June 25, 2008

Jamie Lembeck Passing

Filed under: Local Interest, News — Jamie Moses @ 4:29 pm

Jamie Lembeck, a loyal friend of Hallwalls (and many of us personally), and devotee of the arts (especially music) and man about town known to (and loved by) most everyone in the art and music scene of Buffalo, died at home overnight, June 24–25, 2008. As was his wish, he had just been released from the hospital earlier yesterday, where he had been treated for newly developing respiratory problems and had contracted a serious infection, both complications of the prolonged paralysis that required him to use a wheelchair for most of his adult life, but which never kept him from getting around or attending more concerts and other art events than just about any non-wheelchair-using person you could name. You never thought of Jamie as being “wheelchair bound”; his wheelchair was his means of mobility, and he was always on the cutting edge of technologies for independent living.

He passed away peacefully in his home in the former firehouse at 1416 Main Street, which he had designed and built as a multi-unit model of independent living, with both close friends and hospice caregivers present, though he had been expected to last longer than the few hours he had left there.

Although many of our current Board members might not know Jamie, Jamie served on Hallwalls’ Board of Directors for a full decade, from January 1996 through January 2006, until the institution of term limits that year (coinciding with our opening in The Church, as it was then called), but he was a long-time supporter before that, and remained a loyal supporter to the end. He advised our architects (both Hallwalls’ and the entire Church project’s) on accessibility, as he had done on so many projects in Buffalo, and one of his legacies is certainly the exemplary accessibility of Babeville, which he took advantage of as long as he could.

The last Hallwalls event I know he attended was the full-to-capacity Eyes & Ears: Sound Needs Image Part II, on April 5, 2008. He had wanted to attend Artists & Models at the end of last month, but, not feeling up to it, he sent his regrets—along with a donation—with a friend.

Artists & Models founder Tony Billoni, former Hallwalls Board member Wendy Pierce, and others of Jamie’s closest friends are making arrangements for a memorial service in Buffalo (probably at the Unitarian Church), and I will let you know the details when they are set.

photos from our Grand Opening weekend in January 2006, with Bruce Adams and Tom Hayduk.

Ed Cardoni

Executive Director, Hallwalls


  1. Jamie is/was a giant amongst us. I stood in awe of his determination and drive many times and his passing came as a shock to me and all of us. His many selfless acts and desire to advocate tirelessly for others is a model for us all to follow. I fondly remember the Buffalo State College Dance marathons that he orchestrated in the 80’s and the countless shows that we were fortunate to see, hear, and enjoy together. We will miss you Jamie.

    Comment by George Olmsted — June 25, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

  2. Jamie Lembeck

    These words could never show you how much you will be missed. Nor does it serve justice to what I owe you in countless lifetimes after this one. But I know you, and I know that you would appreciate that I did this, in Artvoice, my old newspaper route.

    The news of your death, as I knew it would one day, crushed my heart. Regrets, I have some, as anyone would. For not always being in Buffalo to drive you around in that van or cooking you lavish Italian dinners with your nasty lemon-parsley tea.

    Taking off at anytime you felt like it, to feed you sushi, smash into store displays and yell at clerks for the inaccessible wheelchair entrance; as you often did to me when I was just in my teens, dusting vitamins at Feel Rite on Elmwood.

    Who knew that years later we would be driving to Ikea together to pick out furniture, to house your cd collection and a table that you could fit your legs under… to have a proper sit down dinner of course! This turned into lunch, then dinner, then a Buddhist meeting and then me, practicing Buddhism, strong to this day, all because of you.

    Or the time we were blasting Bob Dylan on your car stereo, eating your home-made brownies… as we drove off to the North Park to watch Life is Beautiful with our dear friend, Daniel.

    Or when we sat outside, in the warm summer night, with all of the Elmwood community, watching Italian cinema in a driveway, drinking wine and eating those brownies, with Daniel…whom you were always bickering with like a brother, but deep down inside I know you loved each other.

    Artpark, Hallwalls, Niagara Falls Casino, Tim’s Rendezvous, Yuki Gunis… I think we marked the walls with your chair in everyplace. Leaving behind not just marks, but traces of you. Traces of Jamie Lembeck, a wonderful human being with a heart and a face that anyone could love. You were so wonderful.

    I will tell my children about you, as I have told everyone I know about you here, in Argentina, miles and miles away from our beloved Jamie. We will be chanting for you tonight Jamie. It’s the best we can do now for you.

    I owe you my deepest debt of gratitude. You showed me the way and taught me many lessons; including how to use a wheel chair lift in a blizzard.

    I have no doubt that the sea to cross the ship of suffering awaits you to beautiful enlightenment.

    All my love,

    Comment by Julie Watson — June 27, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  3. I have no doubt that the SHIP to cross the SEA of suffering awaits you to beautiful enlightenment.

    Comment by Julie Watson — June 27, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  4. Jamie… remember that time you had me drive you over to Fort Erie to bet on horses? I had never been to a race track. You were trying to explain it all to me, and I was clueless! I liked the horse “Mo Money”–But you said it was a long shot. Then, when Mo Money came in to win you said we’d have been rich! Too bad we didn’t take the chance! Well… you made many people’s lives rich… Buffalo will miss you so much!!!

    Comment by Kilissa Cissoko — June 27, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  5. Jamie, Jamie, Jamie ~

    Words cannot express how much I will, and already miss you. There will never be anyone to touch my life the same way that you have. In my sorrow, Carole reminded me that you are now free! Remember all of the wonderful times we shared. You have given me so many wonderful gifts, perhaps the most valuable for me was knowing that to you, I was special. Surrounded by women constantly, you reassured me that “No One could ever replace me” for you. I think this is how you saw all of us. No One of us could ever replace another. We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. No jealousy. Thank you for this gift. I love you. Beth

    Comment by Beth Graff-Baker — June 28, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  6. This email came from Tony Billoni regarding services.
    Jamie: I have not been near a browser since wed but I heard the piece on the web was great. Thanks so much. The memorial celebration will take place on wed july 9 630pm at the UU church at elmwood. And ferry. There. Will be a service in the church and a musical celebration in the hall immediately after. Please add this to the web listing. Thanks.


    Comment by jamie moses — June 28, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

  7. With respect we must correct the Hallwalls article above. Jamie was not paralyzed, he had sensation in his body but after benign tumors were removed from his spine he was unable to use his limbs and eventually became totally dependent on others for his care. His mind though was very sharp and his sense of humor always apparent.
    We’d run into Jamie at parties and around town over the 20+ years that we knew him and would attempt to make our way through his crowd of friends surrounding him to say hello. Many times his friends would be people that we also knew, and we’d be surprised that they knew Jamie. Everyone knew Jamie. Jamie touched many people. He had a fuller life then many ambulatory people-his efforts to help others with disabilites started years before he was in a chair. We met him as participants in the dance marathon in his effort to raise money for muscular dystrophy in 1981. He continued to raise awareness and help the lives of others and for that we admire him. He will be sadly missed.

    Comment by Annalise and Brian Januszkiewicz — June 28, 2008 @ 6:28 pm