beloved store. His objective was always to get back
to work as soon as he could. He could not abide idleness, never
could just sit at home.
Mr. Lakin genuinely
loved people and had great faith in them. He loved his adopted
Gardner, which had opened its arms to him and his wife, Ida, when
they arrived here in 1935 to open Lakin's Children's Shop. The
couple worked side by side for 51 years until Ida's death in 1986.
The store, which became his life, is now owned by their daughter,
His philosophy on life, which was
to have a purpose, keep moving, keep interested in life and have
a sense of humor, was something he put into practice every day.
He hoped for the best in a changing world firmly believing that
common sense would eventually prevail. Despite ominous news, he
believed things would get better in the country and that the low
points were only temporary.
He had seen unimagined changes
in technology, and believed that people should pursue knowledge.
Hadassah Freilich Lieberman, Gardner
native who is the wife of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut,
recent Democratic vice presidential candidate, shared her thoughts
about the man who was a close family friend.
"He was a great man of integrity,
such an incredible intellect, a totally self-made man, very well-read
and self-taught. My Dad and Mr. Lakin would get together on Saturday
nights and talk about the great philosophers for hours. It was
great," she said "He was a real help for my family when we first
moved here. We're going to miss him. I loved him very much. He
taught us all to be patient and non-judgemental."
Mayor Daniel J. Kelley said Mr.
Lakin will be missed in the community, recalling the man who was
fluent in French often walking by his Baker Street home years
"He used to come down and seek
out the French-speaking people. I couldn't understand why. I knew
these people, knew they could only speak French, he interacted
with them to keep up his French. I used to enjoy going into the
store (as a firefighter) when they were both alive. They were
very interesting people."
"If you knew him, you liked him.
He was Gardner, he loved Gardner. His whole world was his store.
His was quite a generational business which we'll never see again.
Businesses don't cater to the generations today. Not that that
is wrong, but it is the way of business today," Kelley said.
Michael Ellis, president and CEO
of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce had high praise for
"He was a testament of good business
ethics, strong work ethics and set a standard for all businessmen.
He had a great soul and heart and will be greatly missed in the
business community and by his daughter, whom he truly loved and
enjoyed," he said. "He was unbelievably perceptive. He had a great
take on life and had an amazing insight on human nature. He's
the kind of guy we all aspire to be."
Mr. Lakin enjoyed singing, leading
services at the former Synagogue Ohave Sholom, and singing a capella
in activities at his rehabilitation center.
People from all walks of like who
knew him admired his wit and his memory for detail, even into
his latest years. The personal and business ethic and integrity
he brought here with him are what he kept all his life. He treated
people with consideration, as he said he wanted to be treated.
He humbly accepted many honors
and recognitions, civic and in business, locally and statewide.
He was pleased appreciative, but never sought the limelight himself.
He was fond of saying, "I'm glad
I settled in Gardner." To which Gardner might reply, "We're glad
you did, too."