Leo Robert French
Leo Robert French died on November 18, 2013, at age 83. He was a wonderful patriarch, special friend and respected leader in the title insurance industry.
He is survived by his loving children: Andrew (Denice), David (Cathy), Celia (Marty Horning), Mary (David Shelledy) and Nancy Wong (Sean); grandchildren: Matthew French, Sarah Henningsen (Gerrit), Sarah Vergara, Erica Houston (Joel), Brian French (Megan), Cody and Mallory French, Jack and Grace Shelledy, Riley and Alice Wong; and six great-grandchildren. He is survived by his cherished sister, Lana Foy; sister-in-law, Cathy French; and brothers-in-law, Arthur Hammerel (Bonnie), Patrick Hammerel and John Hammerel (June). He is also survived by his treasured nieces and nephews and many close friends. He was predeceased by his beloved wife Eileen, the center of his world for over 55 years.
Leo was born in Hoople, North Dakota. He graduated from the University of North Dakota, where he acted in theater and received a degree in Philosophy; prior to graduation, he served honorably in the Army. He married his college sweetheart, Eileen, in 1955. After stints in Omaha and Minneapolis, Leo eagerly accepted a position in the title insurance industry in northern California in 1960. He worked as a manager in the Bay Area, while he and Eileen raised their growing family in Danville. The marriage of Leo and Eileen was an inspiration to all who knew them.
In 1973, Leo pursued his dream to create a workplace where employees and clients truly care about one another and are considered part of a close-knit family. He started Placer Title Company with five employees in two offices: Auburn and Roseville. The company recently celebrated its 40th year in business and is licensed in all 58 California counties, providing title insurance and escrow services to the real estate industry. The company expanded under the umbrella of its parent company, Mother Lode Holding, to include Montana Title and Escrow, North Idaho Title, Wyoming Title and Escrow, Placer Title Insurance Agency of Utah, National Closing Solutions, Premiere Reverse Closings and Short Sale Advantage. Leo remains an inspiration, mentor and father figure to his employees. He retired earlier this year with the confidence that he had passed the reins to the cream of the crop -- outstanding leaders and dedicated employees who share his vision and will carry on the company traditions.
A wonderful communicator, Leo was famous for his handwritten letters and notes filled with humor, wisdom and rhymes. The clever notes would appear unexpectedly on his employees' desks or arrive in the mail of family members and friends. Although often lighthearted, the notes sometimes marked important life events and featured valuable insights, advice and encouragement.
Leo excelled as an entertainer, public speaker and humorist. He and Eileen loved to tap dance and formed the Placer Title dancers, performing at company events with colleagues who shared their love of dance. Their enthusiasm and joy were contagious. Leo's performances of the tune "Thanks for the Memory" became legendary. As a voracious reader and huge fan of the arts, he possessed deep knowledge of musicals, theater, dance, music, movies and literature.
Leo was a compassionate man with simple tastes who took a personal interest in others. As a champion of the underdog, he spent countless hours working to alleviate hardships facing the homeless and helping alcoholics in recovery. His contributions made it possible for homeless guests to take showers at Loaves & Fishes and obtain food, shelter and services at Glide Church in the heart of the Tenderloin in San Francisco, as well as the Gathering Inn and St. Vincent de Paul in Roseville.
Leo enjoyed family vacations at the Russian River, Lake Tahoe, Idaho, New York and Maui, where he and Eileen spent winters at their home away from home - the Maui Eldorado. He loved golf and his passion for jogging took him over the hills of Placer County and to the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco.
Above all else, Leo was the center of the universe for his family, as they were for him. His enormous heart, kind spirit, and boundless charity served as an example of every virtue a parent could teach a child. All his children settled nearby to ensure that their own children too could know his love.
Mass will be held Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 1 p.m. at Holy Spirit Parish Church, 3159 Land Park Dr., Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Loaves & Fishes of Sacramento or the Sacramento Ballet. Please sign the guestbook at www.chapelofthehills-auburn.com
Published in Gold Country Media Newspapers on Nov. 21, 2013