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KAWAMURA – Rev. Dr. Leslie Sumio

July 7, 1935 – March 10, 2011

Rev. Dr. Leslie Sumio Ryosho Kawamura, husband to Toyo, passed away with grace and serenity at Foothills Medical Centre on March 10, 2011 at the age of 75 years with his family present.

He is lovingly remembered by his wife, Toyo; his daughter, Nao (Peter); and his grandsons, Albert and Carlin. He is also survived by his siblings, Rose (Nello), Jerry (Christine), and Kathleen (Hans – deceased); and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Yutetsu and Yoneko Kawamura, and his brother, Albert Kozon Kawamura.

Leslie was born in the former Raymond Buddhist temple, in Raymond, AB on July 7, 1935. In Southern Alberta, “Reverend Les”, or just “Rev” as he was known, followed in his father’s footsteps as a Buddhist minister and served from 1964 to 1973. After receiving his Ph.D. in Far Eastern Studies from the University of Saskatchewan, he became a professor at the University of Calgary in 1976. He contributed to Buddhist studies both as a professor/lecturer and through the establishment of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies, permanent funding for visiting professorships by world-class scholars in Buddhism. In June 2010, he was named to the Order of the University of Calgary. He treasured time spent with family, especially his grandchildren. He was an avid ham radio operator since his youth. His great passion, however, was service. To his students, his colleagues, his church members and his communities, he made himself available to assist in any way possible within his means.

Those wishing to pay their respects may do so at McINNIS & HOLLOWAY’S Park Memorial Chapel (5008 Elbow Drive S.W.) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Funeral service will be held Monday, March 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm at the same location. Please observe daylight savings on Sunday, March 13, 2011. You may forward condolences through www.mcinnisandholloway.com. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Leslie Kawamura Graduate Scholarship in Buddhist Studies details of which can be found on the web at http://rels.ucalgary.ca/ or through The Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4 Telephone: 403-220-5886.

In living memory of Leslie Kawamura, a tree will be planted at Big Hill Springs Park, Cochrane by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 ELBOW DRIVE S.W. Telephone: (403)243-8200.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Donna Morrow :

    I was extremely sad to read of the passing of Les Kawamura and would like to express my condolences to his family. Working in the Humanities Deans’ office, I had many opportunities to converse with Dr. Kawamura and considered him a friend. He was a wonderful person and I will miss him.

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  2. Larry Wakisaka President, Toronto Buddhist Temple On behalf of the TBT Board of Directors and Advisors to the Board :

    We all share in your loss as Rev. Dr. Leslie Kawamura was very much
    respected in academic circles as well as a leader in the Jodo Shinshu
    community in Canada and abroad. We collectively express our deepest
    gratitude to him for his many significant contributions in spreading Jodo
    Shinshu teachings and for his tireless efforts as Director of the Living
    Dharma Centre.

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  3. Rev. Toshihide Numata, Chairman Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai - Society for the Promotion of Buddhism Tokyo, Japan :

    Dear Kawamura Family:

    It is with profound sadness that we extend our deepest sympathies on the unexpected passing of Rev. Dr. Leslie Kawamura. Kawamura Sensei was a pioneer in the field of Buddhist Studies in North America and we are deeply grateful for his many years of leadership and direction of the Numata Program at the University of Calgary. His lifelong dedication of sharing the Dharma with his students and those he came in contact with will be his lasting legacy for years and years to come.

    In the days ahead, may you find comfort and strength in the Buddha-Dharma.

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  4. Stephen Kaczkowski :

    I had the good fortune to take a number of classes with Dr. Kawamura and always learned much and enjoyed myself. He had a good sense of humour and was able to put across the ideas in a manner that made sense in a personal way. He will be missed.

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  5. Cindy Crowhurst :

    Please accept my deep condolences for the loss of Dr. Kawamura, my teacher for many years in not only Buddhist Studies, but in how to live a life filled with compassion, grace, humor, and the utmost equanimity. His intellect will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Namaste, teacher.

