Q: When we can safely travel again, where would you like to visit?
Leah: Paris, Spain, and Portugal first, then Costa Rica and Guatemala. I’ve been to Costa Rica and Guatemala three times and really enjoy them.
Q: What brought you to Staunton?
Leah: We were on our way from Massachusetts to Arizona, where we were going to live for a year in the desert. We were searching for a place with a shorter winter season. We stopped for a night to visit a friend in Nelson County and it reminded me of the Berkshires MA where I had lived for many years. So we paused our trip, engaged a realtor, and looked around this area. The realtor off-handedly mentioned Staunton, but then dismissed it saying “there are no neighborhoods; the rich people live next to the poor people.” So I thought it sounded like just the kind of town we’d enjoy living in. The rest is history. “I had never heard of Staunton in my life”.
Q: Do you have a particular genre of music that you enjoy?
Leah: Definitely Big Band and Jazz. If I had to pick my favorite song it would be “Autumn in New York”; the version sung by Lee Wiley.
[Ed’s note, synthesized from IMDb.com and Wikipedia: “One of the great jazz vocalists of all time, Lee Wiley was possessed of a wonderful warm and sensuous voice, able to project more emotion into her songs than most of her contemporaries. At the age of 19 she was a member of the Leo Reisman Orchestra, with whom in 1931 she recorded three songs: "Take It from Me", "Time On My Hands", and her composition "Got the South in My Soul”.
Wiley began her radio career at KVOO in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She sang on the Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt program on NBC in 1932 and was featured on Victor Young's radio show in 1933. From June 10, 1936, until September 2, 1936, she had her own show, Lee Wiley, on CBS. In 1939, Wiley recorded eight Gershwin songs on 78s for Liberty Music Shop Records. The set sold well and was followed by 78s dedicated to the music of Cole Porter (1940) and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (1940 and 1954), Harold Arlen (1943), and 10" LPs dedicated to the music of Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin (1951).]
Q: Post-Covid, if you could have a cup of coffee or tea together with a celebrity, who would that lucky person be?
Leah: Mel Brooks. Jerry Seinfeld would be my second choice. I have always found comedy to be interesting. I once belonged to an improv troupe called “The Unexpected Company”. My uncle managed Eddie Cantor in Hollywood and knew the likes of George Burns and Jimmy Durante. I would love to hear everything that Mel Brooks could tell me of the world of comedy. [Ed’s Note: The Producers and Blazing Saddles movies are on my favorites list!]
Q: Do you have a favorite holiday?
Leah: I like both Chanukah and Christmas- I love Christmas carols! My family was not very observant and when I was very young I woke up to see a few presents on Christmas morning. But when I was about 7 that ended when I opened up every closet and looked in every cubbyhole but could find no gifts. I realized then that there was no Santa Claus and that I was Jewish! Pat and I joke during the holiday season that she gets to celebrate Christmas for only one day but I get to enjoy eight days for the festival of Chanukah! She gets only one gift but I get eight!
Q: What role does Judaism play in your life?
Leah: Judaism is central to me. It’s a way of looking at the world and I like that it does not categorize people or races. I believe that I connect with every human being no matter their faith, I never feel alienated.
Q: What is one thing you will never do again?
Leah: In 2018 at the age of 83 I married my soulmate, Patricia Matthews. Now that I am 86, and am very happy I never expect to marry again!
Q: In three words, how would you describe yourself?
Leah: Thoughtful, Silly, and Old.
Q: What do you find special about THOI?
Leah: I love its location here in the South and in the Shenandoah Valley. I admire its longevity, endurance, and its active and devoted Members. Faith membership of all denominations is falling, but THOI goes on.