Leonard Flippen was taken recently by Valley Fever, but he has not been taken from us at all. He lives in each person whom he blessed with his strength and wisdom and healing powers. Leonard was a healer, and he facilitated hundreds of healing circles. He knew that all have been hurt in life. He helped each to feel that hurt, and to move on.

In 2015, I directed Leonard in a Poetic Justice Project show called “Inside /// Out.” It was about a man’s experiences in prison, and his life when he got out. Leonard played the central role. He needed no research because he had lived the part.

At the end of each performance, Leonard would say, “You may have entered tonight thinking life is a matter of US and THEM. Now you see that there is only US.”

Every group Leonard brought together was a healing circle. Whether it was the cast of a Poetic Justice Project play, A Vision for Men group of prisoners mentoring a man newly released, or a multicultural community group. Leonard knew that a circle of people, listening to each person with an open heart, was the medicine all sought.

Leonard Flippen faced his demons head on, and helped others do the same. He managed a half-way house for former convicts looking for a way to reengage in society. Having done heavy drugs, he helped other men to get clean and sober. Having formerly fought in and out of prison, he studied mediation and worked as a restorative justice coordinator and facilitator at the Conflict Solutions Center.

Leonard lost his father through a divorce when he was 11 years old. In searching for a father figure, he went down many dead ends until he found the father in himself. He became a father figure for those who needed him.

Leonard was strong, and he was vulnerable. He was smart, and he was compassionate. Though big and tall, his ego did not lead him. What led him was his desire to help those who had lost their way and needed someone to believe in their ability to find their own way back.

Leonard felt most at home in a circle, where each person was appreciated for the unique individual they were. He created a safe space where even a beginner could share. He would ask each to say, “If you really knew me, you would know that ...” and each person would say what was important about them.

What was important about Leonard was that he listened deeply to each person and was always honest and kind to them in response. In serving others he became the good man he was destined to be.

In death, he asks us to be honest with ourselves and others, and to continue healing the world with love and understanding. He asks us to be the mentors others need to find their true selves. Leonard trusts that we are strong enough and wise enough to do that.

Gale McNeeley is a Santa Maria resident.


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