FRENCH, DR. LEON D., passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, surrounded by loved ones, following a courageous, near nine-year battle with cancer.
Dr. French was the son of Rev. Thomas Henry and Virginia Garner French, born July 23, 1952, in Louisville, KY. He attended the Louisville Free Public School System, graduating from Louisville Male High School in 1970. An avid Cardinals fan, Dr. French was a member of Coach Bill Olsen's freshman basketball team at the University of Louisville in 1970-71, a clarinetist for U of L's "bird band," and a 1977 graduate of the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. Thereafter, Dr. French served as an officer in the United States Air Force for three years, stationed at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC, before returning in 1980 with his wife, Sandra W. French. He opened his practice that year at 2619 W. Broadway, where he served his community expertly and diligently until he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2004. Upon his recovery from initial treatments, Dr. French became an associate of the office of dear friend and colleague, Dr. Phillip R. Williams, and the West End Family Dental Clinic.
Dr. French, a gifted musician, served as the pianist for the choirs of Massie Zion Missionary Baptist Church (now New Covenant Baptist Church) from 1964 until 1982, when his father was called to pastor the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church, at which time he returned to Oak Grove full time with his family. He served faithfully until recent weeks. In 1975, Dr. French also began to play one Sunday each month for the "Lamptonites," a dynamic and spirit-filled group of young adults at Lampton Baptist Church, for whom he continued to play until he left for military service. He was also a member of Collette Webster-Bridgewater's "O' Give Thanks Concert Choir," and the late Dr. Marilyn Brown-Anderson's singing group, "Keepers of the Dream." In addition to playing for the Senior Choir, Pastor's Choir, Youth Choir, Sunbeams, and Male Chorus, Dr. French taught Sunday School at Oak Grove, and attended Bible Study regularly until his health and work schedule precluded his ability to do so. On one of his last visits to Oak Grove, Dr. French had an opportunity to play once more, and to testify that it was his greatest desire to return to Oak Grove and to be an even "better Christian." In addition to his work at the West End Family Dental Clinic, Dr. French was formerly a part-time employee of Park DuValle Community Health Center. Until his health failed in 2013, he also worked two nights per week for Louisville Metro Corrections, as a dentist to those incarcerated at both the jail and at the Community Treatment Center.
A guest throughout his career at many area elementary schools, Dr. French enjoyed talking to children about dental health and hygiene, and often took along his keyboard in order to incorporate his original "Brush Your Teeth" composition. Even as his health began to decline in recent years, he never turned down an opportunity to speak with children about dental health, or to urge them to consider careers in health care.
In all the years following his diagnosis, Dr. French unselfishly focused his attention not on the ravages of his disease, but on raising monies to fund an ultimate cure. In 2009, he received the "Man of the Year Award" from the Kentucky & Southern Indiana Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for his efforts to raise funds; the following year, he worked tirelessly for the successful campaign of his cousin, Rev. Alyce French Johnson, who went on to become the 2010 "Woman of the Year"; and in 2011, he worked on the campaign of Bishop Steven Kelsey, also a cancer survivor, in his efforts to raise monies for the LLS. It was his greatest desire to "live to tell," and he never, ever lost his hope in Christ despite his circumstances--always looking forward to going "back to work. " Dr. French's memory will be cherished forever by his family, church family, friends, colleagues, those he mentored, and the patients and community he served.
In addition to his parents and wife, Leon leaves to mourn his passing four devoted children, Andwele L. (Audra), Asha L., Ahmed L. and Akeem L. French; a loving sister and brother-in-law, Linda French-Smith and Herbert Smith, Jr.; a nephew and favorite niece, Herbert, III and Hope Imani Smith; three grandchildren who were the lights of his life, Angeliah L., Asali L. and Andwele L. II; godchildren, LaShayla Simpson, Trevon and Destinee Germany, Christine Henry and Aaliyah Rodgers; and in-laws, Willie and Edy Rowell and San and Bessie Mae Turner.
Dr. French was the first grandson of the families of both his mother and father, and was blessed to have been nurtured in his lifetime by seven doting aunts and five uncles on his father's side (two of whom predeceased him), two uncles on his mother's side (both of whom predeceased him), and his aunts- and uncles-in-law. Thus, he leaves to mourn those relatives and a countless number of cousins, to all of whom he pledged in recent months to be the "Best Cousin Ever." He will also be mourned by many, many professional colleagues, childhood friends, high school classmates and his Oak Grove Baptist Church family members.
Visitation with family members will be 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 6, 2013 at Antioch Baptist Church, 3315 Dixie Highway, with the tributes of relatives, friends and colleagues immediately following from 7:30 -9 p.m. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at Antioch, followed by burial at Green Meadows Cemetery, 3800 Shanks Lane. Special thanks to Dr. Eugene Giles and the staff of Omni Medical Center, Dr. Rodney Kosfeld and staff of Norton Cancer Center, Dr. Sherif Farag of the IU Simon Cancer Center, and to the health care professionals of Hosparus, for expert and quality medical care and assistance. The family requests that expressions of sympathy in the form of donations be made in Leon's honor to the building fund of Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church, 4033 Vermont Avenue, Louisville, KY, 40211, or to the Kentucky & Southern Indiana Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 301 E. Main Street, Suite 100, Louisville, KY, 40202.
G.C. Williams is in charge of arrangements.
Published in The Courier-Journal on May 5, 2013