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Leonard Raymond Leoni


1918 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Leonard Raymond Leoni Obituary

Leonard Raymond Leoni, age 97, passed away on January 10, 2016 in Yuba City, California. Leonard was born in Hanford, CA on February 5, 1918 to Italian parents Leo and Lena Leoni, the youngest of four children. He was proud of his Italian heritage. Growing up on a farm and as a young boy during the depression, Leonard learned to make do with what he had. He was creative, curious and eager to learn, and developed skills in many different areas. This curiosity and love of learning are qualities he carried throughout his life. On the farm they gathered, grew, cooked, and preserved much of the food they ate, so Leonard came by his talents in this area naturally.

As a young man striking out on his own, Leonard spent the summer after high school hiking in California, and then began college at UC Berkeley, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Forestry. He landed his dream job with the US Forest Service, but then was drafted into the Army Corps of Engineers following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His platoon, one of the first to ship out, was tasked with building airstrips in Australia and New Guinea. During his free time he explored the countryside and filled many journals with his observations and experiences. His intricate hand-drawn maps are amazing - truly works of art - a skill that was useful in his work then and later on.

After serving four years Leonard was honorably discharged in 1946. He had met his future wife, Jean, while on temporary duty in Spokane, WA and they were married in June of 1946. Upon discharge, his dream forestry job was no longer available, so Leonard began working for the State of California Soil Conservation Division. They lived in several places throughout the State, eventually ending up in Yuba City, CA, where they settled down with their three children: Janet, Michael and Sharon. They were married for 25 years. Wherever he lived he had a garden. He loved working in his garden, growing an abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs each year, which he shared with his friends. Leonard also owned a successful ranch for many years with 30 acres of prune trees that he planted, numerous other fruit and nut trees, a few farm animals and, as always, a thriving garden. Leonard's friendships with many wonderful people throughout his life were a source of great joy and support. In his later years, he shared his life with his dear companion, Jane Smith. Through Jane, he met Scott and Edie Farrell, his close and long time friends, who adopted him into their large extended family.

Leonard loved to walk! He was a veteran of many backpacking trips, mostly in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He climbed Mt. Whitney twice. He made a yearly pilgrimage to Feather Falls - a place very special to him and a good hike. He loved the Yuba River! He and many long-time friends spent summers camping, rock hopping, hiking, swimming, exploring and lounging on the magnificent hot granite rocks of this beautiful river. Mexico was also a favorite destination; a place he traveled to many times, bringing back his appreciation of the people, the land, the food and the music.

Leonard also loved to dance and, being an excellent dancer, was a highly sought after partner. In recent years, the Yuba City Senior Center, Gridley Senior Center and Yuba City Moose Lodge, where he was a member, were some of his favorite places to dance. He taught folk dancing in his younger years and continued to be involved with international folk dancing throughout his life. He was a Toastmaster, achieving the title of Toastmaster of the year. Other long-time interests included ham radio and photography. Leonard was a man of high integrity, a true gentleman, a renaissance man. He could speak knowledgeably on almost any subject and most often this knowledge came from his own deep exploration and personal experience. He was an avid reader and liked to test things out for himself.

Leonard could be stubborn, which his friends and family can attest to. He was always one to look forward, seldom looking back or harboring regrets. He would simply say that you can't know what might have been or what will be. He hoped to make it to 100 and came very close. It was important to him - living a good life - and he did. Until age 96 he was still walking, swimming, dancing, going to the gym, gardening, pruning his grapevines and fruit trees and eating, sharing and preserving foods he had grown and gathered. At 97 he was still taking walks, climbing ladders and tending his property. He had a great sense of humor, a quiet nature and a deep love of life. Leonard will be missed! He is always in our hearts.

Leonard was preceded in death by his parents, Leo and Lena Leoni, his brothers, Milton and Norman Leoni, his sister, Verna Curnow and his son, Michael Leoni. He is survived by his two daughters, Janet Leoni of Nevada City, CA and Sharon Barfield of Honolulu, HI, and his two grandchildren, Travis Barfield and Erin Rose Barfield. Internment of Leonard's ashes will be behind the Bell Tower of Sutter Memorial Cemetery, at the base of his beloved Sutter Buttes.

A Memorial/Celebration of Life is planned for Saturday, April 30 at 11:30 a.m. at the historic Teegarden House (currently Destination-Z Event Venue) located at 731 Plumas St. in Yuba City, CA. Please call Janet at 530-205-7070 with any questions or to RSVP. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to South Yuba River Citizens League, the Moose Lodge in Yuba City, the Senior Center or the local library. Or simply plant a tree or flower, or do a good deed in Leonard's name.

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Published in Appeal Democrat on Apr. 24, 2016
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