LENNY BRINKLEY WAS the man everybody in his family counted on for help, advice, even cash if needed, and, most important, to keep the family together.
No small task, considering that Lenny came from a family of 18 children. But he easily lived up to the role of patriarch, and was always there with a smile that could light up a room and with love in his heart for all.
Leonard Brinkley Sr., a 30-year corrections officer at Graterford Prison, a maintenance supervisor for the University of Delaware, an Army veteran and a cook whose roast beef was a family legend, died May 20 of cancer. He was 66 and lived in Bear, Del.
Lenny was also a legend on the dance floor. He never missed an opportunity to dance and he was always the first out on the floor.
"His love of his family was his legacy," his family wrote. "We will continue to aspire to live up to his ideals. Many, many lives have been touched by Leonard, a loving person, a giant of a man."
His sister Belinda Brinkley said her brother never missed an event involving his children or grandchildren, and he was Uncle Lenny to numerous nieces and nephews who enjoyed the same attention and concern.
But Uncle Lenny was no pushover. He was a firm disciplinarian and expected the best behavior from the children. "Lenny was an advocate for higher education and good moral character," his family said. No one wanted to have to answer to him.
Lenny was born in Philadelphia, the seventh of the 18 children of William and Janie Brinkley. He grew up in North Philadelphia and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School.
He joined the Army in 1964 and attained the rank of first sergeant before he moved from active duty to the reserves in 1968. He served for a time in Italy.
After 30 years at Graterford Prison, Lenny went to work for the University of Delaware. He retired two months ago.
Lenny married the former Sandra Benn in 1998 after they had been together for more than 30 years.
"He had an award-winning smile," his sister said. "He was loving and kind. He could be counted on to be there whenever he was needed."
Before moving to Delaware about 14 years ago, he lived in West Philadelphia and in West Oak Lane.
Lenny enjoyed cooking, and his specialty was roast beef. He had a secret recipe, which he wouldn't reveal to anyone.
"He took it with him," his sister said.
Lenny was a member of Phoenix #3, Prince Hall Masons.
Besides his wife and sister, he is survived by three sons, Leonard Jr., Louis and Darian; a daughter, Belinda; five brothers, Stephen, Gerald, Michael, Gregory and Edward Dominic; four other sisters, Loretta Davis, Ethel Brinkley, Margaret Brinkley and Victoria Ditto; and 12 grandchildren.