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April 1, 1998

The Life of Lee: The True Story of a Nasdaq Folk Hero - Life Is a Comedy to Those Who Think, A Tr

By John A. Byrne

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  • The Life of Lee: The True Story of a Nasdaq Folk Hero - Life Is a Comedy to Those Who Think, A Tr

Eight years ago, Lee Bulleri was given two months to live. The doctors diagnosed stomach cancer. Bulleri was scared.

"They took out most of my stomach and my esophagus and I went from 220 pounds to 130 pounds in body weight," recalled Bulleri, the 56-year-old head and an over-the-counter trader at Sherwood Securities in Chicago.

Two nights before he was wheeled into surgery, Bulleri was at home in bed, cursing and swearing like a madman.

"I couldn't even swallow water. I was lying awake in the dark. I was talking aloud to God using a lot of four-letter words. This was going on for about an hour or so and my wife Patricia walked by and said, Lee who are you talking to'?

"I am talking to God, I am praying,' and she said, What, with that mouth of yours, you are talking to God?' I said, I am praying and if he doesn't know me by now, the last thing I want to do is tee him off.'"

"I asked God, Do I have to die and how do I die?' I said, I really don't want to die, I want some reason to live and to survive.'"

Bulleri paused for reflection. "Now God works in mysterious ways, as you know. I have this friend, Arnold Greenberg, a nice Jewish boy who worked in Denver for Sherwood before he recently retired. He's a little offbeat like myself, wears jeans and has a ponytail. His wife is an holistic nurse."

"Anyway, the next morning, the bell rings and a book is delivered, Getting Well Again [by O. Carl Simonton M.D. and Stephanie Mathew Simonton, Bantam Books] along with a tape on meditation sent by Arnold Greenberg. I read the book and listened to the tape. That night was the first night in weeks I slept without tossing and turning."

Bulleri had found hope.

Beating back cancer for 12 months, Bulleri was on sick leave from the Chicago Corporation (now part of ABN AMRO) where he ran the desk, handling orders routed by Sherwood in New York.

But he said something inexplicably mysterious saved his life.

His friends were dumbfounded. "I honestly think, given what Lee went through, another man would have crumbled and died," said Bill Black, a sales manager at Troster Singer in New York, and a friend of Bulleri's. "Lee is a very very powerful man. He has tremendous internal fortitude. He rose like the Phoenix from the ashes." Bulleri himself provides no rational explanation, but recalled facing the doctors when they told him he had perhaps a 20-percent chance of survival. "I have never done things like normal people," Bulleri said, "so why do you think I am going to sit down and die? I was obstinate."