Updated: January 7, 2013 7:13AM
A very dear friend lost his battle with cancer this week, and although he can now rest in peace, he will be missed, not only by his wife of 59 years and his family, but by many whose lives he touched.
Len Pera was a unique and positive man — and he also was a giver of his time, talents and energy.
You have probably never heard of him, and there will be no statue or special awards bestowed on him for his life’s work, but if he was involved in your life in any way, he will always be in your memory.
When he lost most of his eyesight in his early 50s due to an eye malady similar to macular degeneration, followed by the loss of a leg three years later, it would seem that he would have every reason to be bitter and quit on life.
But not Len. He never complained or exhibited the “poor me” syndrome, but rather decided to live a happy and prosperous life.
After retiring from Bethlehem Steel because of his “disabilities,” he volunteered at the Special Education Learning Facility as our art instructor, and remained a full-time “staff” member until the program changed.
The amazing skills he developed in many of the students — painting, ceramics, crafts — also gave the budding artists pride that carried over into other areas of their schooling.
While reminiscing about Len with his son Paul, he told me that his dad said if he had known how great working with kids was, he would have retired even sooner.
Len exuded a joy and love not just for the youngsters, but for what he accomplished with children who also had “disabilities.” When school was no longer an option, he found other ways to give of himself, even being a member of the Banta kitchen band, laughing at the fun they had being funny.
He encouraged other seniors to leave the frowns at home and only bring the smiles with them.
Len also volunteered at Whispering Pines to bring his love of life and happiness to residents who found themselves becoming artists in the twilight of their lives — all by a man who spent his time in a wheelchair, and had so little sight that he had to “read” via books on tape.
As a Valparaiso Lions Club member and through his involvement in the Low Vision Support Group, his presence was never in the background.
Even if I hadn’t seen him for several months, when we met, he was the same Len, always making you feel that he was really happy to be with you. He led life to its fullest, and I’m sure that he already is telling God how He should be doing things differently or better.
I also believe that his wish to be able to see his first great-grandchild, who is due to be born in February, has already come true for him.
Thanks for the memories, dear Len. You are my pet person of the week.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and it all started with the birth of a baby, who to many of us is still our best gift every year.
It is a beautiful time of the year to drive around our county at night and delight in all the outdoor decorations..
When we come around the corner of our neighborhood, it is so warming to see a row of homes all decked out in their splendor, each with its own special touch.
Take a ride with your family and enjoy. Don’t forget to visit the lovely display at Sunset Hill Farm County Park at the corner of U.S. 6 and Meridian Road.
Then I hope you have a great day because you deserve it.
Thanks for reading. Fly your flag.