The Poet of Chestnut Hills: Leonard Trawick Shares His Talents & the Reason He Chose Judson

When Leonard and Kerstin Trawick decided to leave their Cleveland Heights home four years ago, they didn’t think twice about their next destination: they knew long ago that they would one day live at Judson.

Years earlier, Kerstin’s parents had retired and moved from Texas to be close to Kerstin and her brother. They lived in a Judson Manor apartment, “and it wasn’t only good for them – it was good for us, too,” Leonard says. “We trusted their care. We could even go off on a vacation and know the folks were taken care of.” According to Leonard, they had such good feelings about Judson that when they sold the Edgehill Road home where they had lived for 40 years, “We decided we would take a lesson from her parents.”

Leonard taught at Columbia University in New York City before he and Kerstin came to Cleveland in 1969, when he took a teaching position at Cleveland State University (CSU). He retired in 2000, and after a dozen more years they realized their house was too big for the two of them. It was time for a change.

An apartment became available in Judson Park’s independent living section and the Trawicks snapped it up. Their own two children live in Virginia and Indiana, and they feel the same way Leonard and Kirsten felt about her parents’ place: “It makes them very happy to know someone’s taking care of us,” Leonard says.

Not that the Trawicks need much care – they’re too busy! One of Leonard’s favorite pastimes is serving as chair of Judson Park’s Howson Gallery committee. The gallery showcases the work of Cleveland-area artists, and Leonard and the other committee members scrutinize artwork and determine whose pieces they’ll exhibit in the coming months. “We handle all the details,” he says, “talking to the artists, making selections, and helping them to install the pieces.”

But Leonard’s biggest passion is poetry. “I’ve been writing all my life, but I took it more seriously after I came to Cleveland,” he says. “I teach English, so I figured I ought to write some poetry if I’m going to teach it.” His work has been published in major literary magazines, including Poetry and the Antioch Review, and in November he published a book of his best poems, titled A 24-Hour Cotillion.

Leonard Trawick's A 24 Hour Cotillion

Passage from Leonard Trawick's A 24 Hour Cotillion

Shortly after his book was published, Leonard held a reading of his poetry in Judson Park’s auditorium, and was a little surprised – and more than a little pleased – when more than 50 people showed up. “That’s really good for a poetry reading,” he says.

And his sidelines don’t stop there. Leonard paints: last August and September, Judson Park staged a retrospective of 65 of his paintings and prints. His art background also includes 10 years of printmaking classes at CSU, a diversion that serves him well in his role as gallery chair. “I learned about etching and other processes,” he says. “But more important, I can talk to the artists we meet. My gallery job is familiar territory.”

Kerstin is no slouch, either. A former English teacher, she worked for years as director of publications for Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Today she’s a volunteer assistant in Judson’s medical records office, and, with occasional help from Leonard, she manages Judson Park’s commissary one day a week.

What Leonard appreciates most about life at Judson Park is the social atmosphere. He and Kerstin go to water exercise sessions, association meetings, group dinners, and frequent performances by Cleveland Institute of Music students. “Some are visiting musicians,” he explains, “but we also have two CIM students living in Judson Park and Judson Manor. Every week we get one or two wonderful concerts, free of charge.” “But,” he adds, “we also provide a very good audience. It’s good practice for them.”

Leonard’s advice: move to Judson while you’re young and healthy enough take full advantage of the perks. “They even have a happy hour every Friday with wine,” he says. “I’ve never met anyone who regrets living here – particularly those who came in their early retirement years.

“No one regrets coming here ‘too early.’”

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