Virginia Knights mourn the passing of Lenonardo "Lenny" Pulizzi, Past State Deputy

Past State Deputy Lenonardo "Lenny" Pulizzi, who had waged a long battle against cancer, passed away on Thursday, June 4, 2014. He was Virginia State Deputy from 2007-2008. He had a long career in the U.S. Navy and retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer. He served as a Navy Seal in Vietnam. He is survived by his wife Jean and three children: Peter, James and Christopher.


A funeral Mass was held at on Monday, June 9, 2014 at St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church in Chesapeake, VA. At the end of the Mass, Lenny's good friend Kevin Butler delivered a eulogy which is reproduced below.


The family asks that flowers be omitted, and donations in his name may be made to Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc. or to Special Olympics of Virginia.

Lenny Pulizzi


by Kevin Butler, PGK, PFN


I could speak hours about who Lenny Pulizzi was and I promise I won’t do that.  I will, however, take a few moments to share a few items about Master Chief Lenny Pulizzi and the leader he was in the Navy, and subsequently in the Knights of Columbus and other undertakings.  I also want to share with you a few items on how Lenny had a profound impact on my life, and how he I suspect he touched many of your lives also.


Let me hit some of the official highlights first.  These few items give a brief summation of the leader Lenny was:


Lenny retired from the Navy  in June 1993 after nearly 23 years of faithful and dedicated service.  Attaining the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer is a feat in itself and is a demonstration of leadership and the faith that the Navy placed in Lenny across those 23 years of service.   Master Chiefs constitute the top 1.25% of the enlisted members of the maritime forces.  Let me repeat that – of all enlisted sailors who come into the Navy, just the top 1.25 percent make Master Chief.


Lenny then worked at St. Brides Correctional Center from 1994 through 2001, he subsequently went to work for Norfolk State University as the Lead Safety Coordinator.  I knew Lenny was successful because he would get phone calls night and day when he was not present at Norfolk State University asking him what to do when alarms went off or other safety issues.  They could not operate without him.


With the Knights of Columbus, Lenny was the Grand Knight of Chesapeake Council 8240, Charter Grand Knight of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Council 11984, District Deputy District 2, Virginia State General Programs Director and all the State Officer Chairs, culminating with being the State Deputy for 2007-2008.  He also served as the Financial Secretary of Fr. Edward L. Richardson, SMA Council 11984  for a long, long time.  Lenny was on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Special Olympics, and participated yearly in the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics something he could never get me to do!


In each of the organizations above, Lenny led from the front, and he had a knack for organizing and motivating people to bring the organization to success, from the Navy Commands, to the Knights of Columbus, to Special Olympics, he was the person you wanted to help organize and motivate your people.


Now for some items about how Lenny Pulizzi impacted my life and some additional insight into his background:


Lenny and I met at Prince of Peace Catholic Church back in 1990.  After several weeks, we finally discussed our Navy careers.  Master Chief Lenny Pulizzi and this Navy Commander bonded at that moment.  Little did I know how much glue Lenny was going to use in that bond that turned into cement.  I told Lenny that I went to Mass every day at noon at the Headquarters Chapel at the Base Chapel in Norfolk, and served there as a Lector and Eucharistic Minister.  At one point, I told Lenny that I wanted more in my life with regards to family and church.  Be careful what you ask for!


The very next week at Prince of Peace, I found that Lenny took me aside and told me I had “volunteered” to be was an Usher and he said slyly “for other  functions at the church”, but he would not elaborate and it was “to be discussed at a later point”.  That was Master Chief speak for, “Shut up and go do the job I gave you to do, and come back to me when you are finished, then perhaps we’ll talk more.” Needless to say, I was somewhat surprised to find out I had also “volunteered” to be a Lector at Prince of Peace Church when my name was announced and in the bulletin as the Lector for the following week.  Not long thereafter, I found myself in classes as a Eucharistic Minister at Prince of Peace.


As I asked about a nametag for being an Usher, I was told all the Ushers were Knights of Columbus, and Lenny recommended that I should join the Knights of Columbus as it was a church and family focused Catholic organization.  So I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted a nametag, and so I did join the Knights.


