Matthew Gerard Leonard
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A Lawyer Helping Others
Matthew G. Leonard was the kind of lawyer who would join a homeless man in singing Christmas carols in downtown Brooklyn, successfully drawing contributions from charmed passers-by. "He probably was the kindest law clerk I ever had," said Peter Leisure, a federal district judge in Manhattan.

Mr. Leonard, 38, had done well as a lawyer, rising to director of litigation for Cantor Fitzgerald. But he was also known for extensive pro bono work, largely at MFY Legal Services. He started working there as an intern, helping poor Chinatown residents while he was at Columbia Law School, and served for more than a decade on its board, including five years as vice chairman.

On Sept. 11, he rose early, as he always did, well before his 7-month-old daughter, Christina, had awakened. "He said he got more work done before the phones started ringing at 9," said his wife, Yolanda Cerda Leonard, who had met him when she was a paralegal and he a lawyer at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a Manhattan law firm. As he left their Brooklyn apartment to go to his office high in the World Trade Center, his wife looked at the clock. It said 7:11 a.m.

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Published in Middletown Press on Sep. 27, 2001.
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48 entries
September 11, 2020
September 11, 2020

It has hard to believe it has been 19 years. I knew Matt from Georgetown University. During our senior year there, he and I were the two teaching assistants for aProfessor Walter “Jack” Giles. Matt was the TA for Professor Giles’ Constitutional Law class and I was the TA for Professor Giles’ American Government class. He was a hell of a lot smarter than me. He was brilliant but, yet, very humble. We shared an office.

Matt was a gentleman and a scholar, a true Renaissance man.

He went off to law school at Columbia and me to Notre Dame. We traded Christmas cards after that and got together with Professor Giles a few times after that.

I last saw Matt in Florence, Italy, in the Summer of 1987. We both, separately, went to a Europe, after the bar exams. He went with his close friend and I went with mine. Back then, there was no internet and no cell phones.

I knew Matt would be in Europe when I was there but I didn’t know where or when. I literally bumped into Matt on the streets of Florence, Italy.It was a very pleasant shock. We got together for dinner that night and caught up on life.

I have visited his name on the 9/11 Memorial. I pray that he rests in peace. May God bless him and his family.

John Gerard Farnan
John G. Farnan
Classmate
September 11, 2019
18 years have passed, and I still cry over the loss of Matthew G. Leonard. I hold memories of him close to my heart. I worked with Matt at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. At 4:59 pm, he would poke his head around the corner of my desk and say, "Feel like working late tonight?" His bright beaming smile always made it impossible to say no. My two co-workers, Undine and Shavanda would stay too. You could hear the four of us howling with laughter all night. I still marvel that we got any work done. He was a very hard worker. He had a brilliant mind. He always maintained his composure, sense of humor and good nature. He was a gentle giant. I'm so thankful to God that our lives crossed paths.
Felicia Bams
Coworker
September 12, 2016
I remember Matt from MHT. For many reasons I wish he had stayed at the bank. I remember being at the memorial service at the church. His wife and young child was there. He will always be missed.
Michael Ganz
September 12, 2016
Rest In Peace Matt, 15 years and I can still see you working late. I will never ever forget you! Zenobia
Zenobia Souter
September 11, 2016
Yolanda and Christina, thinking of you and Matt today.

Drew Keen
May 8, 2014
In Memory
With Honor& Respect.
S J. Friscia III
September 11, 2013
I am thinking of you, Matt, today on the 12th Anniversary of 9/11. I just read the glowing notes on this website from some of the many lives you touched. I know they are not exaggerating your kindness and compassion. My prayers are with your wife and your daughter who must be about 13 or 14 now. I remember you at that age when we were riding the train together to Regis H.S. as freshmen. I recall one time when I was on the F train with my father and you got on at Park Slope and I introduced you to my Dad, who is also no longer with us. You gave him a big, friendly, "Hello, Sir! How are you today, Sir!" and shook his hand firmly. When I got home that evening, my Dad said, "I like that kid, Matt. He is super polite. They don't make them that way anymore." Glad to read here that you never changed. God bless you and keep you.
MIchael McLoughlin
November 22, 2011
I had the honor to work with Matt Leonard at Chase Manhattan Bank. He is a great lawyer, who went beyond his job and worked pro bono to assist me when I was having hardships. I will never forget you. Rest in Peace, Angel
Zenobia Souter
September 12, 2011
September 12, 2011

This is the tenth anniversary of that terrible fateful day. I watched the TV coverage of the beautiful remembrance. I was thinking that we don't have any family that was a part of that tragedy. It still brought tears to my eyes. It did occcur to me that perhaps
I did have some distant family there. I too share the same family name of Leonard. My heart goes out to you, Yolanda and your daughter Christina.I know the pain of loosing a loved one. The pain never goes away, you just get better at dealing with it. I am so sorry for the loss of your husband, Matt. From all the tributes written about him he was a treasure to his family and friends.

