Elmore Leonard’s funeral service was attended by a group of over 300 people. Family and friends occupied pews with Timothy Olyphant from Justified and Leonard’s close friend Mike Lupica the sports writer and novelist along with others who came to pay their respects. His sons recounted several anecdotes for those gathered to say goodbye to the man that Stephen King called, “the great American writer.” He will be missed and one Facebook friend put it best when he posted, “Heaven just got a whole lot more interesting.”
Leonard’s son Bill passed on the Facebook post and added, “What an understatement that is.” Both of Elmore Leonard’s sons eulogised at the ceremony. They Talked about the side of the writer that most people never saw.
While literary tributes have flooded in since the writer’s death was announced, the funeral was devoted to the less public side of Leonard. A side that contained humour, homilies and an appreciation for his fans. According to his son’s the writer’s favorite fan mail came from prison inmates.
With his exacting ear for the criminal elements dialogue as well as the other characters in his book, prison habitues really appreciated Leonard’s style and delivery of their criminal brethren. At one point, Peter Leonard read from a fan letter that his father had received:
“How I ended up here is a long unbelievable tale involving dysfunctional women, heroin and pure foolishness. Your books are the first ones I’ve liked and can share with my beloved semi-literate fellow criminals and maniacs.”
The writer of that particular fan letter went on to say that with Leonard’s spot-on dialogue he must have served time himself.
The funeral ceremony took place on Saturday in the Holy Name Catholic Church in Birmingham, Michigan. 325 people came to say their final farewell. The attendees mourned as well as laughed at some of the things revealed by Leonard’s family.
One revelation was, that at airport queues, Leonard would go into his, “old man” act. Apparently airport security fell for it every time as they expedited the “frail and confused” old fellow through the security checks. Just Elmore’s travel tales, as recounted by his sons, at the funeral service seem to indicate that heaven will indeed get a whole lot more interesting.
Leonard was also honored for his work in the Navy during WWII and his daughter, Jane Jones was presented with a folded American flag at the service.
Stories of the writer admonishing his children to eat their fat and gristle because “fat is flavor,” and of Elmore absconding early from a boring Arizona conference in order to “check out” a nearby prison were just a few of the tales that were told of a fun-loving father and friend.
The Reverend Joe Grimaldi said of Leonard that, “Elmore truly was gifted with creativity, skill and talent. The twinkle in his eye showed he also enjoyed having fun.”
Peter Leonard, who was a part of the conference abscond, said that all his travels with his father were adventurous. He was also the one who revealed that his father’s favorite fan letters came from the criminal fraternity.
Bill Leonard related that his father should have written the 10 Rules of Parenting as well as his 10 Rules of Writing. He said that on that list of parenting rules, you would find, “Always buy your children gum when going to the grocery, let them work the car’s stick shift, never let them leave food on a plate and never read them bedtime stories. Make up your own.”
It was Bill Leonard who passed on the Facebook post that he’d gotten from a friend. The post that said “Heaven just got a whole lot more interesting.” We agree with Bill who added, “What an understatement that is.”
By Michael Smith