Last night I found out that my good long time friend Leo Tyson Dirr passed away. I was very saddened to learn that such a lovely soul and such a good force in the world had left. Anyone who knew Leo will feel the same way I do. When I learned that formal services will not be held to honor Leo, I sat dumbfounded that someone who devoted so much of their life to pouring good out into the universe, would not receive the reciprocated celebration and outpouring of goodness back at the close of his life. There are so many of us fortunate to have known him and lucky enough to call him a friend.
I met Leo when we were just boys. Then he went by Tyson or just Dirr, and we were teammates on our mighty-mights football team in Ogden Utah. He was a fierce competitor and I always laughed at his zany sense of humor although at the time, my childhood naiveté did not appreciate the treasure Leo was. It wasn’t until later in High School that we became better friends, even if I am pretty sure he wasn’t sure how a guy like me even got my shoe-laces tied in the morning. I could always count on Leo to drop not so subtle jabs at me to keep me honest and introspective - always with that humor that was singularly Dirr.
After high school, I always loved to see stories written by Leo as a journalist, or about Dirr in the Newspaper. Most of the time, Leo focused on the plight of humanity, especially those facing real hardship like being homeless, lonely and afraid. He had a real profound sense of empathy and a deep desire to help heal suffering in the world. Often though, he would use that clever humor of his to convey the message that we need to take action of goodness and positivity to make the future better.
One of Leo’s most recent classically Dirr initiatives (one of my favorites) was his push to “Rock the White House” and get The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) elected in 2020 as POTUS. If you know Leo, you cannot help laughing when your read the articles because on one side, you know he knows the humor of the whole crazy idea, but on the other side, you know he is absolutely sincere and serious about why he wanted The Rock as president. He even went so far as to commission a painting, included below with The Rock, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon and Betty White as the faces on Mt. Rushmore. Maybe Betty White was 100%, Dirr’s humor coming out on the initiative, but she still was important in the message Leo wanted to send, and it highlighted how he lived; Fill the universe with kindness, the payback will be beautiful.
If you didn’t get a chance to read the reporting on Leo about the “Rock the White House” campaign, check it out, https://www.ksl.com/?sid=45064346&nid=1205 you will have a good laugh. Below is a little taste.
(“People are visual, especially people on the internet — they’re bored, everything has to be fast, just quick visual representation of an idea that could catch people’s attention and draw people’s interest into the broader idea,” he said.
The connection to include Tom Hanks is clear from the Saturday Night Live skit. Fallon made the monument as Chief of Staff because of what Dirr described as a “very positive interview with The Rock,” which gave Dirr the “sense that those two were friends, so I threw him in there.”
“the most important part of painting is Betty White.” Dirr acknowledged that some people might question why White is featured on the painting as the Secretary of Booyah.
“For me, Betty White is what ties the whole thing together, because in my mind the common thread between those four individuals is they are all kind, decent human beings first and foremost, and Betty White is the poster girl for kindness and decency,” Dirr said.)
Recently, as men now in our 40’s, I had the fortune of seeing much more of Leo and far more of his good soul. I was touched by Leo’s gentile soul and far more appreciative of the friend I’d been fortunate enough to find as boy. Not long after his mom passed away, Leo and I had breakfast. She was incredibly important to him and her death was profoundly difficult. Her death was also a critical event that influenced Leo to ask how he wanted to shape the universe to be something better. He founded Generosity Engine and befittingly called himself the Chief Kindness Officer. When I asked him what the purpose of the company was, he said something to this effect, “There is a law or something in the universe that pays you back. I don’t know why it is, or what it is, but eventually it pays you back. I want to create a company that connects people who simply want to help other people, without any immediate promise. Eventually the universe will pay them back, but with a lot of interest.” I think this last legacy of Leo most completely describes who he was and what he was about. Today, tomorrow and all the days that follow, I hope to be a little more like Dirr, helping those around me find a little more joy, investing in the universe, I’ve already received payment - Leo was my friend.