Mark Perzel nicknamed him The Mighty Mighty Len Sternberg and it stuck. Len joined the WGUC staff in 1998 and for 16 years he raised money for WGUC and later, WVXU. His passion for classical music brought him to Cincinnati Public Radio, but his love of public radio and his colleagues was even deeper.
Len raised millions of dollars for his favorite stations, attended hundreds of events and met with thousands of listeners over the years. He also led music tours to Germany, Cuba, France and Budapest (to name just a few). Combining his love of travel and music was a dream come true, and Len always came back with some great stories and souvenirs for his colleagues.
Len was compassionate, adventurous and generous, but what we will all remember most is his unforgettable and infectious laugh.
Staff members have shared their thoughts about Len below and we invite you to add yours as well.
This task is so difficult to execute; how does one sum up a life -- especially the life of a comrade in arms and a friend?
Len was many things. Loving husband. Devoted father. Trusted counsellor and advisor. Dedicated co-worker. Mensch. Len enjoyed life, and his enjoyment was infectious. He possessed the soul of an adventurer, and that led him to sample exotic locales and cuisines from which the far less daring among us (and that definitely includes me) would immediately hie away.
He was peripatetic, to be sure, yet his heart and home were always here, with his family and ever-growing circle of friends. Others have commented about his infectious laugh, and like them, I will forever miss hearing it echo down the hallways and corridors of this radio station that now seems definitely quieter. . . and eerily lonelier. So, in the end, I guess one can't sum up a life like Len's.
All that we, whom he leaves behind -- poorer from his absence, but far richer for having shared his orbit -- can know for sure is that we'll never see his like again.
Len and I became friends in 1998 when I left a message on his answering machine saying, "I want to hire you. Call me back." On his first day of work he came in dressed in a suit and tie (a rare occurrence after that). We were in the middle of a fund drive and after lunch he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and spent an hour cleaning lasagna pans. That's when I knew… Len was a true friend; he was the kind of guy who knew you – warts and all – an accepted and supported you.
He was generous to a fault, curious about almost everything, and almost always outgoing. Len was thoughtful, empathetic and a wonderful listener. He loved most music, but classical and Celtic music topped his list of favorites (with apologies to Bob Dylan and the Stones who were also high ranking.)
Some of Len's loves included good scotch and cigars, travel, fresh fried chicken, and Graeter's ice cream. Fratelli's made his favorite pizza here in town. Len was also a fan of lox and steamers. One of his favorite meals was simple, Havarti cheese melted on bread. And I never saw him pass by smarties or red licorice.
Len genuinely liked to talk to people. He was a great story teller – if he could get through it without laughing. But even when he did laugh, it was worth the interruption. Len's belly laugh was usually followed by a Horshack (Welcome Back Kotter) sort of laugh. It was impossible to resist and I will miss it most.
Len adored his family and he was dedicated to his work – and to the people who were fortunate enough to work beside him. There's a picture of Len in my office and I find myself shooting him a glance or a question nearly every day.
He will always be in my heart and I'm so grateful for his friendship and love. Len's 67th birthday would have been next month. I plan to celebrate the day, and him, the way he would – with friends and food and perhaps a wee bit of Irish whiskey.
Love you Lenny.
Len always had something nice to say - a word of encouragement, a funny joke, or just a hearty 'how are you?.' He was the life of the party, even if the 'party' is a slow moment during a fund drive. He meant a great deal to all of us and we sure do miss him every day.
I had so many great conversations with Len through the years from labor relations to politics. He was such a fun person to talk to. I've missed his presence at the station and I miss him even more in his passing. My condolences to Len's family. He was a wonderful man.
Len was a joy! He lived life to the fullest and encouraged you to do the same. His passions were many; his adventures were one of kind; his heart was open with room for everyone. I loved when he returned from a tour with pictures and stories. He was a phenomenal photographer and I could always feel the essence of a location in the pictures that he took. His stories were hilarious.
The people who traveled with Len were lucky – and loyal. They returned year after year because they had so much fun. Because Len was so much fun! But what I always appreciated most about Len was that he was sincerely interested in whatever was going on with you.
We had many conversations about family (Our kids were close in age.), and faith (He was Jewish, I am Catholic.), and music (His love for opera was infectious.) If there was a problem, he wanted to help. He never gave up. He was everyone's greatest cheerleader.
Even after he retired, he would send the nicest notes about something he heard on the stations. He truly made a difference for WGUC and WVXU. But, more importantly, he made a difference for me and everyone who knew him.
I loved to pick Len's brain about travel. He had been to so many interesting places and would excitedly recall any helpful details from transportation to lodging to sightseeing. His description of India help prompt me to take a journalism trip there last fall.
I thought about Len the other night when I got to see the unique staging of "The Magic Flute" by the Cincinnati Opera. I really wanted to ask him what he thought of it. He loved opera to his core, but this was such an original production that some have called "brilliant" and others "distracting." I really wish I could hear his thoughts.