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  6. Charles and Susan Prebish :

    Leslie’s kindness and compassion will always be among our most treasured memories; and we have had no better friend in Buddhist Studies, and in life, than Leslie. We will work very hard now to make sure that his legacy for civility is fulfilled in the North American community of scholars.

    Charles and Susan Prebish

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  7. Kazue Teramura :

    Dear Mrs. Kawamura
    I was shocked and saddened to hear about Dr. Kawamura’s passing. We will miss him greatly. I was looking forward to his visit to Manitoba Buddhist Temple’s Hanamatsuri service in April.
    My deepest sympathy and heartfelt thoughts are with you and your family at this sad time. please take care.
    In Gassho
    Kazue Teramura

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  8. Dr. Emlyn L. Jessop :

    I am so sorry to learn of Dr. Kawamura’s death. He was indeed a lovely person in every sense of the word. My sincere condolences to the family he has left behind.

    Emlyn Jessop (Retired Director of Research Services, U of C.

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  9. Orai Fujikawa :

    Mrs. Toyo Kawamura and family,
    Very sorry to hear your husband, father, and grandfather Leslie passed away. I am thanking him for the friendship as well as his guidance for a long time since 1968 when I first came to Alberta. In Gassho, Namo Amida Buddha, Orai Fujikawa

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  10. Hermina Joldersma :

    I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Leslie’s family on his passing. He was always a presence to be reckoned with in the Faculty of Humanities, a thoughtful supporter of university education. He will be missed!

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  11. connie mahoney :

    My thoughts and prayers to Dr. K’s family, friends and dear colleagues. He was a wonderful teacher and shared wisdom and humour when ever we spoke.

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  12. Having known Dr Kawamura on and off since the mid 70s, and the lasting influence of his publications – including those with his father in law, a most gracious host, Dr Nagao – I must say the selfless impact of his boundless wisdom/compassion, keen mind and wonderful sense of humor all worked to keep buddhism down to earth, real, human, and good fun. that’s a rare zenjishiki.
    warmly & gasshoing
    Ken O’Neill, Kyoshi

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  13. Shirley Tanemura, Co-president Kelowna Buddhist Temple :

    Mrs. Kawamura and Family,
    The members of the Kelowna Buddhist Temple are very sadden to hear of the untimely passing of Kawamura Sensei. We express our deep gratitude for his guidance and propagation of the Buddha Dharma through the Living Dharma Center.
    Our sincere and heartfelt condolences to you at this very difficult time. Now and in the days ahead may you find comfort in the Onembutsu. Namu Amida Butsu. In Gassho, Kelowna Buddhist Temple

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  14. Dear Mrs Kawamura and family:

    I am shocked and saddened to hear of Dr. Leslie Kawamura’s passing.

    I have always valued Dr. Kawamura’s insights and advice on many issues including gaining greater understanding of buddhism. Dr. Kawamura was always available and kind to take my calls. I will miss him.

    Om mani padme hum.

    Nima and family

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  15. Andreas Doctor :

    Dear Mrs. Kawamura and family,

    I am very sorry to hear of Dr. Kawamura’s passing. He was a wonderful supervisor during my time in Calgary and always guided my work with humor, kindness and insight. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

    I trust that a whole life spent in the sunshine of Lord Buddha’s precious teaching, ensures that Dr. Kawamura is well equipped for the journey ahead. I pray that the blessings of the Three Jewels may always be with him and your family.

    With very best wishes,

    Andreas Doctor

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  16. I send my condolences personally as well as on behalf of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies as president of this academic association. Dr. Kawamura was not only a long time member of the Steering Committee but served as chair of two international meetings of our association held at Univ. of Calgary. He was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the upcoming August 5-6 conference in Kyoto. We deeply regret that we will not be able to have him share with his insights accumulated over half a century of professional work. We shall miss his leadership and his beaming smile. On a personal note, I had always looked up to him as one of my elder colleagues who paved the way for those of us interested in both the academic and spiritual sides of Buddhist Studies.
    Last but not least, I extend my best wishes to Mrs. Toyo Kawamura and the entire family with the deepest appreciation for all that Leslie did for the association and for the cause of Buddhism in Canada and beyond. I still remember with fondness and appreciation the delicious Chinese dinner that Dr. Kawamura and you invited us to after the second Calgary conference 4 years ago.

