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Cancer diagnosis aftermath goes far beyond the patient


Brandy Hensley is Lenny and Debbie Zmich's oldest daughter. Brandy loves her
work with people and animals at the Newport Animal Shelter. Like her parents,
she is a dedicated worker to her staff, job, and community.
Published: 6:44 PM, 11/30/2012

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

"Thirty days hath November" seems to have quietly past with an icy full moon yet in our hometown early December promises to bring a warming breeze and end to this long Leap Year.

First, let me remind you that I have not forgotten Elza Painter after leaving you wondering about him when I presented his recent birthday photo. This week I will be visiting Elza and Irene for another photo and stories for you. I've also come across in my travels a fellow whose photo you have seen in holidays past with his extensive Christmas decorations at his Indian Hills home-Ralph Valentine. You may not have known he is recovering from cancer and you will be reading more about this and how he is doing and his current decorations for December. I have also taken some time to visit with Lenny Zmich's daughters at their work places to share their thoughts about their father's battle with cancer. He and wife, Debbie, were out of town for his medical treatment one day last week so I will continue with our earlier chat and what I learned about his life and times. You may also recall that I featured a story about Carma, the blind dog at the Newport Animal Shelter. While visiting there last week I found out that Carma has a local home for the holidays and beyond.


Lenny has always been active


During Halloween the Knoxville cancer center staff were in costume to keep the chemotherapy treatment atmosphere light and jovial for patients. Now, Lenny is a big fan of decorating for Halloween, especially because of his grandsons, Logan and Parker Latno. They are Brandy (Zmich) Hensley's children.  Lenny likes to prepare a special scary treat at the family's haunted house, and a chainsaw usually gets everyone's attention. I recall several years ago going to the Newport National Guard Armory where a large number of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts were having games and races and Lenny was among those setting things up for the children.

What's I've seen about Lenny is that while he can work as hard or harder than the next man, he also likes to have good wholesome fun with the family. They are also members of Newport Church of God and live next door to the church and have for many years. A daughter works just across Old Knoxville Highway, as a physical therapist assistant at VIP Therapy. When I met their younger daughter, Jenny Zmich, I realized she was the assistant who helped me with back-strengthening exercises at VIP Therapy this fall at VIP Therapy operated by Dr. Megan Stinson and her mother, Becky Dance. Debbie Zmich was also in health care for over 20 years as a nurse at Newport Health & Rehabilitation. But for the past couple of years she has not worked and it is a good thing she is available to support Lenny with care he might need.

Although Debbie was "born up north" her heart is here. You may have known her late father, Bill Keller, who worked many years as a plant employee in Cleveland. Mom is Bonnie Keller and they returned to Newport in 1974. Debbie also has a brother, Bill "Rusty" Keller, who has been in the military and lives in Portland, Oregon. Most likely he will be visiting here for Christmas.


One of six Cleveland sons


Lenny is within a few days of my birthday month and he was born February 25, 1961 and that makes him a youthful 51, and one of six boys two of whom are deceased. His late parents were Bernard Zmich, a German, and Mildred Zmich, who was Polish. So far as I know, Lenny doesn't smoke or drink but he readily says his father consumed a lot of liquor during his life. I found it astonishing that Bernard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was 46 and lived until age 61. "He took one chemo treatment and then said to h--- with it," recalled Lenny. In Cleveland he started work young at a gas station at a time when young men could make 75 cents to a buck per hour pumping gasoline and cleaning car windshields. Lenny was in trade school in his high school years and studied auto repair, which explains why he can fix so many things.

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