May God bless you and keep you.
Carolyn Riccardi (Leonard) Patterson
September 5, 2011
Sept. 5, 2011

Matt had an absolutely wonderful sense of humor, one to ever turn the tables on more staid types. He was the lead altar server at St. Francis Xavier Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in command when all around him were losing their "cool."
Matt made an enormous contribution to the award-winning St. Francis cook book. He came up with recipes heavy in spices and garlic, God love him.
His mother, dear Helen, learned adventurous cooking from Matthew.
His daughter, Christina, and his dear wife, Yolanda, will never forget Matt. Nor will all those who knew him at St. Francis Xavier and beyond. He personified the good man.
Requiescat in pace', Matthew.
John Wirtz
September 10, 2010
I remember Matt so fondly as a terrific lawyer at Willkie Farr. He was a real gem, so genuinely nice and caring man. I remember Yolanda fondly as well when she was a paralegal at WFG and was so happy when they got married. I am so sorry for the tragic loss of Matt and all those who lost their lives that day. I am quite sure his daughter Christina is a beautiful reminder of the wonderful man Matt was. Yolanda, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family today. Matt will never be forgotten. God Bless!
September 10, 2010
It's been 9 years since I heard that you were lost on that terrible day. I often think of Yolanda and your child. I only found this link last night through another website. Of all the bosses I had through my career at Willkie you most certainly were one of my favorites to work for. Always kind and caring. May you continue to rest in peace my friend.
September 11, 2008
I did not know Matthew but I learned a bit about him through his sister, Helen, and his memorial service. The service and the remembrances written here show much of his love for people -friends, family, or strangers- and his contributions to his community. I know that he is still missed and sadly know that I have missed something by not knowing him in life. My heart goes out to his family, especially little Christina, Yolanda, his mother, and my courageous friend, Helen. Aside from my presence in NYC that day, September 11 will always live in my heart due to the loss you and many others suffered.
Alison Jackson
January 18, 2008
start of something new
omar siti hajar
December 6, 2006
In memory....
P Tabbernor
November 13, 2006
As I cross-stitched your name on the memorial that I am doing for all of the victims, I prayed for you and your family. Please know that your death was not in vain. We will always remember. God Bless.
Kristine
September 11, 2006
HI Yolanda- I have thought about you and Matt many times over the past 5 years. My heart goes out to you and your family
Denise
Denise Weiss (Agapito)
September 8, 2006
I remember Matt from my childhood, when he was my religious education teacher for a time in Park Slope. I remember him as a warm, concerned, and genuine person who expressed constant support and was always friendly. As a child, i was struck at how "cool" he was as opposed to other rigid, more serious adults. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his death. God Bless him and his family, especially now during especially painful times of anniversary and commemoration.
Juan Ocasio
September 11, 2003
It was two years ago today that I learned that somebody from the Leonard family was missing--only later did I find out it was Matt and that he had never returned home. It also, however, makes us miss him even more.

I grew up across the street from Matt, watched him grow from a skinny kid to a really tall, very kind, and still skinny guy. We came from a great block in Park Slope where neighbors cared about each other and watched out for each other. It's been lovely to read this today and find that he brought that good feeling to so many others he came in contact with.
Leila Monaghan
October 21, 2002
I worked with Matt at Cantor Fitzgerald. I sat right next to his administrative asst. He was very sweet, kind and loved to cook. My mouth would water at the dishes he would say he had to go home and cook. He loved his wife, his daughter and just life itself. He was a happy man who always had a smile on his face. Matt and my boss Rob Mace (who was also lost to us that day) would make up the word for the day as a way to describe how they were feeling that particular day, it got to be that we kept a database of these words and enjoyed helping them choose the new word of the day. Matt is very much missed not only by myself, but by all those who knew the good man that he was. To Yolanda and Christina, He loved you both dearly and know he is always taking care of you.
Judy Despian
October 7, 2002
My father recently gave me a tree that had a message of dedication to your husband, Matt. I am not sure where the tree came from, but the message asked to plant the tree on behalf of Matt, which I have done.

It is a white spruce, about 18" but will grow tall and proud, up to 40'.

From what I've just read about Matt, sounds like the tree will be just like him...strong, proud, and reaching for the sky.

My tears shed for you...