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  17. Wayne and Gitta Whillier :

    Namaste, Leslie. May Toyo and the family find solace in the wonder of the Buddha Dharma.
    om mani padme hum

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  18. Dearest Toyo and Nao,

    I was so sad to hear of Leslie’s sudden passing. As you know, growing up he was like another dad to us Sunshine Girls. I have wonderful memories of time spent with him. He was such a kind and funny and down to earth person.

    My deepest sympathy and heartfelt thoughts to you and the whole family.

    Love,

    Mieko

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  19. Anthony and Beverly Rasporich :

    Our condolences to Leslie’s wife and family. Dedicated to Far Eastern Studies, Leslie worked tirelessly for his students in the Faculty of General Studies. He was a driving force, a selfless and compassionate man, who will be missed by all who knew him. Our best wishes, Bev and Tony Rasporich

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  20. Every time he had given sermon at the temple.
    His talk always gave something in my heart to print.
    When I saw him at the hospital he was so looking forward to his daughter’s moving to Calgary to live near him. He really wanted to connect with his grandsons. They lost their loving grandfather without warning.. so fast/not expected.
    My condolence to his family.
    He was a great teacher.

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  21. Dear Mrs. Kawamura and Nao, My deepest and heartfelt condolences to you.
    We always had the utmost respect for Rev. Les. Sincerely Marj Fujita

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  22. I was deeply saddened when I learned of my sensei’s passing.

    I first met Dr. Kawamura in the Fall session of 1980 when I took The History of the Far East at the University of Calgary. When I met him, I called him teacher but when I finished the course I called him friend.

    I only had the opportunity to take the one course from him but I learned a great deal. Not only did I learn about history, I also learned things about myself that Dr. Kawamura helped me to discover. To this day I recall with great fondness the many discussions that we had on a great variety of subjects. He challenged me to achieve my potential.

    We maintained contact upon my graduation but I am sorry to say that we had lost touch these last few years.

    I am honoured to have known Dr. Kawamura. He was a true gentleman and scholar. I considered him to be a great friend and teacher. I will miss him dearly.

    Me deepest sympathies to Mrs. Kawamura and Family.

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  23. Joanne Tomiyama :

    Mrs. Kawamura and Family,

    I was very saddened to hear of Dr. Kawamura’s passing. Not only do I have fond memories of him from my childhood in church, but he was also my favorite professor in University! He taught me much more about the origins of my faith at an impressionable time, and I will be forever grateful to have known such kind and gentle teacher. My sincere condolences.

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  24. Florence Aung-Collins and David Collins :

    Dear Mrs. Kawamura and Nao,

    Dave and I are very sorry to hear of Rev. Kawamura’s passing. He was a wonderful man who touched so many lives with his joy and generosity.

    One of our fondest memories of Rev. Kawamura is of the kindness he showed us when he officiated our wedding 8 years ago in Edmonton. Having known our family for almost 30 years, he was almost a part of our family. Rev. Kawamura lived his life as a model of grace and goodness. We are very lucky to have known him.

    Please accept our deepest sympathy.

    Sincerely,
    Florence and David

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  25. Yasuhiro Miyakawa :

    Dear Toyo-san, Nao-chan and members of the Kawamura family,
    We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Kawamura-Sensei. I have known him for more than 35 years, and over the years, I respected him as both a mentor and good Dharma friend. I will miss him very much. Throughout his life he touched many people in the academic world, and also within the Buddhist community across Canada and beyond. I have had many very meaningful talks with him, and I am forever indebted to him for his advice and guidance. In the formative years of my Ministry in Canada, I talked with him on many occasions. He played an influential role in my Ministry. I am deeply indebted to him, for his wisdom, advice, and sense of vision.
    I would like to express my sincere appreciation to him for his guidance, his spiritual and emotional support. Indeed he will be greatly missed.
    Toya-san and Nao-chan, my thoughts are with you at this difficult time. I hope that you may find some comfort in the lasting legacy that he has left for us. His name will be forever remembered in our hearts, and also in Canadian Buddhist history.
    We will see you, Kawamura-Sensei, in the Pure Land. Thank you, Sensei for all that you have done for us.
    Namo Amida Butsu
    In Gassho
    Yasuhiro Miyakawa

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  26. Robert Mayer :

    I met Dr Kawamura at a number of academic conferences. As a student, I had been greatly impressed by his book on the bodhisattva doctrine. Meeting him in person some years later revealed that he actually practiced what he wrote about. May he dwell in the bliss of the Pure Abodes.

