Leslie Dodge Slate
Early in the morning on Memorial Day, Leslie Dodge Slate passed away peacefully in his childhood home on Block Island attended by a bevy of adoring felines and his dear friend of forty-nine years, Shirlyne Gobern. Les was born on April 7, 1952 and was a direct descendant of Trustrum Dodge, one of Block Island’s original settlers. He was the fourth generation in his family to make his home at Bridgegate Square where, as the last of the Slates, he paid tribute to his father,
Albion, and his uncle, Merrill, by installing memorial benches in their honor. Les was the son of Helen and Albion Slate, the grandson of Gladys and Frederick Slate, and the great-grandson of Hannah and Winfield Scott Dodge. He is survived by three older sisters: Patricia Stetson, Della Slate, and Pamela Bompart. He also leaves behind one nephew, Bryan Coyne.
After high school, this native son remained on the island he so loved where he was employed for nearly thirty years as a motor equipment operator by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. For several consecutive terms, he served on the Conservation Commission. In his retirement years, Les truly found his stride as a year-round taxi driver who was unwaveringly steadfast during the long winter months and immensely entertaining as an island tour guide in the summertime. A familiar fixture on the election circuit, Les tossed his hat in the ring as the Independent Man each time a seat on the Town Council became available. His pithy campaign slogans lingered long after Election Day: Start with a Clean Slate and Do More with Les. Though he never held office, never did he hold a grudge. Instead, once all the votes had been tallied, he would be overcome with gratitude for those who had cast their ballots for him. For his faithful following, no matter what the count, there really was only one mayor in town. And for those of us lucky enough to be on his call list, our mayor was always in.
In his pivotal location at the headwaters of Dodge Street, this unique character loved to watch the world go by. He was known to say, “It’s not easy living right out loud here on Main Street.” As we are all meant to do on the road to becoming, Les stumbled from time to time and even made a headline or two in The Times. But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got right back on the porch. Draped with a mantle of felines and his cap pulled low, this sentinel of New Shoreham greeted passersby with a hearty wave. Visitors aplenty would drop in on this wonderful good humor man whose laugh would roll out like the billowing breakers at Mansion Beach. A saucy fellow with just the right pinch of spice, Les did it his way all the way.
In his closing chapter we were made privy to the rest of the story when we shared in the experience of one of his doctors who paid tribute to Les as “a truly elegant gentleman.” And that he was. Not once did he impose a demand or utter a complaint; instead he gushed with gratitude over every little kindness. Those of us who have accrued a little mileage know only too well that as authentic and sweet a soul as Les Slate comes along very rarely indeed. How thankful we are we did not miss him this time around.
In lieu of flowers, your donations to the Block Island Medical Center and to the Fire and Rescue Department would be greatly appreciated. A private burial will take place at the Island Cemetery.