Lenny Mather—Obituary and Statements from Jim Douglass and Randy Kehler

Lenny Mathers

Frank Lenny Hubert Mather died in Cambridge on June 14, 2018 of natural causes. Born in Lansing, Michigan on January 5, 1948 to Frank Hubert and Frieda Eva (Guttmann) Mather, Lenny retained a strong affection for Michigans Upper Peninsula: the town of L’Anse where he lived for a number of years, the family home in Keweenaw Bay, and Lake Superior which Lenny always called Gitche Gumee, its Ojibwe name. An admirer of the comedian Lenny Bruce, Frank went by the name of Lenny Mather for all the years he lived in the Boston area. In the 60s at Michigan State University Frank Mather became an anti-war activist and an early member of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). A politically savvy researcher Lenny spent all his adult life educating himself and others about the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. In 1993 on the 30th anniversary of JFK’s death, he helped organize a conference at Harvard University about JFK’s assassination attended by many notable authors and Marina Oswald Porter. In 2010 Lenny organized a talk at the Harvard- Epworth Church for Jim Douglass, the author of “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters”. In November 2017 Lenny participated in a community reading at UMass Boston of Court Dorsey’s play, “Project Unspeakable” based on the Douglass book. Frank Hubert “Lenny” Mather is survived by one sister, Robin Mather Nagel of Oakland, California, two nephews Daniel (Letitia) Nagel of Vista, CA, and Benno Nagel, of Oakland, CA. Condolences may be sent to [email protected] Lenny had been homeless for many years so donations in his name may be made to Solutions at Work, Cambridge, MA whose programs benefit homeless and formerly homeless persons. Contact solutionsatwork.org, or donate to them through; smile.amazon.com.

Published in The Cambridge Chronicle from Dec. 1 to Dec. 13, 2018


The following statements were read by Court Dorsey at a memorial service for Lenny on November 11, 2018.

Statement from Jim Douglass

When Randy called, reminding me of Lenny’s memorial gathering today, suggesting I share some thoughts on our friend, my first one was: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the son of humanity has nowhere to lay his head.”

I think the prophet from Nazareth meant not just his wandering self but much of humanity. That was the plight of our friend, Lenny Mather, a boundlessly energetic organizer for enlightenment and liberation on issues that will determine whether humankind lives or dies…but with nowhere to lay his own head for so many of his days…perhaps necessarily so to be Lenny.

I met Lenny in person the night of the Cambridge talk he organized that Randy has described in his beautiful reflection on our brother. I don’t think that event would have happened at all without Lenny’s endless energy, contacts, and work — whose organizing details I heard about from him during many phone calls, Boston-to-Birmingham, in the preceding weeks. What I recall most about Lenny after the talk that night was not so much the late-night conversation but one the two of us resumed in the very early morning. Or to be more specific, one he resumed from his sleeping bag on the floor in the pre-dawn hours, letting me know on the other side of the room that it was time to talk about Bob Dylan. We spent hours exploring Dylan’s life and music until the day broke, a subject Lenny was as fervent about as he was about JFK and 9/11.

Lenny and I remained in long-distance touch by periodic phone calls through the years. Lenny would call from a cafe where he hung out while doing his organizing — with his laptop computer vanishing when he occasionally took his eyes off it. He was always scrambling at the end of those days for an attic, a garage, a friend’s couch — some place where he could lay down his head. He was always enthusiastic about whatever project he was working on and encouraged me deeply in my work.

I would only see him one more time, briefly at a JFK conference in Dallas. He stayed on after I returned to Birmingham. My last painful memory of Lenny is that I heard by phone from a friend in Dallas that he was looking for a place to stay overnight other than a bus or train station before his departure. By a discouraging remark, I may have kept her from helping him. I believe in our continuing communion with our elders who have passed. I ask Lenny’s forgiveness for that night.

I don’t know how Lenny managed to be who he was and do what he did, as a joyful, pain-in-the-neck organizer for what he envisioned for us all, but without a place to rest his own head — until he found one in the last stage of his life, thanks to the deep kindness of a friend. Somewhere along the way, maybe at the point when he decided his name would be “Lenny” after Lenny Bruce, I think our friend made the choice to be as free as he could be, to do the freeing work he felt called to do. He suffered through the consequences.

Yes, Lenny could be a pain, but he endured an awful lot of it. I’m deeply grateful for having known him. And for knowing his inspiring presence now. He was a gutsy, spirit-filled, beautiful guy — a true son of humanity in what he felt and saw from his heart, lived out on the streets, and endured through his life for the sake of a better life and world for us all.

