Today is a sad day for some current and former residents of Geneva, for we have lost our Little Buddy – Tommy Lencioni. I use the title “Little Buddy” with all my love and respect, because that is what Tommy was to us that knew him.
Tommy was a lifelong resident of Geneva and a member of the LPA – or Little People Of America. He passed away Wednesday.
I first met him when I was 12 years old, when I moved into his neighborhood. Their home was an oasis for all kids growing up throughout grade school and high school. We were always welcome at his home. Tommy was always included in games or anything we were involved in. He was just like every other kid; he wanted to be part of things and to be liked.
Tommy was genuine. He really meant it from the heart when he said it was good to see you and asked how you were doing. During those years it seemed everyone knew him, and he knew every person in town.
One winter’s day, we had a great snow storm, the playing and packing kind. All the kids were outside, and we decided to build snow forts in the empty lot across from Tommy’s house and have a snowball fight. After a day of building, the fight was scheduled for the next day. I thought I would be really smart and make snowballs for the next day.
Well, everything froze over night and the snowballs were frozen rock hard. Tommy was behind the fort wall across the yard. We were all having a good old time, laughing, heaving snowballs, just a group of young kids having a ball. I let loose with one of my special frozen weapons, and – when I did – Tommy’s little head popped up from behind the wall. I think my breathing stopped as I wanted the snowball to do also. It smacked him right in the face, and he instantly fell over and hit the ground.
I rushed over as everyone did. It had shattered his glasses. His mother, Arlene, rushed him off to the hospital, and I slowly walked home a block away, helplessly sobbing for what I had done. Tommy of all people. I felt just rotten.
A few hours later, Arlene called and said he was home and to come on over. We sat at their kitchen table.
I was still so upset, apologizing repeatedly. Arlene said we were lucky – he had shattered glass in one eye that the doctor removed, and there was no permanent damage. The doctor said he was very lucky for he could have lost his sight in that eye. I was still apologizing and offering to pay for new glasses. Arlene said that is was not necessary; it was an accident and everything is OK.
Then, Tommy – smiling at me – says, “Maloney, you know what I am going to do? I’m going to make some snowballs, put them in the freezer and when you are walking by the house in July, I’m going to come out and get you buddy!” He gave me that friendly smile and laugh I will always remember him for.
I lived and learned a great lesson from Tommy that day. How terribly bad it feels when you hurt someone, even if it was unintentional. Yet, what a glorious relief it is to your heart and soul when someone forgives you. I will never forget that day, and Tommy didn’t either. We have both laughed about it together several times 50 years later.
Tommy, my Little Buddy, I am going to miss you dearly but I will never forget you or what you taught me. I am so glad I knew you and we were neighbors and good friends.
• Tom Maloney is a Batavia resident. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.