Like his bass drum, his presence seemed out of proportion to his physical size. So it is throughout New Orleans, where modest things — a walk by the river, a plate of red beans, a shotgun house — take on outsized importance.
Although I never knew him as a young man, his vitality was irrepressible. He loved to look good, he loved to flirt with the ladies, he loved to be part of the crowd on Frenchmen Street. So it is throughout New Orleans, where celebration of life comes so naturally.
And, oh, he was generous. My son Nick was 11 or 12 when he met Uncle Lionel, shortly after our move to New Orleans. We were in Dutch Alley; leaving an afternoon performance at the National Park Service space there. Uncle Lionel showed an interest in Nick, who had been drumming for two or three years. When Nick admired his necktie with a drum kit design, he took it off and gave it to him.
That necktie was lost in Hurricane Katrina. But, like Uncle Lionel, the meaning it held will carry on.