Kathleen Austin
Stay-at-home Mom
Northern New Jersey
Kathleen Austin
October 1, 2002
To the family of Matthew Gerard Leonard

I did not know Matthew Gerard Leonard. I only know that he and I share an uncommon first and middle name combination. It is a name I am proud of having and I am sure that Matt was as well. I can tell this because people knew his full name. So many times people only use their middle initial. I have then sense that Matt used his full name.

The name Matthew Gerard is a special name. And from reading the various posted I can tell that Matthew Gerard Leonard was a special person. The name Matthew means gift of God. The name Gerard means “Bravery”. Matt truly covered both of these. Through working with charities and giving time and himself to those less fortunate while raising a family and maintaining a successful career.

To Matt’s parents, I thank you as I am sure he did for giving your son the name Matthew Gerard.

To Yolanda and Christine, I send my prayers and thoughts. I know your daughter will learn what you know, just how special a person Matthew Gerard Leonard was.


Sincerely,
Matthew Gerard Seyler
Matthew Seyler
September 24, 2002
Dear family of Matthrew Gerard Leonard,
I am a student at the University of Pittsburgh. To commemorate the one year anniversary of 9/11, the University planted a flag in the ground of the Cathedral lawn for each person who was killed in the terrorist attacks. Each person's name, age, and location were printed on the flag. After the memorial service, the students were invited to take a flag for themselves. I just happened to receive the flag of Matthew Gerard Leonard. All the research I have done of him has revealed that he was a kind, charitable man that was admired by his peers. I will always remember your loved one, and I will keep my flag as a rememberance of the tragedy and the loss of this specific great man. I am sorry for your loss.

Sincerely,
Scott Habenicht
Scott Habenicht
September 12, 2002
Yolanda, Christine and family: I want to extend my deepest sympathies to you. Matt was absolutely amazing but I know you already know that.

We met at Chase. I was a paralegal and I worked with him often. He was the funniest, kindiest and fairest person that I have ever met. He used to give me great advice.

I think about him often and my thoughts always come back to you and Christina. I met the two of you under very sad circumstances. (Matt's memorial in Brooklyn). Christina is absolutely beautiful. She has Matt's eyes. I hope she has given you strength and comfort during this past year.

He used to talk about you all the time. How you two met, your Africian safari and cooking. Please let me know if there is anything I can do and I hope you and Christina are doing well.
Lisa Lee
September 11, 2002
Although I didn't know him well, having cossed paths with him only professionally, his humanity "touched" me. I cannot imagine the loss his loved ones feel in the face of this senseless tragedy. I've shed more than a few tears for him today, and I wish his family strength and comfort in this difficult time.
Pam Thompson
September 11, 2002
Dear Yolanda, I have thought about Matt quite a bit during the last year. He was my teaching assistant at Georgetown for Prof. Giles' 1984 Constitutional Law Class. I held that position the following year. When I applied to law school, I visited Matt at Columbia. We went to a party and to his Property class. We also went to a few Mets games after college. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Matt when I moved upstate in the late 80's and I never had the pleasure to meet you. Matt was one of the smartest people I have ever met. I was always in awe of his intelligence. We also had a lot of laughs together. I still get together with Prof. Giles about 3 times a year and we always fondly remember Matt. All the best to you and your daughter. You are in my prayers. Patrick M. Connors
Patrick Connors
September 11, 2002
I think of you often. I pray for your family. God Bles you always, Matt. You are missed.
N Johnson
September 10, 2002
I was checking for anyone with my family name, to focus on someone in this sadly lengthy list, when I came on this name.

Matthew Gerard Leonard sounds like an unusually compassionate lawyer with a social conscience, the sort who rescues the profession from all those cynical "lawyer jokes".
My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Denise Leonard
September 10, 2002
I live in Northern California and found Matt's bio on the nytimes web site. He must have been a great man. I too have a daughter named Christina. Our prayers go out to you on this 1 year after.
God's Best, Mike & Laurie Leon
Mike Leon
April 18, 2002
Dear Yolanda:

As has been said many times over, I remember Matt's kindness. His warm, beautiful smile will always be in my memory. I met Matt at Willkie Farr & Gallagher many years ago. I am sure he knew how much he was appreciated and admired because of who is was - an unselfish person. May God bless and keep you and your daughter in His loving care.

Paulette Kelly
April 18, 2002
I remember Matt from Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Always a smile, always good natured, always a "Hi!" He liked everyone and treated everyone equally. I am still at Willkie and I never forgot him.

He and his family are in my prayers.

-Donna Warren
Donna Warren
April 13, 2002
I am searching for the mother of a "Matthew" who was lost at the WTC. If you are the mother who had a long conversation with one of the therapy dog handlers at Pier 94 who made a special promise to you, please get in touch with me. The promise has come true.
Janet Mines Krings
March 15, 2002
Dear Yolanda,

I worked with Matt at Chase Manhattan Bank, I was part of the Litigation Division, a secretary there. I am so so sorry to hear about Matt. He was truly a wonderful man and always so nice to everyone. My heart and my prayers go out to you and your family.