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  27. I am deeply saddened to learn of Rev. Leslie’s death. I have been sitting on the Spiritual Care Advisory Committee for the Health Region. I have very much appreciated his quiet, gentle soul. His wise council was always much appreciated. He was such a treasured Buddist ambassador. I will miss him.
    Blessings, Wilma Clark

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  28. Jim Hisanaga :

    Dear Mrs. Kawamura and family,
    On behalf of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, I want to express our sadness at hearing of Dr. Leslie Kawamura’s untimely death. Dr. Kawamura was a dominant pioneer and leader through his contribution to Buddhist Studies at University of Calgary and as Director of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada’s Living Dharma Center.
    Dr. Kawamura’s death is an enormous loss to Jodo Shinshu Temples of Canada and we shall miss his presence and his contribution. please accept our sincerest condolences.

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  29. We were very saddened to hear of Dr. Kawamura’s passing away. On behalf of the Board of the Hamilton Buddhist Temple, we would like to offer our condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Kawamura. We are grateful for his forward thinking and support of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada, and the role he played as the Executive Director of the Living Dharma Centre. Our thoughts are with him.

    Ray Nakano
    President of the Hamilton Buddhist Temple
    Member of the National Board of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada

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  30. Dear Mrs. Kawamura and family:
    We were most grieved to learn of the untimely passing of Dr. Leslie Kawamura. He was a dedicated individual whose commitment to Buddhism through his work as professor at University of Calgary and as Director of Living Dharma Center impacted the Jodo Shinshu community. Dr. Kawamura had an engaging personality that combined intelligence, humour and charm that was truly unique. It is truly a loss to his family, friends, students, and the Buddhist community.
    Our heartfelt thoughts are with Dr. Kawamura’s surviving family and friends.
    Board of Directors
    Jodo Shinshu Temples of Canada

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  31. Dear Mrs. Kawamura and Family,

    Dr. K was more than a professor to me. Many times, I sought his advice throughout my university years, up to my adult life now, 20 years later. I admired how he was so respectful and supportive of you and your beloved daughter. All my past sad and happy times always brought Dr. K’s face to my mind. He was there to encourage me in my most challenging moments and also there to share my joyful moments.

    I will miss Dr. K’s wonderful sense of humour, honesty and above all, kindness.

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  32. Shirley Shikatani, Director Montreal Buddhist Temple :

    It was with a feeling of profound sadness that we learned of the passing of the Rev. Dr. Kawamura. His loss will be felt by all the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples and its members. We extend our heartfelt condolences to you at this difficult time. He is now in Nirvana and may you find comfort in the nembutsu.

    In gassho,
    Montreal Buddhist Temple

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  33. Kazuko Kobayashi :

    Our deepest sympathy at this time in the loss of your Husband and Dad. We can feel your loss, but just remembering the good times and good memories of “Leslie” does help to ease the pain.

    Our thoughts are with you at this time of sorrow.

    In Gassho,
    Kamloops Buddhist Temple
    Kazuko Kobayashi

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  34. Gail Jensen-Oulds :

    It has been many years since I have connected with Leslie. I had the privilege of working for him and typed many papers in a language I did not understand. He was a man with much wisdom and patience, a great sense of humour and always an encouraging word to brighten our day in the office. My deepest sympathy to the family whom he loved so much. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I called him Boss, and counted him as a treasured friend. Hold on to the memories, they can never be taken away. With love and gratitude for Leslie’s influence in my life.

