STRONG, Mary Leonard 87, community leader, social worker, beloved wife and mother, died October 19 in her home in Ventura, CA. Born Mary Elizabeth Leonard in Washington, DC on December 17, 1924 to parents Amy Heslar and William Michael Leonard, Mary was strongly influenced by her family's faith. As a child of the Depression and a teenager coming of age during World War II, Mary showed an early interest in voluntarism and community. She was an honors student and active in the Girl Reserves at McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC. She earned a B.A. in Sociology in 1946 from American University, where she was a member of Alphi Chi Omega sorority. Following graduation she moved to Bay City, Michigan and was Director of Teenage Programs for the local YWCA. In 1948 she entered the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. After obtaining her M.S.W. degree, she worked for the YWCA in San Francisco, then later relocated to Los Angeles and worked for the Church Welfare Bureau until 1957. In Los Angeles, Mary became active in politics. Through the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign she met James Knox Strong, a dynamic young teacher and political organizer. Mary and Jim were married on April 13, 1957. In 1959 she gave birth to a daughter, Judith Eleanor and in 1961 had a son, James Knox Strong, Jr. In the late 1960's she began a long career with the Los Angeles County Dept. of Children's Services as a Program Specialist. When she retired in 1992, Mary received widespread recognition for her years of dedication and service. Her community involvement included serving as President of the Los Angeles Council of Camp Fire Inc., and as a member of the American Association of University Women. She was active in the Manhattan Beach Community Church since moving to Redondo Beach in 1973, and volunteered for the Redondo Beach Public Library Foundation. Jim Strong passed away in December 2006, just a few months before their fiftieth wedding anniversary. In 2011, Mary moved to Ventura to be closer to her family.
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Mary leaves behind her daughter Judy and son-in-law Greg of San Jose; and son Jim Jr. and daughter-in-law Nancy of Ventura. In addition to her husband, she is predeceased by her younger brother, William Michael Leonard, Jr. A celebration of her life will be held at Rice Mortuary in Torrance at a later date. Interment will take place at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach. Donations may be made in Mary's memory to the following: American Association of University Women, Redondo Beach Public Library Foundation, and Emily's List. Rice Mortuary (310) 792-7599
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 27, 2012