Leonard C. Federico, who taught art in several Boston-area schools and spent summers tooling around Wellfleet on a red Vespa and enjoying nature and friends here, including many made at the town’s transfer station, died on Oct. 24, 2023 in Boston. No cause of death was reported. He was 67.
Born on July 12, 1956, Lenny was the son of Anthony R. and Marie E. (Bruno) Federico of Stoughton and Wellfleet. He grew up in Roslindale and attended Sacred Heart Elementary School before graduating from Boston Technical High School (now the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science) in 1974, where he was known for his sense of humor and kindness.
Lenny earned an M.F.A. in 1978 from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where he especially enjoyed working in restoration and silk screening. That education was the foundation of his career in the arts and education. He taught art in the Stoughton, Brockton, Belmont, and Newton public schools and is remembered fondly by students and colleagues as someone who had an ability to inspire those around him.
“Mr. Fed had character, presence, personality,” wrote Frank Powers, one of his former students, on an online tribute page. He went “class to class with struggling students to just be some extra support,” Powers wrote. Later in his teaching career, he worked with special needs children.
Lenny was also known for his excellent photography, a hobby that brought him immense joy, according to a remembrance written by his brother, Joseph. He had a deep affinity for birds and wildlife, often capturing their beauty through his lens.
In May 2012, Lenny took the summer job he kept for the rest of his life, supervising the recycling operation at the Wellfleet Transfer Station. He was a fixture at the dump, appreciated by those who knew him and probably even by those he admonished when they put a turkey carcass in the cardboard compactor — those were the kind of recycling exploits he’d describe to friends.
“One of the best parts of being in Wellfleet,” he told photographer Marnie Crawford Samuelson, who interviewed Lenny for this newspaper in 2020, “is riding my red Vespa to work every morning. I go by the pier. I see the water in the jetty. There’s a few people out running with their dogs. I take my time. I see birds and geese and turtles crossing the road, and snakes and turkeys before most of Wellfleet is awake.”
“He was so smart, funny, kind,” wrote Denise and David Ilkovich in an online tribute. “We loved meeting up with him at the transfer station.” He was, they wrote, “a special individual.”
Traveling was another of Lenny’s passions, according to his brother’s remembrance. “He enjoyed traversing the seven seas, relishing great food, collecting treasures, and capturing memorable pictures,” Joseph wrote. “His travels allowed him to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and he cherished these experiences.”
But Wellfleet might have been his favorite destination. “I’ve been coming here my entire life,” he told Crawford Samuelson. “My parents started coming down here when I was a small boy. My father worked as a mailman. Everyone thought we were rich because we had this house ‘down the Cape.’ But we weren’t rich at all. We were just very lucky. Back in 1960, it was very cheap. Nobody wanted to come here.”
During the school year, Lenny lived in Canton. But, he told Crawford Samuelson, “around February or March, when I’m in school, I start dreaming about Wellfleet and the transfer station and my summer job and how I can’t wait to come down here and go bike riding and kayaking and working again at the dump.”
Just as Lenny could not wait each year to return to Wellfleet, Wellfleet could not wait each year to see him again. “I will miss his quick wit and his bright smile,” says Roland Blair’s online remembrance. “This is a major loss to the people of Wellfleet.”
The image of Lenny on his red scooter lingers with Marnie Samuelson. “After photographing and recording with Lenny, he became my friend,” she said. “He anchored my days in Wellfleet. Every morning at 7:25 he beep-beeped, passing by the cottage on his route to the dump. I am missing him.”
Lenny is survived by his brother, Joseph Federico of Lakeville.
There is an online virtual memorial for him on the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home website. A celebration of Lenny’s life will be held in Wellfleet in the spring of 2024.
Meanwhile, a bench facing the jetty on the path around the Wellfleet Marina honors Lenny and his parents. Everyone is encouraged to walk by and remember him there.