‘BIG ED’ LENDENSKI MEMORIAL BLOOD DRIVE IS A CELEBRATION OF LIFE

Carolyn Lendenski with son Edde Lendenski donating in his dad's memory.

Carolyn Lendenski with son Edde Lendenski donating in his dad’s memory.

The “Celebrating 50 Years of Saving Lives” t-shirts on the table at the 3rd annual Ed Lendenski Memorial Blood Drive Monday, Aug. 18 in West Milton stirred memories for Carolyn Lendenski, widow of the popular Milton-Union High School principal, coach and community leader.
Sept. 14, 2014 will mark Community Blood Center’s (CBC) 50th anniversary. As Carolyn handed out the special t-shirts and home-baked brownies in the Donor Café she recalled when “Big Ed,” her great bear of a husband with a life-long passion for athletics, was laid low by myelodysplastic syndrome, the bone marrow disorder that eventually took his life.
“We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in the hospital,” she said. “Everyone at Good Samaritan was wonderful to us. Father Caserta (pastor of West Milton’s Transfiguration Church) said, ‘We could have a mass said for you, we have a chapel here.’”
MDS patients develop severe anemia and Ed’s treatment included many blood transfusions. His family began the memorial blood drive as a way to thank and honor blood donors who helped extend his life.
Monday’s blood drive registered 27 donors, including three first-time donors, and collected 23 donations.
“Ed’s hemoglobin had dropped and he was prone to infection at that time,” she said. But the nursing staff got together and cleaned up the room. They had champagne and snacks, and just for Ed and I they set up a room with flowers. They asked, ‘If you could have dinner anywhere, where would you want to go?’ I said, ‘Oh, the Pine Club!’ They had a dinner cooked at the hospital with everything from the Pine Club. He passed away six months later but at least we got to celebrate our anniversary together.”
It’s a tribute to Ed Lendenski that his former students and players remember him fondly and donate in his memory at the blood drive. Former player and fellow Rotary Club member Steve Longenecker donated Monday – his third in Ed’s name. He again told stories of Ed’s reputation for discipline, including paddling and “locker dancing” – tossing unruly players like Steve against lockers – to get their attention.
“My dad and Big Ed were best friends,” said West Milton’s Trasey Thompson, who made her 20th lifetime donation Monday. “They did a lot of fishing together. I went to school with Eddie, their son, and we graduated together. They’re good people.”
Eddie made more than 20 platelet donations for his father, the last just days before Big Ed’s death in March of 2012. Near the end of Monday’s blood drive Eddie arrived at Transfiguration Church from his home in the Mason area to donate again, this time in his dad’s memory.
“It’s for dad and for anybody else that needs blood,” he said. “People don’t realize how important this really is until it happens to someone in your family.” The thought is not just about Big Ed. Eddie’s 14-year old son is a big, strong football and baseball player just like his dad and grandfather. But he nearly died from a sinus infection that spread to his brain. He has recovered, and the family is thankful.
An unexpected delight at the blood drive came courtesy of Lindsay Baddeley, who donated with her four-month old son Aidan at her side. Lindsay first donated while at Vandalia-Butler High School, then later at Miami Valley Career Technology Center. “I was working at CTC,” said Carolyn. “That was right before I retired.” The two talked about school days as Lindsay donated and Carolyn held Aidan and fed him his bottle. As the family always says at the Ed Lendenski Memorial Blood Drive, “Big Ed would be so proud.”

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