Lawrence Dean Lenihan, known to friends as “Chitlen,” died peacefully Wednesday August 17th, 2022 at his home. Born in Sacramento, California in 1944, to the late Lila Best and Dean Lenihan, raised in Folsom, his journey brought him to North Carolina where he established deep roots in Durham.
In his late teens and early twenties, in California, his skill for building motorcycles and restoring vintage cars left him with so many projects that he had to rent extra space in little old ladies’ driveways to be able to accommodate all the cars. He left college when his mother got sick and worked extra jobs at Corning and Ford to maintain two households. He even starred in a Pepsi commercial.
He spent years traveling the United States which led to a life with memories so epic they’re fit for a movie you wouldn’t believe, but he has the photo album to prove it. He personally knew Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Tom Petty, David Allen Coe and Hank Williams Jr., but in his last days he listened to his favorites from Super Grit and The Bill Lyerly Band. He and his wife Cynthia moved to Durham in the early 1970s, where they built a new family of friends, affording all those he loved with his incredible loyalty. They also expanded their own family when their daughter, Glynis, was born.
Dean had an incredible sense of humor and an innate ability to make anyone laugh (if you listened hard enough). He was unbeatable at trivia, could deliver an impression better than any SNL character and had a love of music that was unmatched, while his own greatest musical talent was playing the spoons. Although his last 40 years looked different, there was a time you couldn’t picture him without his cowboy hat, a pack of Lucky Strikes, Wild Turkey in hand, doing an impression of Blind Melon Chitlin. A passion for the open road and his love of riding motorcycles with friends, offered him the opportunity to travel to every state in the continental U.S.
Spending time with Glynis was his greatest joy. One of the things his daughter will always cherish most are the decades of jokes that he collected especially for her when they were apart because he couldn’t wait to make her laugh when they were together again.
In 2003, when Glynis married Brian Eaton, he gained a new best friend who shared his love of old cars, Mexican food and twangy country music. In 2015 he moved to Midland, NC to be closer to his family. He quickly adopted weekly traditions such as taking his granddaughters for ice cream and Friday night dinners with Brian, Glynis and the girls.
Just as he cultivated jokes for Glynis, he picked up on his granddaughter, Kate’s, love of old movies. Every Tuesday evening he introduced her to one of his treasured classic movies for them to watch. These were some of the best moments of his life, sharing his favorite films with one of his favorite people in the world.
He was born on 10-4-44, and on the day he died he opened his eyes for the last time at 10:44 a.m., and he passed at 1:44 p.m., which was 10:44 California time. Something tells us it wasn’t a coincidence.
Dean was a hero to his daughter and granddaughters, Ava and Kate. He is also survived by his former wife and devoted friend, Cynthia Rich; brother, Donald Lenihan, “brothers-in-friendship” William Johnson and Ben Knowles, nephews, Corey, Donovan, Jacob and Shane Lenihan. In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by his son-in-law, Brian Eaton.
A humble man who didn’t even want a funeral service, Dean would like to be remembered by friends gathering together while having a drink at Bralie’s 2 Sports Bar in Durham, NC, on Friday, August 26th at 2pm.
Although many are describing him as a legend, he was a modest man who was generous to a fault and would do anything for a friend. Instead of flowers, Dean would hope that you would do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for someone in need.