BY JOAQUIN CONTRERAS
Although two years from his 100th birthday, Leonard Finz does not look so far into the future, preferring to live as presently as possible.
“To think that in two weeks I’ll be 98, God willing, (and) if I’m still here to think that I’ll even reach the centenary – well, I’m not going that far. I’m just living for the day day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, and I let the higher authority chart my life for the future,” Finz said.
Though looking back over the nearly 36,000 days of his life, Finz’s accomplishments spanned courtrooms, stages and a world war. The Manhasset resident was honored with an induction into the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame on Saturday July 23 at the historic Gracewood Mansion.
Finz was recognized for his service as 1st Lieutenant, Field Artillery in the Pacific Theater during World War II and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious and Exceptional Service.
“As a young man, Lieutenant Leonard Finz led his artillery battery into battle to serve and protect his nation. Today we are honored to pay tribute to Justice Leonard Finz for a lifetime of dedicated service. He is an icon of his generation and a role model for others to follow,” said State Senator John Brooks, who presented Finz with copies of resolutions from the New York State Senate and Assembly. which were adopted in his honor at the ceremony alongside the state senator. Ana M. Kaplan and State Assemblyman Gina Sillitti.
Finz joins other famous inductees such as Senator Bob Dole, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and author, political commentator and original host of line of fire Willam F. Buckley Jr.
Born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1924 to Turkish immigrants, Finz was initially an avid musician, playing both clarinet and saxophone while attending the High School of Music and Art, from which he graduated in 1942. Finz would embark on a career as a singer and musician under the name “Lennie Forrest” for two years after law school, performing in venues across the country.
Finz was cast in the NBC soap opera “Another World” and even auditioned for the lead role in the 1952 remake of “The Jazz Singer, a role that went to Danny Thomas.
After graduating from Pearl Harbor, Finz enlisted in the army at age 18 and underwent basic training at Camp Pendleton, Virginia.
At the request of the Special Services Captain and given his background in the arts, Finz produced, wrote, and conducted shows on a weekly basis, later displaying his musical talent with the United States Army Band.
But louder than the music were the screams of the soldiers on the battlefield.
“There were soldiers – real soldiers – dying in Europe, dying in the Pacific, and I just didn’t want to tell my grandchildren and my wife that I spent World War II playing the music. I wanted to fight and be part of the war. Therefore, I applied to the school for officer candidates in the field artillery, which is a combat branch of the military,” Finz said.
Graduating as part of a class of just 32 applicants, Finz was honored as a second lieutenant and boarded a troop ship for Okinawa, joining the first wave attack force on the Japanese mainland, but never reached his destination when Japan surrendered following the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few days before the planned attack.
Honorably discharged as a 1st Lieutenant in 1946, Finz earned a law degree at New York University with the help of the GI Bill, motivated by his experience as a Judge Advocate General in the Philippines where he defended GI prisoners awaiting court-martial for various crimes. Finz held the position despite only having a high school diploma.
Returning to law after his stint in show business, Finz became politically active, organizing rallies as Queens County campaign chairman for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and running unsuccessfully for presidential seats. Senate and Congress. He was elected a judge of the New York Civil Court, becoming the youngest at the time, and then a judge of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.
Meanwhile, Finz married his late wife Pearl of 67 years and had two children.
He founded what is now Mineola-baed Finz & Finz PC in 1984, and later joined by his son, Stuart, secured verdicts and settlements totaling over $1 billion until his retirement in 2004.
“The company is a family business. It’s been three generations: myself, my son, my grandson and my granddaughter. I also have four grandchildren and they are all involved in law,” Finz said.
Finz received the Army Commendation Medal for distinguished meritorious service from the United States Army Officers Artillery School in 2004, in addition to receiving the Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal , the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal before his induction into the Hall of Fame.
During his retirement, Finz became the author of four published books and various legal articles, a YouTube commentator on political and geopolitical affairs, and occasionally advises attorneys on some of the firm’s cases.
“(Finz) has been a hugely important role model to me throughout my 65s and is a determined, strong and caring father who is talented, loving and supportive of me and my sister Sandy,” Stuart Finz said. , CEO and lawyer. at Finz & Finz PC “This world would be a better place if more people showed the kind of care and compassion for others that he showed in his life. Not a day goes by that we don’t talk or discuss the issues of the day or current events. We developed that kind of relationship and it shows the depth and quality of the person my father is and how important he was in my life and in the lives of so many people in our country.
Although stoic about the honor, Finz is grateful for the attention, especially the light it sheds on what has come to be known as the “Greatest Generation”.
“We had 60 million Americans in uniform during World War II. What we have left today is less than 1% of that total and we are losing (more) at the rate of 350 to 400 veterans per Now most of these veterans who are still with us are either in nursing homes or nursing homes or disabled We are all in our mid 90’s and we are truly a growing breed I will let the higher authority (decide) when I statistically fall into this group known as the extinct race,” Finz said.