Friday, March 4, 2016 || By Michael Romain
Lennel Grace, the man for whom many people who care about Maywood considered this town’s living, breathing embodiment and one of its brightest hopes, died suddenly yesterday evening, according to close relatives. He was 66 years old.
While his cause of death is still not known, its reverberations are already apparent. There’s a hole now in the heart of this village so big — and I now echo the words of Rolando Villegas, one his closest friends — a hundred men couldn’t fill it.
In this hole, as visceral and crater-like as the McCook Quarry, an eerie silence permeates and spreads into darkness. You look down in it, try describing its magnitude, and your words, along with your stunned reaction, are immediately eaten by the abyss.
That’s what it’s like writing this about someone who was so critical to what you’re reading today. The Village Free Press, for whatever its worth, would not be much without Lennel — who introduced me, and this publication, to a Maywood that many people, even those who live here, don’t know exist.
This village of marshmallow-chocolate-and-hickory-scented backyard bonfires; of more than century-old brick once touched by the hands of Frank Lloyd Wright protégés; of rooms rehabbed with elbow grease and love; of summer barbecues crowded with pre-med students; of Hollywood-style production sets; of righteousindignation; of politics and politics and politics — all of this and more is the work of Lennel’s brilliant gift for unveiling.
To give you some idea (for the few who may not have experienced this gift firsthand), this is often how it worked. You would be asleep, or distracted, or pleasantly alone, or with friends, or wrapped in work, and the phone would ring. It would be Lennel on the other line with some hilariously obnoxious or self-deprecating introduction, such as, “This is your mentor,” or “This is your leader,” or “This is your cub reporter,” or “This is your brother from another,” or “This is God himself,” or “This is the most important person in your life” (I’m being only halfway facetious).