Our little ninja mascot, Ninja Neno, is named after my dad.
My father’s real name was Leonard, but when he was a kid, his baby sister couldn’t say “Leonard” — at ALL. So she went a TOTALLY different way and simply called him “Neno,” which stuck with him for his entire life.
Sure, at work he went by the more serious monikers of “Len” or “Leonard.” I mean, he started as a staff writer for Popular Mechanics, delving into 1960’s race cars and modern home gadgets. He could hardly be “Neno” there! He then worked in advertising on national accounts like the Gatorade Racing Team and owned his own advertising agency. And ultimately, he bootstrapped one of the very first Pay-Per-View video companies in the US (back before there was an internet, before video could stream — and before it was called “bootstrapping!”)
(My dad was the original hardworking entrepreneur. He’s definitely where I get my entrepreneurial spirit. He’s why there is a Writing Ninja. 😀 And that’s why our mascot is named in his honor.)
When my dad was working, he was “Len,” the smart, creative, quick hard worker. But the rest of the time — with friends and family — he was simply “Neno,” the good-humored imp who laughed easily, loved practical jokes, and would do anything for his family.
Underneath it all — all the work, all the joking — there was a discipline and sense of honor that permeated to his very core.
Because before he was anything else, Neno was a proud Marine.
The real-life Neno at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego
My dad got his mother to sign him into the Marines at the tender age of 16. As a teen, he’d been getting in trouble – some kinda serious – and running with the wrong crowd. So he decided he needed to turn things around, to learn about life and discipline.
He left New York City, went through Boot Camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (see pic above; he was 16!!), and then traveled the world for 4 years as a proud US Marine.
Neno had many colorful adventures (some good, some not so… most of which he didn’t share until I was an adult!). He got incredible on the job training as a mechanical engineer and made some good friends. When he was discharged, he went back to Italy to “knock around for a little while with a few of the guys.”
Our honorary “Ninja Neno” at the Coliseum in Rome
In Rome, Neno bought a Triumph Spitfire and toured around Europe – a far cry from the mean streets of New York City he’d left behind. It was this sports car (and the writing he did while on his touring adventures) that helped him land that first job at Popular Mechanics.
Most of all, it was while he was in the Marines that Neno morphed into the strong, honorable man that everyone who knew him understood him to be within minutes of meeting him. His resilience, tenacity, and honor may have been there all along, but were it not for his decision to leave that dicey situation in NYC and join the US Marine Corps, he may never have had the chance to let it shine.
So while we love and appreciate ALL of our US armed forces, the Marines hold a very, very special place in our hearts. And since my dad isn’t with us anymore, I’ll toast in his honor:
Happy 245th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps!
Semper Fi, Neno!
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