MY HOUSE — I am off for Christmas. Great place to be. Catching up on sleep. Meeting my kids again. Fighting a cold.
And still word comes this weekend that a great character from my childhood has passed away.
The Rev James Leo was the Dean of the American Cathedral in Paris when I was a teenager. His son Jason was a great mate. Jason and I went to French high school together, went skiing, and got in trouble.
People talk blithely in business about great leaders and use examples that people want to identify with. And most often they’ve nothing to do with business. He was one of those guys. Business’ loss, but the world’s gain.
Although I remember the 70s and 80s well, they do seem like a distant country now. And people like Dean Leo lived lives that seem braver and more worthy than ours. He was a lovely, fun and funny man. His book of memoires can show you that. But he was also a tough guy who looked out for others more than most of us would ever dream of.
He was one of a great cast of characters that my own lovely dad managed to associate with. And just as my dad interviewed kings and tyrants, Jim Leo hosted Presidents, famously gave the last rites to Wallis Simpson and sat patiently while Olivia de Havilland read the lesson. He spoke in a way that was funny, intelligent and engaging. A way I have always wanted to speak.
A strength of character and humility shone through.
His Cathedral was an open and inviting place. “That one’s a spy…” my dad would say, as another ‘commercial attaché’ wandered around the coffee room. And the Dean presided firmly over it all. Pedro the caretaker never let us get into the communion wine, but when Paris offered us its own poisons the Dean would come out and get us, wedging my head in the electric window so I didn’t spoil his upholstery.
Thank you Jim Leo. I will miss you. And the world will be a lesser place without you.