Jersey Shore icon remembered: Lucky Leo’s owner dies at 94
SEASIDE HEIGHTS — A Jersey Shore icon has died.
Arcade owner Leo Whalen, best known as "Lucky Leo," died on Nov. 27 at the age of 94.
Whalen opened his first boardwalk arcade in Seaside Heights in 1953.
"Many people have been touched by this man who was larger than life," the arcade's Facebook said alongside a video of Whalen standing on the boardwalk in front of the landmark arcade. "The stories that have been shared all have a common thread of the wonderful memories created by Leo and a life full of love and character. So much more than a husband, father and grandfather, he was a mentor and friend to so many."
The message also said that Whalen "will always be the eternal face of Lucky Leo's."
Seaside Heights Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz posted a message on Monday to the Seaside Heights Boardwalk public group on Facebook, saying, "We are informed that Leo passed away in his sleep over the weekend."
Vaz also shared an archived interview with Whalen from 2012, recorded before Hurricane Sandy and the boardwalk fire a year later upended plans for a documentary to mark the borough's centennial year in 2013.
"This is Leo's story, in Leo's own words. Unedited. Leo is a gentleman. A family man. A warm man. And a quietly smart man. The world needs more people like Leo," Vaz said, sharing the full interview as posted to Youtube.
In the sit-down, Whalen talks about being a lifelong Ocean County resident, from being born in Lakehurst, to witnessing the Hindenburg explosion in 1937, and then raising his family and starting his arcade business along the Seaside boardwalk.