Little did I know as I decided to join the Knights, that I would complete my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree’s in less than a couple of months, and the next thing I knew, Lenny was proposing me for a Council Officer position that had come open when a serving Knight departed the area on orders.  I was elected Recorder, then Treasurer all in the same year beginning my Knights career on the fast track, then the next year serving as Deputy Grand Knight, and then Grand Knight just a year later.


The next thing I knew, Lenny and Bruce Pitre were proposing me for Purser and then Faithful Navigator of the 4th Degree, to which I was unanimously elected. All of these positions were in Lenny’s grand plan for which he “volunteered” me, and after a few personal talks with Lenny, I happily accepted and hoped I lived up to his standards.


I had also forgotten several life lessons the Master Chief Petty Officer in my very first squadron back in 1975 had taught me when I was a somewhat “seasoned” Ensign with 7 months of commissioned service under my belt.  However, Master Chief Lenny Pulizzi refreshed them for me in his own special way.


Lesson # 1 - Always respect the knowledge, experience, and lessons the Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, and especially the Master Chief will bring to you. They know the ship and the mess decks, what is working and what is broken, and how to fix it and/or who should fix it.  The Master Chief will give you the right decision…just have your ears open and your mouth shut so you can get the right answer to make your decision.


Lesson # 2 –Never, ever tell your Master Chief, or more importantly your spouse, that you need more work, or don’t have something to do.  Either will have a list of jobs you don’t even want to be assigned, or immediately end up with a leadership role in the Knights of Columbus 3rd and 4th degrees, as well as active weekly jobs at the church.  Yes Master Chief, you did teach me that lesson again in spades, but I enjoyed every minute of those jobs, especially knowing you were along at my side.


Finally, Lenny and I had moved to Naval Security Group Northwest Base Chapel here in Chesapeake.  That was where the Knights of Columbus State Chaplain, Fr. Ed Richardson was the Pastor.  They don’t make priests like Fr. Ed anymore, he was the penultimate Parish Priest with his kindness and servant leadership.  Father Bryan, here at St. Stephan’s is also much like that.  Both Lenny and I were so impressed with Fr. Ed, that we immediately shifted our home parish to be with Fr. Ed every Sunday.  After a couple of years, Fr. Ed said to Lenny and me that he sure would like a Knights of Columbus Council at NSGA Northwest.  Without fail, Master Chief Pulizzi went immediately to work with the Knights figuring out how to make it happen, while I concentrated on the Base Chaplain and Base Commanding Officer to see how we could get the right permissions via the Navy.  Not long thereafter, Jesus, Mary, & Joseph Council #11984 was founded and Fr. Ed had his Council at Northwest.  Lenny was, of course, the Charter Grand Knight and I was the Charter Deputy Grand Knight.  Lenny’s leadership made this new Council happen.  Lenny was also instrumental in changing the Council’s name to the Fr. Edward L. Richardson, SMA Council after Fr. Ed passed.  There is no doubt in any Knight’s mind that Fr. Ed, and Lenny’s Mother Maria, were waiting with a very warm welcome for Lenny last week when he also passed.


I was also fortunate when Lenny was serving as State Deputy, to be selected by him to be his Public Relations Director.  Needless to say, in all Lenny’s speeches, his initial draft was the old Master Chief in him and was very real and in your face.  Fortunately, Lenny accepted many of my edits, and his speeches came off as the kinder, gentler, and more motivating person he was, and I knew so well.  Lenny and I continued the speech and email writing relationship even through the recent past.  Enough about me, and how Lenny impacted my life.


Now more about Lenny…Lenny loved to dance.  In fact, Lenny co-founded the Single Friends of Christ Friday Fling Dances in 1995.  I am even told that Lenny was at a dance with Bruce Pitre and his date, and Lenny was dancing so hard and fast that he broke his foot.  Never to be left out, Lenny braved the broken foot to keep on dancing.  You see, dancing was just a venue where Lenny could continue to motivate and inspire people.


