West Milton’s “Big Ed” Lendenski was remembered again for his “Hey! How ya doin’?” greetings, his occasional “wall dance” approach to student discipline at Milton-Union High, and a heart that matched his “larger than life” legacy during the seventh annual Ed Lendenski Memorial Blood Drive July 11 at the West Milton United Church of Christ.
Ed’s wife Carolyn and their children began the memorial blood drive in 2012 after Ed lost his long battle with the bone marrow disorder myelodysplastic syndrome. MDS patients develop severe anemia and his treatment included many blood transfusions.
The family hoped to encourage donations and to honor donors who helped extend his life. The July 11 blood drive totaled 50 donors and 42 donations.
“He would be so shocked,” said Caroline as she greeted donors with her daughter Julie Newman. “He was a very kind and humble man. For him to know that someone would be doing this, he would think it was just wonderful, because he used an awful lot of blood when he was sick. This is so nice to be able to pay it back.”
“I still cry,” said Julie. “I can’t help it. People come in and give all this blood. He used a lot of blood from the blood center. Wonderful people there.”
Ed earned his rugged reputation from his football coaching career at Milton-Union High School, but he is remember best as the school’s firm, fair and compassionate principal for 23 years. Former students and players often pay tribute by donating in his memory.
Visitors this year included Rep. Steve Huffman of Miami County, a lifetime blood donor who is responsible for the new law designating January as “Blood Donor Awareness Month” in Ohio.
“Ed was a coach when I was young in junior high school and my principal in high school,” said Rep. Huffman. “Everybody knew him and loved him and all the work he did with charities, the church and the school will ever be missed.”
Ed was a big man who might lift a wayward student or player off the ground to get his point across. Donor Doug Williams, a Milton-Union graduate under Big Ed, remembered seeing a “wall dance” up close when an unruly student was kicked out of class.
“He was not real smart, because the classroom was right across from the principal’s office,” said Doug. “Ed said, ‘Jim what are you doing?’ and the next thing was a wall dance!”
“It’s amazing how people still remember him,” said Caroline. “When you saw him walk in the door, you knew that was big Ed. He loved life, loved his family, his church, his religion, his students. He loved everybody. He was just a really good guy.”
Donor Daphne Adams never knew Ed Lendenski, but she sees why the blood drive is now part of his legacy. “I received blood when my son was born,” she said, “so it’s my time to give back.”