Leonard Zani passed away peacefully on Monday, November 23, 2020 at his Danvers home while surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by two sons, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Born on August 23, 1932 in Medford, MA, Leonard was the twelfth of thirteen children. He was raised in a warm and loving bi-lingual, Italian American household. The family had little money; young Leonard had just a portion of a drawer in which to keep his hand-me-down clothes and personal items. Leonard often proudly recalled his childhood by saying, “We were poor and we didn’t even know it!”
Later, Leonard attended the former Salem Teachers College with his brothers, Dick and Fred. There, the three “Valiant Brothers” as they were known, developed many life-long friendships. Leonard graduated in 1954 and then enlisted in the United States Army. He was stationed in Germany from 1954 to 1956 and was honorably discharged.
Leonard subsequently attended graduate school at Tufts University, earning a Master’s Degree in Counseling in 1957. He began his career in education as a guidance counselor at the Manchester-Essex Regional High School. He often recalled his Manchester years and friendships there with great fondness.
In 1959, he married Kirsten I. Grindheim, originally from Norway. The couple moved to Danvers in 1961, where they raised their two sons, Paul and Alan. There, Kirsten began a long career in elder care and real estate; Leonard continued teaching and counseling.
In 1969, Leonard was awarded a Doctor of Education degree by the University of Buffalo. In 1970, he joined the faculty at Salem State College (now Salem State University). Leonard was incredibly proud of his alma mater and loved giving back to the college that had educated him. During his career at Salem State University, Leonard served as a Professor of Psychology, Dean of Students, and, chaired both the Psychology and Education Departments. Of all his roles, he loved teaching the most.
On his 45th birthday in 1977, Leonard suffered a heart stoppage and underwent an ensuing out-of-body experience while at his Park St. home. Later, after recovering, he accurately described where everyone was in the house and what they were doing at the time. He further recalled how he was told it was not his time and was returned to us. So, we were all gifted with having him for another 43 years!
In 2015, Leonard lost Kirsten to Parkinson’s disease. He often recalled how she had encouraged and supported him in furthering his education and career. She was very proud of his many accomplishments, as he was of hers.
More recently, and as Leonard’s health declined, an EMT was positioning him onto a gurney for a hospital trip. Prior to transferring him onto the gurney, the EMT asked Leonard what was bothering him the most. Leonard replied that he was worried about his family. Although an amusing response at the time, it was typically selfless and represented what he valued the most.
Leonard will be remembered as a man who had the ability to develop many close and enduring friendships across the arc of his life. Connecting with others was easy for Leonard. People were drawn to him by his warm and giving nature. Shaped by his upbringing, he was often frugal in his own account but incredibly generous and sharing with others. Just as Leonard was modest about his own significant career and academic achievements, he took great pride in recounting the accomplishments of his friends and family.
As his health declined, Leonard was not able to verbally communicate well but wanted all his friends and family, with whom he each had a special and unique relationship, to know that he loves us all. Please remember that relationship for a moment and you will smile.
William Yeats wrote, “Think where man’s glory begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” Deep and lasting friendships and a great love of family were the hallmarks of Leonard Zani’s life. He was a humble, kind and gentle man.
By reason of the COVID pandemic, burial will be private and directed by the Mackey Funeral Home. He will miss all of you but would never want to endanger any of you.
Expressions of sympathy may be made in Leonard’s memory to the Salem State University Foundation, 352 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA 01972 with a special note to add to the Dr. Leonard P. Zani Endowment. Alternately, you can make a gift online at (https://participate.salemstate.edu/give), select In Memory/Honor then select : “other” from the drop-down list, and designate to: “Leonard P. Zani Endowment.”
To send flowers to Dr. Leonard P. Zani's family, please visit our floral store.
Leonard P. Zani Endowment
Select in Memory/Honor - then choose "Other" & designate: Leonard P. Zani