Leon Windeler

    - Honora
  • "It's a real treat to read of Mr. Windeler's..."
  • "I only knew Leon in his later years, as Honora's father. ..."
    - Robyn Lauster
  • "Your father was probably the most future thinking person..."
    - Marianne Boyer
  • "Leon was my teach in 1955 at Anchorage High. I have always..."
    - Norval Monsen

Leon Arthur Windeler, 99, homesteader, educator, political activist, futurist and citizen of the world, died peacefully Jan. 9, 2010, in his sleep at his home in Anchorage. Leon was in his 100th year of enjoying life and his 62nd winter in Alaska.

A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. March 27 at Chester Park Senior Cooperative, 2020 Muldoon Road.

Born Nov. 26, 1910, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to John Henry Windeler and Juliet Rey Stewart, Leon was one of 12 siblings raised in New Jersey by his mother after his father died in 1916. He graduated from Rutgers in 1934 with an engineering degree and managed a Woolworth's store before World War II. He married Martha Faye Gage in 1943. During the war, he guarded prisoners of war and later commanded a supply depot. He received an honorable discharge in 1948 as a major.

A Saturday Evening Post story describing fertile land on the Kenai Peninsula persuaded him to come to Alaska to homestead. In 1948, Leon drove the Alaska Highway to Anchorage, and eventually claimed 160 acres on Cook Inlet near Ninilchik. Martha and their two young children, Jack and Melody (Honora), joined him in the spring. They lived in a tent until late October, when a modest house was completed. Lumber barged to the beach was hauled by pulley up the 100-foot cliffs near the current Leon A. Windeler Highway sign.

Since there was no market for the abundant crop of barley and oats that he raised, Leon worked for the Alaska Road Commission building the new Sterling Highway, which passed through the homestead. Their son Ronald was born in 1949.

Leon and Martha both taught school in Dillingham during 1952-53. A passion for teaching grew in Leon. After an injury sustained constructing the highway temporarily disabled him, Leon earned his master's degree in education at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

The family moved to Anchorage and Leon taught science at Anchorage High School, beginning in 1954. He became vice-principal, then principal at Central Junior High, then director of audio-visual education and instructional television for the Anchorage School District. A third son, Lee, was born in 1961.

Leon and the talented instructional television program teachers pioneered in producing TV classroom lessons that were used in schools around Alaska and as far away as Chicago. After the funding for ITV ran out, Leon taught math at West High School. He developed methods of individualized instruction that allowed students to exceed expectations, and wrote his doctoral thesis about those methods. He earned his doctorate of education at Waldon University in Florida in 1973. He retired from the School District in 1976.

Leon and Martha divorced, and Leon later married Blanche Parker. They enjoyed dancing at the Senior Center and Carpenter's Hall. Leon was very active in youth exchange with both the Lions Club and the Anchorage Sister Cities Commission. He and Blanche hosted exchange students into Leon's late 70s and traveled to many of Anchorage's sister cities. Blanche died in 1999.

Leon served as chairman of the board of the Anchorage Senior Center, on the Library Commission, was active many years as a Lion and founded the Alaska chapter of the World Future Society.

A Republican, Leon performed many jobs within the party structure, from the precinct level to the Central Committee, and served as one of Alaska's Electoral College electors in 1988. He was a delegate to the national convention and an adviser on the President's Commission on Aging.

Leon enjoyed the fellowship of the East Anchorage Methodist Church.

In his later years, Leon advised, "Learn how to enjoy your life as it is -- and then arrange it so that you can do the things that you enjoy." Leon's principles for living included keeping a positive attitude, exercising mind as well as body, setting goals and finding something to look forward to, and enjoying the company of people one's own age.

Leon is survived by his children, Jack Arthur Windeler of Colorado, Honora Windeler Drew and Ronald Ord Windeler of Anchorage, and Lee (Leon Arthur Jr.) Windeler of Hawaii; grandchildren, Susanne Windeler of Colorado, and Julien and Jordan Carley-Windeler of Hawaii; and stepgranddaughter, Bonnie Parker of Nevada.

Published in Anchorage Daily News from Mar. 11 to Mar. 13, 2010
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