Leonard Victor Cheney
May 9, 1940-July 31, 2023
Dr. Leonard Victor Cheney passed away on Monday, July 31, 2023, surrounded by his wife and three children. He was a devoted and loving son, husband, father, and grandfather. Leonard, known to all as Len, was born on May 9, 1940, to Leonard P. Cheney and Viola Seidcheck Cheney in Chicago, Illinois. At two years old, his family moved to San Leandro, California, where his mother created a loving home and his father owned and operated a local auto-supply store. He graduated from San Leandro High School in 1958 and attended UC Berkeley for two years where he was in Air Force ROTC. Len then transferred to the UCSF School of Dentistry, graduating in 1964 at the top of his class with a specialty in Orthodontics.
Following dental school, Len served as a captain in the Air Force and was stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, for two years working as an orthodontist and teaching English to children. After his service, he traveled extensively, including through Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Burma, India, the Soviet Union, Germany, and France. Many of the wonderful stories he told throughout his life came from these adventures.
Upon returning to the United States, Len lived in Berkeley, CA, where he met the love of his life, Sue Gray. Sue and Len were married on December 19, 1970, at Sue’s home parish, St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Berkeley. They then moved to Pleasanton and soon welcomed their first daughter, Laura, in 1972, then Ana in 1975, and finally Alex in 1979.
Len opened his orthodontics practice in Pleasanton in 1970 next to Amador Valley High School. He oversaw the building of his office from the ground up and created its beautiful Japanese garden, inspired by his time in Okinawa. At the time, Pleasanton’s population was just 18,000 people, and Len started with only two patients. But as Pleasanton grew over the decades, he became a fixture in the community, and countless people who grew up in Pleasanton owe their smiles to his skill and artistry. Len loved his work and talking with and learning about his patients, and the assistants who worked with him over the years became like family. He also volunteered as a clinical instructor at the UOP Dental School in San Francisco for several years late in his career. Len reluctantly retired in 2016 after practicing orthodontics for 52 years.
Len had numerous hobbies and passions throughout his life. In the early 1970s, he raced in and won many SCCA races in a Porsche Speedster at Laguna Seca and Sears Point Raceway, before deciding that auto racing was too dangerous for a new father. He then bought a Hawkfarm sailboat (which he named “Hot Cakes”) without knowing how to sail. Emblematic of his passion and determination, he read every book he could find on racing sailboats and then won several races on the San Francisco Bay in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a crew that included a Pleasanton oral surgeon, Richard Roman, and a former Pleasanton mayor, Bob Butler. Len was an excellent downhill skier and photographer, a skilled chess player, and an avid cyclist. He was also a dedicated (and at times frustrated) golfer and a longtime member of Castlewood Country Club, where he enjoyed golfing with friends and his son right up until the month before he passed. He loved art, antiques, and anything French; chocolate malts and Mamma Burgers at Val’s in Hayward; watching Seinfeld and retelling the jokes; sitting in the sun with a book; and supporting his beloved Cal Bears through their many ups and downs. He also loved people and Pleasanton. He enjoyed attending Valley Community Church and valued the connections he made there, and he was known to strike up conversations with total strangers wherever he went.
Len’s greatest passion was his family. He enjoyed family gatherings at his home in Pleasanton and at the family cabin in Tahoe Meadows. He was happiest when the whole family was gathered around the table sharing a meal, a good glass of wine, and some laughs. Len showered his children and grandchildren with love and affection; he delighted in their activities and accomplishments. He could make you feel like the most special person in the room. He was the consummate gentleman and a great storyteller, and he exuberantly expressed wonder and awe for the gift of being alive. Len had a contagious enthusiasm for the little things in life, a genuine warmth, and a tender heart. As one of his favorite theologians, Frederick Buechner, wrote: “The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” Indeed, family parties will not be complete without him. He will be missed immensely.
Len is survived by his beloved wife, Sue Cheney, his children, Laura Cheney, Ana Moon (Eric), and Alex Cheney (Sonya), and his grandchildren, Andy, Emily, Abigail, Thomas, Leila, and Ali.