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Leon Applebaum

1924 - 2018
Leon Applebaum Obituary
Leon Applebaum

July 1, 1924 ~ June 16, 2018

Leon Applebaum, artist, linguist, philosopher, teacher and storyteller extraordinaire, passed away peacefully in his sleep on June 16, 2018 after pronouncing himself "fit as a fiddle" the night before, and singing on his way to bed. He was just two weeks shy of his 94th birthday.

Leon was born in Belleville, Illinois to Benjamin and Pearl Applebaum, he was the youngest to older brothers Sydney and Melvin. Leon's childhood was shaped by the Great Depression, by being the child of immigrant parents and by the death of his father when he was only a teen. Perhaps because of these early challenges, Leon developed a life long affinity for the "little guy", the disenfranchised or misunderstood. Leon also possessed a brilliant mind and creative gifts that would later become evident.

Leon served honorably in the U.S. Army during WWII and returned to earn a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1949. He later completed an MFA at the University of Washington in 1966.

Leon was a complicated man. He was many things, but he was foremost an artist. Immensely talented and critically acclaimed, his paintings and sketches were exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute, Seattle Art Museum, Tate Gallery of London and the Henry Art Gallery in the 1950s. His paintings are included in the permanent exhibits of the Seattle Art Museum, the Musee d' Art Modern in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. He had numerous shows in local art galleries and his paintings, sketches and watercolor works are a treasured part of many private NW collections.

Leon received both the Tiffany Grant in painting and a Fullbright scholarship to study and paint in France in 1954. (The hand scrawled glowing letter of recommendation from his friend and mentor Mark Tobey, probably didn't hurt his Fullbright application at all.)

In 1955, while in France on his Fulbright scholarship, Leon married the former Hilde Meyer and they returned to Seattle and had two daughters, Jill and Penny. In the 1960's, frustrated by his inability to support his family as an artist, Leon turned to two of his other passions, foreign languages, (he spoke a number fluently including French, Spanish, German and Italian) and teaching.

After obtaining his teaching certificate at the University of Washington he taught Art, English, French, German and Spanish in Seattle Public Schools, at the Cornish Institute and at Seattle Central and North Seattle Community Colleges. Giving up art was painful and frustrating for Leon but he embraced his career as an educator with passion and creativity and formed life long friendships with a number of his former students. He retired from teaching in 1985.

In 1974, Leon married the acclaimed graphic and fine artist Teiko Shimazaki, a union that endured until his passing. Leon and Teiko loved each other deeply and appreciated and nurtured each other's artistic natures. Teiko continued to create and exhibit her work well into her eighties, and Leon spent much of his time in retirement supporting her successful career as an artist.

Throughout his life, Leon was a collector. He collected things, seeing beauty, inspiration or utility in just about everything he came across, (and driving his wives to distraction as they tried to find yet more room for his ever expanding "finds".) He also collected people. He was intensely curious about everyone's story-studying the great philosophers and thinkers but equally captivated by a stranger at the bus stop or a child playing at the park with their family. He loved conversation, his family, art, ideas, music, (he taught himself to play the violin in his eighties), laughing and a glass of red wine.

In his final years, Leon developed Alzheimer's Disease. Dementia diminished his brilliance and fiery nature but he never stopped being creative, multilingual, funny, interested or interesting.

In 2017, after living with Teiko at Aljoya Thorton Place, Leon moved to Highland Adult Family Home in Shoreline. Our family is immeasurably grateful to Daniella Stoian and her staff who cared for Leon with love and respect and allowed him to live his final year with peace, dignity and moments of joy. Our family also deeply appreciates all the friends, extended family and care providers who supported, inspired and enjoyed Leon during his lifetime.

Leon is survived by his beloved wife Teiko of Shoreline WA, his daughters Jill Silver of the Olympic Penninsula and Penny Hobson and his cherished granddaughter Solana both of Seattle. He is also survived by his nieces and nephews Bruce Applebaum, Julianna Riggs, Keith Applebaum and Monique Williams and their families and by Teiko's family in England and Japan.

Leon would be honored if you would enjoy and buy art, and or support any program that celebrates diversity and inclusion. His family hopes to hold a memorial service later this year.
Published in The Seattle Times from Sept. 12 to Sept. 16, 2018
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