Leonard Blumin’s Story
Len courageously completed his earthly journey January 19, 2022, at his home in Mill Valley, Ca., imbued with the love of his family and his caring Hospice nurse. He had exhausted his DNA by living a rich and meaningful life, having an interesting career, diverse hobbies, a few adventures, and the love of family and friends.
The second son of Arthur Blumin and Lillian Schiffrin Blumin, Len was born in Staten Island, New York, in 1942 and attended New York City schools. Having excelled in secondary schools, he entered Union College of Schenectady, New York, at the age of 16, taking pre-med courses before continuing on at Albert Einstein College of Medicine to earn his MD degree. He did his Internship and Residency at the US Public Health Service Hospital in San Francisco to become Board Certified in Internal Medicine. His education also included a Research Fellowship in Nuclear Medicine and was Certified by the American Board of Nuclear Medicine.
Concurrently, during his fellowship work, he began moonlighting as an Emergency Physician and found his niche. He could set his own schedule, enabling him to pursue his numerous interests. He worked at a couple of Bay Area hospital emergency rooms before learning of an opening for Director of Emergency Services at the former Children’s Hospital of San Francisco. He served as Director for ten years before taking early retirement from medicine in 1995.
The flexible schedule of ER work enabled Len to apply his fine woodworking skills to adapting his 1960’s post and beam home on a Mill Valley hillside into a semi-Victorian styled home. His newly acquired antique interest him prompted him to sell his modern furniture to make room for period furniture. He met his wife and partner of 47 years as a result of placing an ad for the sale of his dining room table. Patti responded. On a Saturday afternoon she walked one block down the hill to look at and possibly buy the table. During the visit, Len gave Patti a tour of all the projects he had accomplished on his home. They found they had many common interests and formed a deep connection during that first visit. After a dinner date several days later, along with a round of shooting pool, they were inseparable. They began going weekly to the Marin City flea market and went to auctions to look for antiques. About a year later, they saw an ad for a small, 1894 Victorian home in Mill Valley. They fell in love with it immediately and put in an offer to buy. In 1979, they married in their backyard garden under the canopy of an English Laurel.
Owning an authentic Victorian allowed Len to fully exercise his fine woodworking skills. I have replaced the pine wainscoting in the dining room with koa and transformed a large family room into a large kitchen using five species of wood for cabinets, floor, and ceiling. He also added an octagonal dining bay on the corner of the house. He could fix anything and had “how-to” books on all aspects of home repair.
The front door of their newly acquired Victorian had a cast bronze doorknob decorated with flowers, which appealed to him and Patti. Later, they found another decorative, cast bronze doorknob at the flea market – and another, amassing a sizable collection, which they displayed in their “doorknob” room. Through an antique magazine they learned of a woman who had even written a book on doorknobs, with whom they met. Subsequently, Len was one of the founders and then President of the Antique Doorknob Collectors of America. I have also published a book, “Victorian Decorative Art, A Photographic Study of Doorknob Design.”
Len and Patti also enjoyed downhill skiing. On a weekend trip to Tahoe the ski conditions were terrible, so Len suggested they look for a “cabin” to buy so they would have their own place for weekend get-a-ways. They found a five-bedroom house at the end of a dead end street overlooking a meadow. They invited close friends to join them in the cabin adventure. They were delighted, as they wanted their young children to learn how to ski. In winter there was skiing; in the swimming and hiking.
Len also began going on the annual ACR docent field trip with Patti up to the wildlife refuges in Northern California and became interested in bird watching and began photographing them. He used a technique called digi-scoping, whereby he attached his camera to his spotting scope. He sat out his photos of him, along with a write up, using his extensive library of bird books, on the subject species to a large group of his followers. Because of his medical background, he was very good at taxonomy. Using his photos of him, I have produced two books under the name of Len’s Lens-one on ducks and one on shorebirds. His photography of him was not limited to birds, however. He also took photos of wildflowers, dragonflies, and any other wildlife that would avail themselves.
When newly retired, Len accepted the nomination to become President of the Board of Directors of Audubon Canyon Ranch for two years. He also served as Treasurer and participated in several other committees. He also was a volunteer Nature Guide for ACR, did Shorebird counts for Cypress Grove, and for ten years spent two days a week doing Habitat Restoration work, ie, hand pulling the invasive, non-native Cape Ivy that blanketed the ten acres of Volunteer Canyon.
Len’s avian interest took him and Patti to the Galapagos Islands, Tanzania, Trinidad/Tobago, Costa Rica, Mexico, SE Arizona, the Texas Gulf Coast, Florida, as well as becoming backyard birdwatchers. Len led field trips and gave presentations for Marin Audubon and participated in three Christmas Bird Counts. Len, being the son of schoolteacher parents, was himself an excellent teacher, injecting his wry sense of humor to keep everyone interested. Frequent participant feedback was how much they had learned by going on his outings from him.
Len was also a strict adherent of critical thinking and would shake his head in dismay when a news article did not substantiate the thesis of the story. He did the New York Times crossword puzzle daily to jumpstart each day. And he enjoyed watching football, basketball, baseball, golf, and the Olympics on television.
Living at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, Len and Patti began hiking weekly on “Tam” to learn the trail system, and in the process became close friends with the hiking group. Their hiking pursuits led them to climbing Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park – led by renowned mountaineers Tom Hornbein and Jim Detterline, – Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Shasta, Half Dome, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Len was very caring about his family and filled the role of father when needed. He was very close to his cousins, Richard, Stuart, and Bob; his children Dana and Kali; nephew, Tony; greatnies, Saskia and Alexis; and great nephews, Adrien and Emilio; his sisters-in-law of him, Rakhi, Diane, Kathy; brother-in-law, Stanley, and the entire Kit and George Lee family. Many a time Len would willingly advise family members and friends regarding medical matters, explaining very clearly in lay person’s language complicated medical conditions. He would even accompany them to doctor’s visits to help interpret some of the arcane nuances of medical procedures.
Len’s was a life well lived. He is greatly missed by all who knew him and loved him. As Ralph Waldo Emerson aptly penned, “Life is not measured by its length, but by its depth.”
Donations in remembrance of Len may be made to Audubon Canyon Ranch, Marin Audubon, Hospice By The Bay, or a charity of your choice.
Dated: June 19, 2022
Published by Legacy Remembers from Jun. 19 to Jun. 21, 2022.