Lionel passed away a year and a half before I had found out. We had lost touch since he had moved away some 20 years ago. I
had always hoped to get in touch with him again, but it just wasn't to be. I was heartbroken the day I found out. I won't get
over this one for awhile. Too young. Too young.
I met Lionel in Philip Morris in 1984. In the lounge, I was reading a chess book lunchtime. He, being an excellent and dedicated player (and a lot more outgoing than me) approached me, in his friendly way, with that smile that could penetrate even my shyness with strangers. So we began to meet almost everyday lunchtime to play a game. Then a friendship developed. He was such a warm, funny guy. No bad event seemed to phase him, I was jealous of him for that. Nothing seemed to shake him. He maintained that pleasant, warm, friendly, smiling personality no matter what the situation. That was a man.
I quickly discovered his talents ranged into music. I was absolutely blown away by his piano performance, I believe in the Whitney museum near where Philip Morris used to be. I had brought my dad up to see, and my dad actually kissed him on the head after. Lionel, with his typical sharp humor (another talent of his) said "Hey, you're a married man".
I was proud to be invited to his wedding. I don't remember much of it except for some youths performing some great dance numbers there. I must have had one drink too many.
The event I remember the most with Lionel was our 4 day trip to Philadelphia for the World Open Chess tournament in 1987. We both just missed winning a cash prize, but the heck with that. I never had so much laughs and fun in my life. Lionel was singing these chess songs to the the tune of old songs (Home on the Range was one), I swear he probably cost us both points because we were too busy laughing to get enought sleep. The trip was about a lot more than chess. It was a blast!
I was so happy when Lionel showed up as a consultant in about 1997 in my company at the time, Guardian Life. More laughs and good times. I remember him being pissed, we went to Juniors for dinner, and I announced I hated cheesecake and refused to eat it.
How about the time he came over my apartment with a friend Jose. He fell asleep on my sofa, so this guy Jose and I are trying to figure out when/if we should wake him. Finally after about an hour he woke up, and it was time to go.
Hey listen, I have a lot more stories about Lionel, really good ones but most of them were personal to him and I'll certainly respect that. Some funny, some serious. Here's to you, Lionel, RIP, to one of the best friends I ever had.