George Michael Leader

    - Valenda Newell
  • "It was a wonderful privilege to be a part of the chaplaincy..."
    - Rev. Ken Engle
  • "What great memories I have of your father and mother over..."
    - Jeanette Calaman
  • "Dear Leader Family, We send our sincerest condolences and..."
    - George Sgagias

May 9, 2013

George Michael Leader, a self-described "seventh generation Pennsylvania Dutch farmer," who was the second youngest Governor of Pennsylvania, died at his home in Hershey on May 9. He was 95.

Leader attended Gettysburg College, then finished his degree at University of Pennsylvania in 1939. Later that year, he married Mary Jane Strickler, and began service in the Navy as a supply corps officer on the USS Randolph. Following the war and in line with his family's seven generations of farmers, he bought a poultry farm in York County. Soon he became active in local politics and was elected to the state Senate seat previously held by his father.

After one term as a Democratic state Senator, he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania in a landslide in 1955 at the age of 36. In 1962, Leader and his wife, founded a company that provided skilled nursing and rehabilitation for seniors. By 1981, the company was the largest provider of skilled nursing care in the state. Leader later established Country Meadows Retirement Communities and in 1980 launched Providence Place, where he was currently serving as its chairman, president and CEO.

Governor Leader was active in community organizations throughout his professional life. In his post-gubernatorial years he served as National Crusade Chairman of the American Cancer Society, on the boards of the Philadelphia Home Loan Bank and of numerous colleges, universities and hospitals.

In his later years, he focused his attention on prison reform, on local charities that supported students in the Harrisburg School District and on international organizations serving Africa and, in particular, Ghana.

Governor Leader was pre-deceased by his son, Fred in 2003; and by his wife, Mary Jane, in 2011.

He is survived by his son, George Michael Leader III (Karen); daughter, Jane Leader Janeczek (Ted); and son, David Charles Leader (Liesa); and by 12 grandchildren, Jennifer J. Leader, Hershey, Alex M. Janeczek, Hershey, George Michael Leader IV, Hershey, Meredith Janeczek Mills, Lititz, Katelyn E. Leader, Oxford, England, Andrew M. Janeczek, McLean, Va., Tania S. Leader-Hanmer, Hershey, Ricardo S. Leader, State College, Kristin J. Leader, Hershey, Catia S. Leader, Lisbon, Portugal, Manuel F. Leader, Hershey and Grace E. Leader, Hershey; two great-grandsons, Kyle and Colin Leader-Hanmer, also of Hershey. He also is survived by Anne Gardner Leader, Hummelstown, widow of his son, Fred; and his brother, Henry B. Leader, York.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdsay at Hoover Funeral Home, Route 422 and Lucy Avenue, Hershey. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Derry Presbyterian Church, Hershey. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the following charities would be appreciated: The not-for-profit assisted living community that he founded in Harrisburg; Ecumenical Retirement Community, 830 Cherry Drive, Hershey, PA 17033; a program that assists ex-offenders to prepare for employment, CRAM (Christian Recovery Aftercare Ministry), 509 Division St., Harrisburg, PA 17110; or his church, Derry Presbyterian Church (Mission and Peace Fund), 248 E. Derry Road, Hershey, PA 17033. Share online condolences at

Published in Republican & Herald on May 12, 2013
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