In a touching ceremony under a bright sky attended by nearly the whole town of Willow Cove, Lennie Guttman was finally laid to rest on Saturday, a week and a half after being brutally murdered in his own bowling alley.
Looking around at the faces gathered to pay their respects to Lennie, it was impossible not to feel the profound effect he had on this community and its people. Eulogized by no less than five mourners, Lennie’s legacy was evident in every moment of the service.
Lennie’s wife, Marcie Guttman, gave a moving testimony to Lennie’s tender yet stalwart love as both a husband and a father. Frank Kraft, nearly inseparable from Lennie since their elementary-school days, talked at length of Lennie’s accomplishments and would have made even a complete stranger come to love him. “Whether it was his three-win performance in the ’95 playoffs,” Kraft said, “when he struck out 40 guys and put three out of the yard, or the kindness he showed the young man who will soon be taking this podium, the thing about Lennie is that you could always depend on him. He was a rock for us all.”
The young man Kraft referred to was Sigmund Buttle, who left not a dry eye in the house with his eloquently touching account of Lennie as a better father to him than the one biology gave him could ever be. By far the most surprising eulogy of the day came from Jake Perry, who stepped up to speak only when Gloria Blatt’s emotions got the best of her and she couldn’t proceed. To those not accustomed to Jake’s wry wit and light touch, this was a far cry from the Tom’s Place mainstay they thought they knew all about.
But the most heart-wrenching moments of the day were when Lennie’s firstborn, Jack, stood to speak. Clearly intending and wanting to say more, he could barely get past his correction of “Uncle Frank” that his dad had also hit three more homers in games he didn’t pitch in those playoffs before hastily retreating in a vain attempt to hide his tears.
The Sheriff’s Department is still investigating Lennie’s murder. New evidence has recently come to light, giving hope to many that justice may soon be served.
While a man like Lennie Guttman can never be replaced, this day at least gave us hope that, in having touched and inspired so many around him, Lennie’s last gift to us all may be the desire to live up to his example