    Gail (Jensen-Oulds) 1976-1980 U of C, Religious Studies

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  35. John Harding :

    Dear Mrs. Toyo Kawamura and Family:
    I send condolences and best wishes to you in this difficult time. Dr. Kawamura’s influence has been so impressively wide-ranging and positive. I have always enjoyed talking with Leslie and have admired his humor, his insights, and his many contributions to Buddhist studies. My colleagues and I continue to benefit not just from his scholarship but from the way he brought people together in settings that reflected his kindness and generosity of spirit. The love and respect for Dr. Kawamura by so many in his overlapping academic, Buddhist, and other communities will continue to nurture his exemplary efforts and accomplishments.
    John Harding

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  36. Terry and Edith Penelhum :

    We have been honoured to know Leslie and Toyo from the time he joined the Religious Studies program at the University. He was a treasured colleague and friend whose wisdom and utter integrity were rare and irreplaceable. Our thanks and affection to you, Toyo.
    We have many happy memories of Leslie; once, Edith asked him how he dealt with mosquitoes, and he answered “Where mosquitoes are concerned, I’m afraid I’m not a very good Buddhist.” We beg to differ! He will be much missed, as he was much loved. Our deepest sympathy to all the family.

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  37. My condolences to the Kawamura family. I had the opportunity and the pleasure to work with Dr. Kawamura at the UofC over many years. I always found him interested and concerned for students and their experiences. I have many fond memories and will miss him.

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  38. Dear Toyo-san and Nao and family,
    I would like to extend our sympathy on the passing of Rev.Les. He was a big part of our Sunday school life! I Would also like to thank-you and Rev. for all the kindness you both have shown to our Mom and Dad. (Harry and Betty Tanigami) through the years. Our thoughts are with all of you at this time.

    Tosh and Aiko Sakurai

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  39. James A. Benn :

    My condolences on the sad loss of a man who exemplified the true balance of wisdom and compassion. I had the greatest respect for Dr. Kawamura as a scholar and friend. He did so much for Buddhist Studies throughout the world and especially in Canada. We shall not see his like again.

    In deepest sympathy.

    James A. Benn
    (Associate Professor, Buddhism and East Asian Religions, McMaster University)

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  40. Shirley Johannesen (Jayanta) :

    My deepest condolences Toyo, Nao and family. It’s wonderful that Leslie was surrounded by you all, and you know that our hearts are with you too.
    Leslie was a dear friend and mentor and will be greatly missed by me personally and by the greater Buddhist world. He had an open heart, filled with kindness and compassion. We are blessed to have him in our lives.

    With many blessings of Buddhadhamma,
    Shirley Johannesen (Jayanta)

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  41. Dear Kawamura family,
    I am so very sad to learn that my first teacher of Buddhism has passed away. I will always remember the feelings of excitement, intrigue and happiness I experienced in hearing the Buddha’s teachings in his classes. His presence made the world a happier place; I now renew my commitment to do the same, with his example as a continuing inspiration.
    Wishing you peace,
    Martin Adam

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  42. Condolences to the family of Leslie Kawamura.

    Dear Kawamura family,

    I am so very sad to learn that my first teacher of Buddhism has passed away. I will always remember the feelings of excitement, intrigue and happiness I experienced in hearing the Buddha’s teachings in his classes. His presence made the world a happier place; I now renew my commitment to do the same, with his example as a continuing inspiration.

    Wishing you peace,

    Martin Adam

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  43. Joan Lawrence :

    Deepest sympathy to the Kawamura family in your time of sorrow.

    Dr. Kawamura’s classes were a highlight of my time at U of C. I often think about his explanations of ‘suchness’ and non-attachment. He was a gentle spirit and a kind heart. He will be missed.

    Joan Lawrence

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  44. Thank you for everything, Sensei. Domo Arigato Gozaimashita.

    Joyce & Francis Ang
    Steveston Buddhist Temple

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  45. My Deepest condolences to the Kawamura Family. Leslie was a great professor at the U of C. His impact can be felt in many students and followers he taught. We found his serene laid back style a real breath of fresh air to us. We will miss him dearly. Rest well my friend & and teacher…

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  46. Dear Mrs. Kawamura and Family,

    Like so many, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Dr. Kawamura’s passing. And like so many others, he was introduced to me as a teacher who transformed himself into a friend. The lessons he gave in and outside the classroom live with me still.