There will never be a kinder, sweeter, gentler man than Len. Through my own personal health issues, his concern was genuine and heartfelt. He helped make our fund drives more entertaining, and our stations more successful.
I know these last few years were difficult, but seeing him at Mark Perzel's going-away party last year, kibitzing (sorry Len, had to) with the old gang was life-affirming. I know he's at peace, and for that, and for having known him, I'm grateful.
Love you Len.
From Day One, Len's New York accent was sweet music to my Connecticut-born ears -- it was the sound of home. Then he would get all worked up telling a story, and the accent would intensify. I loved it! We bonded over our shared birthdates, our love of lobsta, mussels and REAL pizza, passion for good music, and so much more. Len had such a hilarious, anything-goes sense of humor, and an earthy laugh to go along with it.
He was passionate about so many things, large and small, and when he was passionate about something -- he just wanted to make sure everyone else knew about it: a great restaurant, a compelling CD, etc. Len loved his family, his friends, and life.
Oh, how he loved life. And oh how he will be missed. <3
I met Len a few weeks before I started working at WVXU/Cincinnati Public Radio. He was, as always doing his job very well. He wanted to talk with me about my plans for the news department and wanted to learn as much as he could so he could go about finding the funding needed to provide us with the resources to do the best job possible. It was a joy to talk with him. He was one of the most passionate people I've ever met. He believed in what he was doing and took the job seriously, but had such a wonderful sense of humor.
Some of my best memories of Len involve my daughter. She's nearly 15 now, but she was probably about 5 or 6 when they met. We were at a Halloween party with lots of scary creatures lurking about, including a "graveyard" in the back yard. Although we walked her around and tried to explain it was all in fun, she was TERRIFIED. We headed back to the house and she really just wanted to leave, but in walked Len and his wife Marshall. Len started talking to her and the next thing you know she was giving them a tour of all the scary things in the house and even took him out to the "graveyard" so she could show him around. Her parents couldn't calm her down in the scary place, but Len did and they'd never met before that night. They remained pals and when she frequently came to the station during the fund drive, they'd hang out.
As she got a little older, she decided it was her responsibility to make him "cool." Whatever that meant in her mind. She had him wearing sunglasses, making "cool" hand gestures and using "cool" words.
Len was a friend to everyone. I will always miss him.
I loved going to the studio and taking the calls first thing in the morning, and on weekends. Len was always there, takin calls, trading stories, making the public radio community a brighter, for more interesting place. If the topic wasn't radio, Len would engage in any topic, any conversation. You felt at home -- in the studio.
Len was the best "play date" (as Marshall would call our outings). Whether it be in search of the best burger in town or taking in a game down at the ballpark, we always laughed more than we talked.
I will miss comparing our favorite NYC pizza joints and bagel places. I will miss texting you photos during my trips to see family in the city. No one else will understand why a man is walking down Fifth Avenue in a thong, and why it's both funny and no big deal.
Thank you for helping me ease into my position at Cincinnati Public Radio and sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience.
You're a good friend.
Len came to work for WGUC about a year after I... almost 20 years ago. We hit it off almost immediately .... it was in the kitchen/ break room at work and he happened to mention waking up to Roger Daltrey singing See Me, Feel Me with The Who at Woodstock. That was all it took. We then discovered we were born within a few weeks of each other in 1950, that we both married in 1978, both with 2 children. We became very close.
Old, lifelong friends are cherished but when adults nearing * senior * status develop true friendships that's as much of a blessing. Len adored his wife, Marshall and children Molly and Julian. They took a backseat, though, when the grandchildren began arriving. He loved (and I loved hearing about) telling me the latest about his 1st grandson, Safi. and showing me videos " look, look at him... he's only 18 mos !!! He's so smart !!" We made it a point to have lunch on a regular basis...
Ruth's or Blue Jay in Northside when he and Marshall lived there. Then I turned him onto Gold Star and he fell in love with their Chili. That's what we ate mostly the last few years. Loved those lunches. He was declining but always up for a lunch get- together. We had a blast. Laughed heartily.
We always parted with a big hug and an I love you... same as I whispered in his ear a couple hours before he lifted off to the heavens.
I love you, Lenny
Lenny and I became instant friends during my interview back in 1999. I knew when he asked me a certain question that day that I I was going to love this guy! Boy was I right - I am blessed to have had him come into my life that day.
He was passionate about so many things - his wife, his children, traveling, food (which we had totally different tastes), and work to name a few. We had SO much fun and boy do I miss that. He would always tell me that I needed my own show called "Ask Aron"....and he would do his belly laugh at some of my answers I would give! :)
Lenny I know you heard me when I whispered in your ear "I love you". I not only love you but I miss you terribly.
You are now at peace - I love you Lenny
My condolences to Len's family and to all his dear friends at Cincinnati Public Radio. Thank you, Len, for contributing so much to public radio in Cincinnati. Clearly you are missed and loved by many.
© Cincinnati Public Radio