In Memoriam – Leonard “Len” Zanni
In the course of life you meet many people, and some of those people touch you in a way that you never forget. One of those people for me was Len Zanni. Len, being a man, was fairly typical: willing but unenthusiastic about having his picture taken. That said, despite his reticence, Len took direction well and always put up with whatever scheme I concocted for their photos each year since 2011. He was always charming and funny, he couldn't bring himself to call me Wilson and kept trying to guess what the "H" stands for.
I was brokenhearted when I heard of his untimely passing this March. I had a good cry and spent some time looking at the hundreds of photos I have taken of the Zanni family over the years. I am just a photographer, not a family friend or loved one, but this group of people has been very dear to me. Jeanne, Len’s daughter-in-law, was one of my first clients when I started working up in Carbondale in 2010 and I will never forget her loyalty and kindness over the years as I and my business have grown.
I’ve taken traditional, artful, and playful photos of the Zanni family over the years. However, one of my very favorite photos of all time is of Len and his wife Gay, in a sweet and personal moment. It’s been on my website since the year I shot the photo and it captures everything I feel is meaningful in photography. Love.
Our last shoot together, which was just in November, I convinced everyone to give me their best “model” pose at the end of our session. I wasn’t certain what kind of response I’d get from Len Jr. and Len Sr., neither of whom particularly loves the camera. But they rolled with it and I got this fun and hilarious shot.
When I heard the tragic news, I read Len’s obituary and learned that he was a 9/11 survivor and had been on the 55th floor of the World Trade Center that day. His wonderful son, Len Jr is named for him, but I found out that his grandson, whom I’ve always known as Curtis, is technically Leonard Curtis Zanni, III. Three generations of Leonard Curtis Zanni in my photos. I am honored.
Dear Zanni family, you are loved and it is obvious how much Len loved and doted on you all. My deepest, deepest sympathy to every one of you. Len was a wonderful man full of spirit and he will be sorely missed.