Jim Leonard image
Obituary

Jim Leonard

May 13, 1938 – January 27, 2021

Jim Leonard passed at home in Seattle on January 27, 2021. He was with his wife, Marcia, and full of love for the world he was leaving.

Jim was born in Plainfield, NJ on May 13, 1938, and became an older brother to his sister Judy three years later.  Throughout his life, Jim was filled with the awareness of the inequities in the world and the desire to make it a safer and kinder place. He worked in peace movements during the Vietnam War and then, later in life, spent more than two decades instilling the value of curiosity and creativity in students as a beloved teacher of history and literature at Archbishop Murphy High School.  He folded art, music and drama along with civic responsibility into every curriculum and was deeply cherished and respected by students and faculty alike.  Although quiet in demeanor, he was fierce about justice and respect for each other.

After retiring, he taught adult learners with the same passion and meticulous preparation at Lifetime Learning Center and was, again, deeply loved. In his final years, he celebrated the joys of simple life, grandparenting and nature. He continued to be kind, to advocate for justice, and to respect individuals fully. Although he was not often one to initiate interaction outside of the classroom setting, he engaged fully when someone approached him. In and out of the classroom, he did not need to control the unfolding of encounters or relationships, and delighted in their unexpected twists and turns.

His daughter, Andrea, continually amazed and delighted him as she grew and found her way in the world. He appreciated her devotion to family and community, and saw characteristics of his mother whom he loved very much.

Jim slowly declined into dementia over his final six years and brought his curiosity and openness to this process. He showed up even as he lost physical and cognitive capacities, and lived with a grace of acceptance that was deeply moving. His final words were a question he asked Marcia after being unresponsive for a long period: “How is everyone?” and he smiled to hear the accounts of Andrea, his step children, Alice and Michael, and their families. “Wonderful” was his reply.

His four granddaughters were a great joy to him, and their attention to him moved him greatly. Two cards from Satya and Saoirse (Andrea’s girls) sat by his place at the table and he read them repeatedly and showed them to all who came to care for him. As the end grew near, Jim and Marcia were given the gift of foreseeing his imminent death, and he was filled with the generosity of so many who wrote their tributes and appreciations for him to hear. Jim was a quiet person who did not seek acclaim but taking in the words of his importance in the lives of others moved him greatly.

His family is gathering virtually on February 12th for a private laying in of his body. In attendance will be his sister Judy and her husband Larry; Andrea and her husband, Erik, with Satya and Saoirse; Michael and his wife, Kelly; and Alice with her husband Jay, and their daughters, Vivian and Frances. This quiet gathering of those he loved honors dear Jim in its simplicity and heart.

His family welcomes any remembrances, and shares Jim’s request that any donations in his memory be made to the Equal Justice Initiative.  They will miss him terribly, while finding comfort in the elements of daily life that brought Jim joy – a brilliant piece of writing, a fascinating anecdote from history, a bountiful harvest from the garden, an offering of homemade desserts, or the delightful observations of a child. They will find his spirit in their lives in actions of kindness, advocacy and courage to speak openly in the service of equity and justice.

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