A man who has mended the soles of locals' shoes for more than 30 years, is in need of a bit of mending himself.
Word quickly spread this week that Leon Ganapolsky of Leon’s Shoe Repair was not in his shop located at 114-11 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Instead, many were shocked to find that he’s been in the hospital, recovering from surgery related to bladder cancer.
According to Ganapolsky’s family, the beloved shoe repairman was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November 2018. He underwent a few treatments that were unsuccessful, leaving him with surgery as his last resort. However, after learning about the possibility of a six-month recovery time, the surgery became his last priority. “He procrastinated for close to six months because he didn’t want to close the store,” his daughter, Sabina Kirfield wrote in a Facebook post on Friends of Rockaway Beach. Kirfield says she and her brother had to convince him to go through with the surgery.
His family debated what to do with the store while Ganapolsky recovers. “At first we thought of selling the business because it would be very financially difficult to maintain a store with the overhead of rent, plus more, and without any revenue coming in,” Kirfield said. But with the store as his main passion, they decided to keep it as a source of motivation. “Our dad was very adamant about returning back to work,” she said. They were also motivated by the outpouring of love, support and prayers on Facebook as word spread about their father’s surgery. “Since he is a very loyal, dedicated and helpful person who loves his customers, and simply judging by the outpour of love and support, I think the feelings are mutual. So we decided it would be best to keep the store for him as a motivation for his recovery!” Kirfield said.
To help cover some of the costs of keeping the store open while Leon is recovering, many suggested starting a GoFundMe account to raise money. Kirfield graciously accepted the idea. “Please feel free to help with any amount you can so Leon can fully recover without the extra financial burden stressing upon him, and he can come back to the Rockaways and keep his customers, and their feet, super happy,” Kirfield wrote on the GoFundMe page.
As we go to press, just within four days, the account has raised more than $4,000.
How long the recovery process will be is still up in the air, but the shop may be closed for at least two months. However, what’s most important, is that the man who heals soles, takes the time to heal himself. According to Kirfield, he’s doing well after his surgery this past week. “He is in great spirits,” she said. Ganapolsky was so moved by the outpour of love, support and funding to keep his store open, that he even recorded a video message in the hospital. “I want to thank all of my friends, customers, and relatives who donated for my speedy recovery. I hope, soon, I’ll be coming back. Thank you very much,” he said in the video posted to the GoFundMe page. By Tuesday, Ganapolsky was already back home, recuperating.
In the meantime, those who may have items they need to pick up at the store can do so on Friday, November 22. Ganapolsky’s son will be there between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you don’t have anything to pick up, get well cards are also welcome. For those who can’t make it on Friday, there is a number on the door of the shop to call for more information about item pickup.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so at: www.gofundme.com/f/leons-cancer-surgery-recovery
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