Please take care of yourself and your daughter.

Diane Giglio (Hernan)
Diane Giglio
March 13, 2002
Always a smile ... always a big hello ... that is how I remember Matt. He was one of the kindest people I ever had the pleasure to work with. My heart goes out to you, Yolanda.
Mary Starr
March 11, 2002
Yolanda:

Today marks the 6-month anniversary of that horrible day, and I felt compelled to share some memories about Matt. When I think of you and Matt, I remember all the fun we had working together as legal assistants at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, where you met. I never saw you two happier than when you were together. I am sure Matt is looking down at you and Christiana with pride and joy. Take care.
Rhonda Rivera
February 21, 2002
DEAR GOD SHINE YOUR LIGHT ON THIS BEAUTIFUL MAN MATTHEW GERARD LEONARD AND MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE WITH GOD AND HIS ANGELS.GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS..GOD BLESS AMERICA AND NEW YORK AND MAY WE NEVER FORGET 9/11/01..MAY JESUS AND ST.MATTHEW AND ST.GERARD GREET YOU AT THE GATES OF HEAVEN...AMEN
January 22, 2002
Yolanda and Christina,

Matt is nothing more than a stranger to me, but the loss of his life and so many others has touched my heart. I have nothing more to offer you than my sympathy and a quote that helps me to carry on:

"Hope is the destination that we seek. Love is the road that leads to hope. Courage is the motor that drives us. We travel out of darkness into faith."

My thoughts and prayers are with you both.
Shawna Leonard
January 16, 2002
As a fellow high school graduate, we all drifted apart more than we should have. Matt, your death had the effect of bringing us close together once again. It should not have taken that, but for that, and for all our other memories of you, we are grateful.
January 15, 2002
All our thoughts and prayers are with Matt's family at this time. He was a true son of Regis, and I am proud to have had him as a classmate. Deo et Patriae
Joseph Tito
January 10, 2002
Matt was a wonderful person full of all the best in life. His passion for his work, his family and humankind will be missed by anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. May God look over his soul and protect Yolanda and Christina all of their days.......
Gayle Mandaro
December 25, 2001
We are very sorry for your loss of Matthew. We thank him for the work he did for others. May his life and love live on in all who love him. Our hearts cry with you.
America Cries
We see your sorrow-
and our hearts cry....
We can not erase your pain
but you do not have to face the anguish alone-for we-
-the American people-
are beside you.
We so desperately want to have the touch that brings you comfort,
the strength that gives you courage,
and the words to lighten your spirits.
And when we are left speechless
may the silence of our nation weave love into your hearts
to ease your sorrow.
May you find healing through our nation's strength as we-
-the American people-
face this difficult time together. Our hearts are with you. Teresa Jahn
Dixon, IL
Teresa Jahn
December 6, 2001
My deepest sympathies are extended to Matt Leonard and his family at this time, for I knew Matt when I worked at Willkie Farr & Gallagher as well years ago. Such a tragedy. May God rest his soul always! He was a wonderful and kind-hearted person. I am presently working as a continued legal secretary here at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. God bless you Matt and God Bless America!
Linda Ortiz
October 23, 2001
Matteo,

Have you known how you have moved the lives of people? From day one at Georgetown and Con Law and the Pub and later in New York where you spent so much of your brilliant time working pro bono in the office over that shop in Chinatown. Your beautiful marriage. You were always loving. Thanks for being one of this life’s teachers.
Craig Hardin
October 18, 2001
Matt was a beloved classmate in Columbia Law School's JD Class of 1987, and a warm, wonderful friend for those 3 intense and unforgettable years of law school. Matt was a calming, cheery presence, a optimist to the core. He was always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need. Some of my fondest law school memories (and there aren't that many fond ones) are of working long hours with Matt on the Moot Court Board.

Matt, the members of our study group and Moot Court colleagues sadly lost touch over the years, but this unspeakable tragedy has brought us back together. We are united in our grief and our warm wishes and sweet memories of you. The world has lost one true good soul, and heaven has gained an angel.

Our hearts go out to your wife and daughter--I am sure you were the most wonderful, loving husband and father.
Gail Cutter
October 16, 2001
We will miss you Matt. You were a pleasure to work with at Chase. My deepest sympathies to your family and friends.
Melissa Gold
October 16, 2001
God Bless you Matthew. GODSPEED
Bernadette Mannix - Feeney
October 12, 2001
howard schrader
October 8, 2001
bill borner
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