    My sincere condolences to you and your family.

    Don Poirier

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  47. angelA kolias :

    Dear Mrs. Kawamura and family,

    I am sincerely sorry for your loss.

    Dr. Kawamura was a gift to humanity. The awakening he brought to so many us lives on as a light that has no end.

    In this time of grief and loss please take comfort in knowing how your esteemed and beloved husband had a profound impact on so many of us.

    His presence, so filled with kindness and wisdom, will be honoured always.

    Infinite Blessings on Dr. Kawamura as he journeys through the beautiful space he was already open to.

    Most sincerely,
    angelA kolias

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  48. Reverend Les will always be remembered by my family. He was a volunteer at the Foothills Hospital where my son died last year. He visited him several times and offered him great comfort in his last days. At my son’s passing he came to the hospital and performed a Buddhist ceremony even though it was very early in the morning and Rev Leslie was recovering from pneumonia. We will never forget his kindness. We will be donating to the scholarship fund as well as to the Japan Earthquake fund in his name. My condolances to the family.

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  49. Dr. Kawamura had been my supervisor for ten years. He was like a father to all of his students. Although it is easy for me to tell people that he will always live in our memory, what I really want to say is that it is never enough for us. We will always miss him.

    A great Bodhisattva will be remembered for ever.

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  50. Bruce Matthews :

    With so many others, I express my sadness at Leslie’s passing – though I know he would want us to be thankful for all that he gave us individually as loving family, friend, student, fellow Dharma-seeker. I will never forget his generosity of time when I visited various Jodo Shinshu sites in Alberta, and his gracious spirit.

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  51. Paul Williams :

    I have only recently heard that my old chum Leslie Kawamura had died. It has come as quite a shock. He was a dear, sweet, man, who became a good friend and gave me a lot of support when I held the Calgary Numata Chair back in the early 1990s. Leslie and his family are very much in my prayers. May he rest in blessed light and peace.

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  52. in the late 90’s dr. kawamura was my professor of eastern religion at u of c. i had the privilege of studying under him in several classes, including instruction in reading & translating tibetan text. in the second year of my program, i was the only student who enrolled in tibetan II (further studies in textual translation). regardless, the class was still held & i had the honour of a full semester of one on one instruction. i suspect dr. kawamura had some challenges in convincing the faculty not to cancel the course with only 1 enrolled student. the experience was invaluable. i don’t know if the class still exists, but if there is anyway i can strengthen the legacy of his dedication to this work, i welcome any connection.

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  53. Katherine Hamilton :

    Dr.Kawamura – I think of you often with such kindness and light. Thank you for all that you have been and will be, for all that you made possible… thank you. Ananda.

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  54. Dear Leslie,

    I came to know of your passing late last year when I took a Mahayana Buddhism class with your fellow TA student, Chien.

    It had been two years since I had seen you and I recall thinking of you in May 2011, thinking I should come and see you in Religious Studies 13th floor. I had told you, I would take Sanskrit with you, in two years time, however when I saw the University was offering the course- it was not being taught by you. I was confused and I had to know what had happened as I knew you were a person of your word and that is how I first came to know that you had passed on. I am to this day, saddened by your passing as there are so many things I know I could have learned from you and with you. But, I know i should let these regretful moments pass as I am so grateful I took my first year Religious Studies 203 class with you. I am thankful that my stars aligned with yours and I met such a wonderful and inspirational human being. You are a fresh breath of air Leslie- in your simplicity, I grasped so much. In your presence and through your words and teaching, I have understood myself, my life, and my purpose differently. You are deeply missed and I wish you life, happiness, love… I believe in reincarnation, and I know you will give bliss and blessing to the people you touch in all of your lives to come. I am so honored that in this one, I met you, if only for a semester- you helped me. In your simplest of words, you understood what it was I needed in each moment as a student and as a human being. In my sincerest thoughts Leslie, Thank You.

    My deepest and sincere condolences to Leslie Kawamura’s family, my sincere apologies in my lateness to pay respect to you, Leslie, and to your family.

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