Palmyra M. "Pia" Leahy

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Palmyra "Pia" M. Leahy passed away peacefully with her children by her side on July 13, 2014. She was 79. A memorial service will be conducted Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 401 E. 4th St. in Greenville.
Born Palmyra Vaz de Mello Monteiro, on Nov. 15, 1934, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, she was the oldest of eight children born to Odilha and Pedro Monteiro.
Growing up in a large family, Pia balanced her studies with her duties at home taking care of brothers and sisters. She graduated from the prestigious Notre Dame de Sion Girls School in Minas Gerais and entered the Federal university system.
In 1954, the Fullbright Program invited Pia to study at Syracuse University as part of its first group of scholars from Brazil. Completing her year-long program, Pia returned home to finish her degree in geography from the Universidade de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte. Upon graduation, she joined the university faculty as an associate professor of cartography.
In 1963, the opportunity to come to the United States once again presented itself. The Ford Foundation and the University of Texas jointly commissioned Pia to author a professional geography book. The two year project culminated in a definitive, multi-volume record of Latin American maps produced in the 20th century.
Pia again returned to Brazil and completed her Master's degree prior to accepting another offer from UT - this time as a member of the faculty. In 1967, Pia left Austin to join the Geography Department faculty at ECU, beginning a wonderful 30 year career. She loved teaching as well as advising students and was repeatedly recognized by ECU as well as national organizations for excellence in her profession. The ECU Department of Geography official history notes that Pia was "arguably the most popular geography instructor in the history of the department." In 1969 she married Ed Leahy, also a member of the Geography Department.
Together they built a life in Greenville and welcomed two children in 1971 and 1973. Pia retired from her faculty position in 1997 and stayed active in the Greenville community for many years. She was active in the Thalian Book Club, Golden K Jewels Kiwanis Club, Service League and a long-time member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Pia is remembered for her warm smile, welcoming nature and energetic personality. Her generosity and kindness with friends and family was also well known. She sincerely enjoyed helping others, telling a story, sharing a meal, and spending time with family and friends.
Pia is the author or co-author of numerous academic books, articles and papers, including, A Catalogue of Latin American Flat Maps.
Palmyra is survived by her children, Christy Becker of Greenville and Thomas Leahy of Ashton, Md.; five grandchildren, William and Carina Becker and Sonia Lucia, Jude and Belen Leahy; three sisters: Madalena of Alexandria, Va., Vitoria, and Eliane of Belo Horizonte, Brazil; two brothers: Roberto and Joao, both of Belo Horizonte, Brazil; and many loving nieces and nephews.
She was predeceased by her parents, Pedro and Odilha Monteiro; brothers, Pedro and Eduardo; and former husband, Dr. Edward P. Leahy.
The family will receive friends tonight from 6 to 8 at Wilkerson Funeral Home.
Memorial contributions may be made through the ECU Foundation, Inc. Please direct your contributions to the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment in memory of Palmyra "Pia" Leahy. Visit or send a gift to Office of Gift Records, East Carolina University, 2200 South Charles Boulevard, Greenville, NC 27858.
Online condolences at
Funeral Home
Wilkerson Funeral Home and Crematory
2100 East Fifth Street
Greenville, NC 27858
(252) 752-2101
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Published in The Daily Reflector on July 17, 2014
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