By David Stanczak
My dad was a preacher, but not in the Reverend Mr. Black sense. He would never “preach hot hell or freezin’ snow.” Rather he was a preacher in the sense of a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach constantly. Use words if necessary.”
My dad, Leonard Stanczak, “Leo” to all who knew him did a lifetime a preaching, mostly by example. As his oldest son, I had 72 years to absorb what he preached. He preached responsibility, working wherever needed to take care of his family: at a factory, doing construction work, owning a bowling alley, delivering milk, and selling life insurance. He took his obligation so seriously that he was miffed when my mother got a part time job, which he took as a slight to his ability to provide. I’ve seen him go to work in wintry weather, coughing and hacking when most people would have been in bed. But he never complained about it.
My dad preached joy in living. He threw himself enthusiastically into everything he did. The composers of the song “Whistle While You Work” might have used my dad for inspiration. He often did whistle while he worked and spontaneously at other times; he frequently whistled (often imitating bird calls) to the delight of me and my brothers, our children and grand-children, all of whom were instinctively drawn to his kind and gentle nature. He kept his whistling talent even in his 90’s, when he was known to whistle the hymns sung at Mass at Victory Lakes senior care center.
He preached devotion to family, delighting in his children, grandchildren (one of whom still refers to him as “my hero”), and great-grandchildren. In an age where marriage seems subject to the maxim, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (with someone else), my dad preached fidelity, staying devoted to my mom, not just during their 72 years of marriage, but even the three years after she passed away; missing her was his dominant emotion every day thereafter. It was sad but touching to see him longing so for what he couldn’t have.
My dad preached forgiveness. Ever a peacemaker, he promptly sought forgiveness from anyone he thought he wronged and forgave trespasses to him freely. I never knew him to hold a grudge against anyone for anything. As a result, everyone liked him. When I’d visit him at Victory Lakes, everyone I met on the staff spontaneously gushed about how everyone loved him and how great it was to have him there.
He once did use words to “preach” to me, briefly after I got upset in a baseball game and walked two batters. At the end of the inning, he asked me about the walks; I explained that I got mad because my left fielder let a fly ball go right through his hands, resulting in 3 runs. He said, “Just remember: you lose your head, your butt goes with it.”
My dad’s preaching ended on March 18, 2018, when he died at age 98. I write about him instead of my usual stuff because, as great a person as he was, he’s unknown down here; I wanted to give WJBC listeners a little insight into the greatest man I ever knew and whom I will miss until my dying day, despite my happiness at knowing he’s where he’s wanted to be ever since mom died. “I followed him, yes sir, and I don’t regret it, hope that I’ll always be a credit to his memory, ‘cause I want you to understand. The (Rev. Leo Stanczak) was my old man.”
David Stanczak, a WJBC commentator since 1995, came to Bloomington in 1971. He served as the City of Bloomington’s first full-time legal counsel for over 18 years, before entering private practice. He is currently employed by the Snyder Companies and continues to reside in Bloomington with his family.
The opinions expressed within WJBC’s Voices are solely those of the Voices’ author, and are not necessarily those of WJBC or Cumulus Media, Inc.