Lenny showed up at the Kemp Woods Civic League Block Party, something our Knights Council had supported for 14 years.  The best remembrance I have is of Lenny saying he might not be able to assist with the cooking, but then showed up at 5 a.m. to help Bruce Pitre and me, who had been cooking since 2 am.  He came with doughnuts and coffee, and was a welcome sight.  Lenny then proceeded to help us finish off cooking the pork and serving the guests.  However, when the DJ started up and was asking folks to get out and dance, and there were no takers.  That is, until Lenny hopped out there in the cul-de-sac and took center stage, dancing the Macarena, the Slide, and the Cuban Shuffle.  Lenny had done it again, motivating others by example.  Many of the residents, especially female, came out and joined him and stayed on the dance floor for many other hits played by the DJ.   Lenny even motivated the kids to come out for Hula Hoop contest and the limbo contest each year.  I even had one child come up and ask me if the Hula Hoop guy was coming this year, as well as one spouse ask if the Dancing Knight was going to help get things started in dancing again.  His presence will be sorely missed by Kemp Woods Civic League, as well as by all the Brother Knights helping with the Block Party.  You know, I originally thought that people would just feel sorry for the balding guy out there trying to dance, but then I watched and Lenny really could dance.  I imagine he will already be organizing dance lessons up there in heaven.


Finally, I wanted to share a few words with the family.


To Lenny’s sons Peter, James, and Christopher.  Your Dad and I spent many evenings after Knights meetings, daytime phone calls, and other times talking about you three.  We talked about your wonderful achievements, and some times where your Dad had to apply some tough love.  Even in those times where there was tough love or disappointments, your Dad still loved you deeply and still was proud of all three of you. We talked about raising children, and I shared with your Dad some of the good times and challenges that Marie and I faced with our three children, often similar challenges, though not exact.  It was good for him to hear he was not alone.  Most often, especially over the last many years, your Dad could not have sung your praises more vocally, and expressed how proud he was of all three of you.  Peter, James, and Christopher, I know you will miss your Dad, but take some joy about all his accomplishments, some of which you heard today, but others that will also be brought out by many of the Knights and others who knew him.  Most of all, be proud of yourselves, for a father could not have been more proud of you than your father was of you three.  While I could never replace your Dad, if you ever need to just talk something out, give me a call.


Now in closing, I’d like to just pass along a few words to Jean.  Thank you for all the love and joy you brought to Lenny’s life.  What you don’t know is Lenny came to me one day, and said’ “Kevin, I met this fantastic woman again whom I had known earlier.  She doesn’t know it yet, but she could make me fall in love again, and someday we will get married, she just doesn’t know it yet.”  Lenny was so in love with you, and his love only grew as time went along until the day he told me he was planning on taking the big step and asking for your hand in marriage.  The smile on his face was so real and so infectious; I knew it would sway you to a positive answer….and it did, and his smile only got bigger and bigger.  Thank you for letting me be a part of your wedding, and for sharing Lenny with me and all the other Knights.  Thank you for helping care for Lenny during his cancer treatments.  Your comfort and assistance, along with your unrelenting love were what helped Lenny survive as long as he did.  You were indeed Lenny’s “Soul and Inspiration”, and it showed on all that he did.  Know also you are a part of the Knights family and you will never want for assistance.  All you have to do is call a Knight and wait for the response to come to assist you. You know you can also call John Macioce, Bruce Pitre, and Jack and Cindy Michalski.  In many ways, they were all impacted by Lenny in their lives as much or more than some of the impacts Lenny had with me. Also, we spoke about divine intervention that my total knee replacement surgery was postponed and I could make it to Lenny’s services and funeral.  On the other hand, I can see Lenny praying, and Fr. Ed Richardson and Lenny’s mom, Marie, looking down and making the surgery delay a reality.  On a more personal note, you may also call me at any time and I will help in whatever way I can.


For those of you not that did not attend the services at the funeral home last night, I thought I would read the eternal Sailor Poem Lenny selected:


Eternal Sailor Poem


He was a young sailor, who served his country well,

He loved his family and the Navy that you could tell.

One dark windy night, he received new orders for a heavenly flight.

His Heavenly Commander sent out the word,

And the young sailor carried out his duty to whatever he heard.

His family understood as best they could.

For his new duty will be at the helm of the eternal seas,

Where he’ll be waiting there for you and for me.


With that, Master Chief Pulizzi, you are relieved.  I have the watch, and I thank you for your tremendous service.  Godspeed, my friend, and may you have fair winds and following seas forever and ever.

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