Monday, November 17, 2014
Leonard Tucker Obituary
Service Monday noon, November 17, 2014, at Levine Memorial Chapel, 649 Washington Ave in Albany.
Rest in peace, dear friend.
Tucker, Leonard SCHENECTADY Leonard Tucker, founder of the Casual Set and actor, died on Thursday, November 13, 2014, at Kingsway Arms Nursing Center in Schenectady. He was 95. He was a man of many passions, foremost of which were his family, his business, and his acting career. Those who knew him will always remember his great sense of humor.
He was born into a large family in Bayonne, N.J., in 1919. In spite of being raised in poverty and frequently encountering anti-Semitism, he always had an optimistic view of life and what he could accomplish. He had a powerful drive to succeed. His love of the stage began in childhood when his mother took him to New York City to see Yiddish theatre. He ran track and played football at Thomas Jefferson High School in Elizabeth, N.J., and worked every day in his mother's grocery store.
He met the love of his life, Naomi Levenson, as a teenager, and they married at 19, a marriage that would last 73 years until Naomi's death in 2013. They loved to dance and dance they did! Starting on the boardwalks of Atlantic City, N.J., dancing to the live music of big bands like Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, they continued strutting into their 90s (see them on YouTube).
During World War II, Lenny served in the Army Air Corps (now the Air Force) as a bombardier and navigator. It was toward the end of his military career that he began entertaining his fellow cadets by putting on comedy skits and appearing on Armed Forces Radio. That launched him into acting. After the war he was offered an Armed Forces entertainment tour, but came to realize the need for a more regular income than that of a beginning actor ("I already had a family and they insisted on eating"). When an opportunity came to go into retail women's clothing, he took it, and within just a few years he was managing a Lerner Shops store in Jacksonville, Fla.
Lenny and Naomi moved with their two children to Albany in 1953 when he was sent to manage the Lerner Shops store on North Pearl Street. Later he managed David's, also on North Pearl Street. In 1962, he opened his own store, The Casual Set, at the corner of Maiden Lane and James in downtown Albany (later moved to Stuyvesant Plaza) where he pioneered new techniques in merchandising, advertising, and customer service. He expanded, and at one point had three stores in operation at different locations.
Throughout his years in business he continued to perform as an amateur and professional actor in plays, musical comedies, commercials and films. He appeared at venues like the Albany Civic Theatre, the Capital Repertory Theater, and the Schenectady Light Opera Company in lead roles in plays such as "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Odd Couple," "Guys and Dolls," "Pajama Game," and "Come Blow Your Horn." Later he appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in such productions as "Cyrano" and "Sherlock Holmes" (both with Frank Langella), "The Front Page" and "The Guardsman" (both with Christopher Reeve), "The Visit" and "Our Town" (both with James Whitmore), and "1776."
Lenny was active in the Retail Council of New York State and served on its board for many years as treasurer. After he sold the Casual Set and retired in 1992, he was a board member and president of the Friends of the Albany Public Library, where he brought his experience and creative approach to programming the speakers and events of the Friends. And he focused even more on acting, gaining membership in the Screen Actors Guild as well as earning the coveted Actors Equity card.
He is survived by his daughter, Lauren Tucker of Seattle; his son, Jack Tucker of New York City; three grandsons, David Tucker of Soquel, Calif., Dylan Tucker of New York City, and Jesse Tucker of New York City; and a great-granddaughter, Kaylee Tucker, of Newport Beach, Calif. His warmth, quick wit, infectious sense of fun, and enthusiasm for life will be greatly missed by his family and all who knew him. He was a generous soul.
Funeral service will be held on Monday, November 17, 2014, at 12 p.m., at Levine Memorial Chapel, 649 Washington Ave, Albany. Interment will be in Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, with full military honors.