Leonard J. "Len" Lapka

Lansing, Michigan

Born August 11, 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio son of the late Joseph and Marie (Kierchowski) Lapka passed away on Saturday, July 18, 2015 at age 87.

Len graduated from Michigan State University where he was a scholarship member of the football team and following graduation began a 38 year career as teacher and coach at Lansing St. Mary’s, Muskegon Catholic Central, and Lansing Waverly High School.  Len was a member of the Cathedral Latin High School Hall of Fame, the State of Michigan Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, and was a two time inductee into the Greater Lansing Hall of Fame as both a coach and with his 1954 St. Mary’s Class C State Championship team.  Len was a long-time member of St. Gerard Catholic Church.

Surviving are his wife of 64 years, Mary Lapka; five children, Deborah  (Jeff) Boyd, Jean (Jim) Batts, Joseph (Cynthia) Lapka, Thomas Lapka, and James Lapka; nine grandchildren, Jennifer, Joey, Sara, Tyler, Molly, Katie, Adam, Alex, and Kaitlin; seven great-grandchildren, Sam, Lucas, Ellie, Sydney, Kara, Traylee, and Ella; sister-in-law, Carol Barker and many nieces, nephews and other extended family members.

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at St. Mary Cathedral, 219 Seymour Ave. in Lansing with Rev. Fr. John P. Klein of St. Gerard Catholic Church officiating.  The family will receive friends at the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel on Monday, July 20, from 4:00-7:00 p.m.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society or Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

Print Obituary

21 Messages to “Leonard J. "Len" Lapka

Print Messages
Grant Putman '68
July 19, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Dear Coach Lapka,
Thanks for the support, guidance, knowledge, and “the push” to be better than we thought we could to be. Godspeed.

Joe Heiler
July 19, 2015 at 4:39 pm

I’m a better person for having known you. You personified the term integrity. Thank you for pushing us to be better than we thought we could be.

Christine Schneider Brown
July 19, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Always enjoyed my classes with you, and visiting you and your family with some of my classmates (class of ’61) I also appreciate the support you gave my brother, Larry, (who you gave the nickname “Moose”) (class of ’54), and who has gone on. Go with God.

Marsha Mathews '68
July 19, 2015 at 7:24 pm

My thoughts are with the family. He was great man and made school much more enjoyable if you were lucky to be in his class. So sorry Joe and Cindy for the lost of your father.

Mike and Kathy Weeks
July 19, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Mr. Lapka! You had such a positive influence on us. R.I.P.

Dave Leisman, '68
July 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Coach will always be a part of my life. He taught us all to stretch ourselves, to conquer what we had considered unconquerable and be to more than what we thought we could be. Whether it was running an endless 3 man weave or listening to him turn an otherwise boring government lecture into something we could all understand and appreciate, we all have a part of him with us ,…, and that’s a good thing and why we can all say “thank-you”, Mr. Lapka.

Terry Kenney "70"
July 20, 2015 at 6:26 am

My thoughts and prays are with the Lapka family. Thanks for all you have taught us, both in the class room and out side the class room. RIP.

Carol Ann Adado "69"
July 20, 2015 at 9:25 am

The best government teacher I ever had, he made the class interesting. Also when the team won on Friday night we would go over the game on Monday in class, if they lost you knew there would be no talk of the Friday game just government. He never forgot who your name either, amazing man! RIP

Bruce Miller
July 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

No novelist could have conjured a more charismatic & memorable character. A great man!

Fay (Horanburg) VoVilla) (68)
July 20, 2015 at 11:11 am

Always a great teacher and leader a creator of many fond memories. rip

Ms Lee Simpson Jenks Heck
July 20, 2015 at 11:59 am

I have some great memories, especially from drivers ed. I turned left onto a major road instead of left. I think I may have added a couple gray hairs that day, but he didn’t get crazy, just told me to take the next RICHTER turn. It was a memorial moment. Thanks Coach. You’ll be missed. Graduating class of 1968

Mark Roche '82
July 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Coach Lapka was a family friend for years. They bought carpet from me a couple years back and as I was leaving their condo Len walked me out to my car. In typical Len fashion and I quote ” Rocher, next time you come back over, bring some balls and a fungo bat and I will hit ya some fly balls in the back yard”. We both got a good laugh from that. My thoughts are with all of the Lapka family. A great teacher, coach, and friend. He will be missed. RIP Lenny.

Linda Wolcott
July 20, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Len – miss eating with you here at Regency at Lansing West & the fist pumps in the hall way…. Enjoyed talking with you & Mary. RIP friend….

Denny English, Class of 1961
July 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm


In high school you were my coach and my mentor, as well as my teacher. You were responsible for my success on the court as well as many of the values I have maintained throughout my life.

I have enjoyed our annual breakfasts and lunches and looked forward to seeing you each year when I returned to Lansing.

When you procured my basketball scholarship to Denver U, you gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and as a result, my life has been full of rewards and successes. I am eternally grateful. You were always the “coach” to me. You are my friend forever. I love you.

David Weigel, Class of 1968
July 20, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Mr Lapka was a dedicated teacher and real mentor. He would engage students in thoughtful conversation about government, history and life. Thank you for caring about your students. Not just while we were in the classroom but for our entire life.

Jeff Simpson "69"
July 20, 2015 at 8:13 pm

To the Lapka Family,

It saddens me to hear of the passing of your father. Len was a true professional, a gentleman, teacher/coach and mentor who had a tremendous impact on my life. It is through his instruction everyday in class and his motivational tools on the field that I used when I was a teacher/coach and as a parent. It was his tough love that he had for me that made me what I am today. If there was one person that I looked up to and gave me guidance it was Len Lapka. Heaven is in better hands now. One of the greatest men I have ever known will be coaching the winning team. Thank you Coach Lapka

Meredith Carl Miller, Class of '68
July 21, 2015 at 7:44 am

Please know that many thoughts are with the Lapka family at this time. Mr. Lapka was a favorite teacher at Waverly. He had a wonderful way of nudging us forward with his caring and sense of humor. The consummate teacher, he taught us in the classroom, on the field and at other school events. He was a large part of many lives at Waverly High School.

Kelly class of '77
July 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

Best teacher, he made learning fun, he was a larger-than-life character seem to really enjoy what he did. Condolences to his family

Mark Robinson
July 21, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Class of 69 basketball player and student. enjoyed in the classroom and on the court. RIP Len

July 21, 2015 at 7:23 pm

Lapka Family, Please accept my sincerest condolences on the loss of Coach Lapka. He was a dear friend of my fathers for many many years and I was fortunate to meet him in my early baseball years. He attended my fathers visitation last year and still called me Ricky. What a gentleman, mentor, friend, teacher and ambassador of life itself. I know my dad now has a great life long friend to go to sporting events with and talk over old times. God Bless you all and God Bless Coach Lapka.
Kindest Regards, Rick Carrow

Sherry Cook
August 25, 2015 at 10:33 am

Lenny was an awesome teacher! I really enjoyed his classes and his honest opinions about everything, including Eleanor Roosevelt. Those of you had that him for a teacher know exactly what I’m referring to. I also had a blast with him in Drivers Ed, especially after a particularly harrowing experience with another driver. Lenny just told her to pull over and had me take the wheel and drive us out for ice cream. Loved it! Loved him! He will be missed. Graduating class of ’84 Waverly


Please Sign The Guestbook

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *