Amherst Magazine

Leonard Joseph Marks

Submitted by Craig H. Morgan on Monday, 12/3/2012, at 8:47 PM

From Freshman Year Archive

Marks LEONARD JOSEPH MARKS
79 Blaisdell Avenue, Pawtucket, R.I.
Pawtucket West High School

 

Leonard J. Marks disappeared November 13, 1959.
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It happened more than fifty years ago, and memories are inexact. But this much seems accepted as fact. On Friday, November 13, 1959, Lenny Marks left North Hall to catch the football-team bus bound for Bennington, Vermont, where the players would spend the night before the Williams game. The next day, after the game, won by Amherst, he set out hitchhiking to see a girlfriend at Skidmore, roughly two hours away. Sometime that night, perhaps on his way back to Amherst, he vanished; no friends or family would see him again. College security and Amherst police began to investigate when he failed to return to school after several days, but apparently discovered nothing. No record of these investigations survives.

Foul play was suspected, but where did it happen? Who was responsible? A graduate of Pawtucket West High School in Rhode Island, Lenny was by all accounts not someone to be victimized easily. A sophmore end on the football team, he was known as a shrewd card player with an ascerbic wit who had no difficulty keeping himself in pocket money. "Lenny never had to cash a check," remembers his freshman-year roommate and close friend Dave Roll. "He distinguished himself at James by being an around-the-clock bridge and poker player, regularly fleecing a host of gullible freshmen. (Among the regulars: Larry Miike, Bill Webster, Winston Wynne, John Dickey, and Porter Wheeler. Larry denies gullibility and doesn't remember being fleeced.)

Ira Kirschembaum, Lenny's roommate at the time of his disappearance, was stopped by campus security a few days afterward ad escorted to a dean's office where, he says, "I was not very politely interrogated by Lenny's father and a guy from the FBI. I can understand that they assumed since I was his roommate I must have some information about his disappearance--- that he must have talked to me about his plans, or at least I must have figured out something on my own, none of which was the case. They took a hard stance, trying to frighten me, which they did, but I had nothing to tell them."

Ira believes he last saw Lenny the night before his disappearance. But Ira's memory is hazy, and it seems more likely that he saw him the previous night, before the team left for Bennington. In any case, when he awoke the next morning, Lenny was gone and Ira's wallet was missing. (It was found later under a cushion in the James library, minus $30.) Ira concluded at first that Lenny had taken it, and later that he might simply have left school on his own. Yet, he recalls, "I wasn't aware of anything in his behavior to indicate he wasn't planning to return." In the end, there were no lasting hard feelings. "Anyone who knew Lenny," says Ira, "knew he was an easygoing, good-natured guy with a devilish sense of humor from which no one was safe or immune. I don't think there was a mean bone in his body.."

Dave Roll was also questioned about Lenny. "His friends, including me, were grilled at first by Bill Joy and then by Amherst police, who suspected we knew more than we were willing to say. But we didn't." Several years later, it appeared authorities had learned no more than they knew at the beginning. "When I was at University of Michigan Law School," Dave recalls, "FBI agents interviewed me a couple of times in Ann Arbor to find out if I had heard anything." He hadn't, "For years afterward," he remembers, "when I was walking on crowded city streets, I would glimpse someone from a distance and think it would be Lenny. One time I even yelled out 'Lenny!' to someone walking far ahead of me." The someone, it turned out, was a stranger.

----Ross Drake '62

Lenny Marks