Guest post by Donna Venturi
A week ago today I lost my brother, Lee Bennett Hopkins. Lee was my first male love. He was a big brother to Donald and I and a father image to me. His nickname was Mickey. On my 8th birthday he took me to my first Broadway show, “Fanny.” He started a drama club at my elementary school where he had 50 kids from the projects performing in plays that he wrote and produced. I am still in touch with some of them today and they brag about which role they had in his plays. Lee made everyone feel like a star.
When I married my husband Tony, he told me I got the best. On the day our first daughter, Kimberly, was born, he and his partner Misha came from New York to New Jersey and gave her an angel, the first of a collection that grew each year. We asked him to be her godfather and he didn’t hesitate. He was honored. Our brother Donald’s son was born a few years later and was named Donald Bennett. When we moved to the Midwest, Lee and I still spoke on the phone at least twice a week. When our second daughter was born, I called to tell him the news; he was so excited that we named her Jennifer Lee.
Years went by, but we always remained close. We traveled together to London and Mexico and got together whenever possible. We moved back east and our kids grew up. Kimberly married Stephen and they have four beautiful children, Danielle, ToniLynn, Joseph and Kayleigh. Our Jennifer married Brian and they have two beautiful children, Erin and Connor. Each of the six of them has a book dedicated to them from Uncle Lee, and they all have a love of books and the theatre. Lee taught them right. Lee’s partner Misha died in 2002. It was a loss for our family as we all loved him as a brother and an uncle. Years later, Lee and his new partner sold their homes in NY and moved to Florida. At last I was able to spend more time with him. For ten years we talked on the phone every day. We went on trips, had parties and every Sunday for ten years they came to my house for dinner and dominoes.
Although we lived minutes from one another, the last five years the phone calls stopped. Due to a misunderstanding, we didn’t speak, but I kept the emails he sent me, telling me he loved and missed me and I would always be his baby.
Last Wednesday as he lay in the hospital, he told a friend that was visiting that he wanted his sister. This woman, Sue, and another, Cathy, who I now call my angels, went to great lengths to get in touch with me. I got to the hospital and for hours we laughed and cried and told each other how much we loved one another. He held my hand and squeezed it as if not to let go. Anyone who was dear to Lee knew that hand. When I said goodbye that day, I kissed him, told him I loved him and that he will always be my Shining Star. I miss him, his humor, that crazy laugh, the twinkle in his eyes.
There will never be another Lee Bennett Hopkins. Besides leaving his books, he leaves a family who loves him. Each one of us carries his genes. I find it interesting that he has two nieces; one is a writer and the other a teacher. Now that says so much for LEE BENNETT HOPKINS. He will be missed by us all.
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