Gratitude, love, and peace to him and to you all,

Jim Douglass
Sunday, November 11, 2018

 

Statement from Randy Kehler

Dear friends,

I’m very sorry not to be able to be with you today to pay tribute to our dear friend Lenny. I say “dear friend” because Lenny really did seem like a dear friend, even though he and I only met, in person, once.

We had met by phone, however.  I’d been given his name – or perhaps he’d been given mine – when I was organizing a New England speaking tour for Jim Douglass, the author of the then recently published and already much-acclaimed (as well as, of course, ridiculed and dismissed) JFK and the Unspeakable – a book all of you here today are, no doubt, familiar with.  I’d been told — perhaps by Jim, or maybe by someone I knew in the Boston area who knew Lenny – that Lenny would probably be willing to help organize a talk for Jim in Cambridge.  And he was — immediately, without hesitation  He was not only willing, but effusively enthusiastic.  Which made me take a liking to him right away.

You won’t be surprised to hear that Lenny actually did much more than “help.” As far as I could tell, based on our many long (very long and always very animated) phone conversations prior to the event —  which, by the way, took place at the Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church on Mass Avenue, on Friday evening, October 1st, 2010 — he was the primary “mover and shaker” responsible for making it happen. He had help from some of his fellow members of the Greater Boston Alliance for 911 Truth and Justice, but as far as I could tell he did at least 90% of the work.

With every ensuing phone conversation we had prior to October 1st, Lenny filled me in on more and more ideas he had for promoting the event, all of which he followed through on — including posters all around Cambridge and in key places in Boston, flyers passed out a local events, spots on local radio stations, information sent to potentially sympathetic organizations, and a nearly full-page ad in the Harvard Crimson just before Jim’s talk.

As an organizer myself, I was really impressed and couldn’t help but wonder who this Lenny guy was — this incredibly enthusiastic, energetic, seemingly indefatiguable, non-stop-talking, super-organizer-of-a-guy.

The event went well, by the way, although we were disappointed by the scant turn-out of Harvard and other college-age students.  In retrospect, probably no surprise.

After the event was over, a number of us from out of town, including Jim, walked over to the staff residence of Cambridge Friends Meeting on nearby Longfellow Park where John Bach and his wife, the resident staff, had offered to put us up for the night. Lenny asked if he could join us, so that we could de-brief the event. We said “sure,” and he came along — talking all the way, of course.

Then, once we’d arrived, he asked if he could spend the night there with us; he said he could be happy sleeping on the floor or a couch. When we asked where his home was, he said he didn’t have one, that he was “homeless” and lived “on the streets,” spending nights wherever someone would put him up. I was stunned to hear that, having assumed that anyone as experienced an organizer and as obviously well-connected as he was — not to mention someone well into “middle age” – could be “homeless.”

It turned out to be a long, late night, with Lenny keeping the conversation going — and us awake! — till well after midnight, mostly by peppering Jim with a million questions related to Jim’s years of research for his JFK book.

The next morning Lenny joined us for a quick breakfast at a nearby eating place on Mass Ave., where, of course, he once again engaged us in non-stop, fast-moving, animated conversation.  And then Jim and I took off for Jim’s next speaking engagement – in Weston, Vermont, I think.

I didn’t see Lenny again, or have any contact with him, until one evening in Amherst two or three years later.  We were in the brand new auditorium of the Amherst Junior High School where our Project Unspeakable was staging a dramatic reading of Court Dorsey’s exciting, theatrical script about the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm, Martin, and RFK, based on Jim’s book. It was a packed house, a great evening.

At the end, after I stood up and made my usual pitch for donations to support the Project’s work, who should come up to me with a big grin and give me a big hug but, of course, Lenny!  He said, “Randy, do you remember me?  I’m Lenny!”  Of course, I immediately remembered him, and we had a great, but all-too-short conversation.  He said he’d heard about the Amherst reading and had hitched a ride with someone he knew who was coming out from Cambridge for it (or, more likely, someone he persuaded to come out for it.)

His greeting really touched my heart.  I’ll never forget that wonderfully endearing moment.  I only wish that Lenny and I had somehow stayed in touch, before then, and after.  Despite all his eccentricities and craziness, he was clearly a great soul. And it makes me sad that he is no longer with us.

Thank you, everyone, for being here today to celebrate him.

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