Tony Leonard died Saturday in a Lexington nursing home; he was 89.
For those of you who didn't know him (and I wish I had known him better) let me sum up his long, achievement-filled life in one four letter word: L-O-V-E.
Tony came here in the early '60s as a nightclub entertainer, and fell in love with the Blue Grass. He was to stay fifty years.
He loved to perform and he was pretty good. He sang the national anthem at Yankee Stadium, and often sang to open UK games in Rupp Arena.
While here he got to know and love horses, and soon his hobby of taking their pictures became his full time profession. He loved photography , and was pretty good at that, too. His pictures won an Eclipse award; a top racing honor. He won an international photo award and was named personal photographer to Queen Elizabeth when she visited here to see her horses.
But nothing in his life of love surpassed that of his love for Adelle, his wife of 66 years. She worked with him first as an entertainer, later urged him to make photography his real work, and encouraged him throughout their life together.
When her health--and his--failed, they moved into an assisted living facility together. Later, she worsened and had to be moved into a full time nursing home. Tony, who could have stayed in the assisted living facility, went with her..and there he died, holding Adelle's hand.
In their last few years, the couple's declining medical and financial conditions made them first, wards of the state and then placement in a guardianship program. Articles in the Herald-Leader spotlighted the inadequate care this understaffed, underfunded program was giving them, and eventually led to the assisted living placement.
Hopefully their example, even in this time of bare budgets, may lead to better programs for taking care of the elderly..maybe yours, maybe in time, even you.
If so, the love Tony (and Adelle) gave us in so many ways, will be repaid, at least partially.
Farewell, Tony...and thanks for the love.
I'm just sayin'...