James A. Leonard, 81, of Eau Claire, died peacefully in his sleep early Sunday, December 9, 2018, after having spent a day watching the Badgers with family and close friends.
Born on April 22, 1937, to the late James M. and Elizabeth (Buckner) Leonard in the River Falls Hospital, he grew up in Trimbelle, attending one-room schools with his sister in Beldenville and Alleho, and playing with cousins. Later the family moved to River Falls.
Jim played football for River Falls High School and graduated from there in 1955. That fall he enlisted in the United States Air Force for a four-year tour of duty. He trained in California and Texas before being stationed permanently in Sumter, South Carolina, with temporary duty in many places, including Ohio, the Azores, Alaska and Virginia. In 1958, he married his high school sweetheart, Marie Green, and in 1959 they returned to River Falls where he was employed at Erickson Industries.
The family, including their first daughter, moved to Eau Claire in 1962. Jim attended Stout State College and Eau Claire State University. He began running with a neighborhood group and was a founding member of the Indianhead Track Club. The family joined and were longtime members of First Congregational Church, where he served as an usher for many years and as a deacon. Later he began his own business, Leonard Carpet Service, which he owned and operated for decades. Through the Junior Chamber of Commerce, he worked on such community projects as the Easter Egg Hunt and the Christmas Toy Project. With friends, he participated in the Eau Claire Bi-Centennial Parade and the annual canoe races at Sawdust City Days. He made many new friends when he joined the Viking Fan Club of the Chippewa Valley and the Blugold Backcourt Club.
Until pulmonary fibrosis slowed him down, every Thursday found Jim in the bowling league. Every spring found him at the Walleye Challenge on the Chippewa Flowage and back for a week over the Fourth of July, and every fall at the Crappie Fest in Chetek and then back at Treeland Resorts on the Flowage for deer hunting. There were many days spent fishing for muskies on the Flowage and several fishing trips to Canada. Friends frequently found him enjoying Spanish stew or a hot beef at Ray’s Place after bowling. His face was also familiar before Blugold games at the Mousetrap and during Badger and Brewer games at Taverna Grill and the Barley Club at Pine Meadow. He loved those places for the easy camaraderie.
Though Jim claimed he really didn’t enjoy traveling, his daughters drew him out of his comfort zone to Washington, D.C., Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, horse races in the Washington, D.C., area and Maryland, the Baja, Niagara Falls, Jamaica, Paris, Iceland, the Bahamas, the Outer Bands in North Carolina, and shuttle launchings in Florida. It took his grandson’s cajoling to get him to Costa Rica. “You’ve got to see the monkeys, Bumpa.” His sister and brother-in-law took him on an unbelievable tour of Canada and Alaska in their motorhome. He went to the Indianapolis 500 with fellow Viking fans, and the Badgers drew him to Las Vegas and California, and the Blugolds to Kansas City, San Antonio and Hawaii.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Marie; two daughters, Kaileen (Glen Cullen) and Kirsten; grandson, Gage; sister, Janice (Bud) Swanson; many cousins, nieces, and nephews and their families.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, “Tunis” and “Elsie”; mother-in-law, Esther (Maynard) Bowen; and one nephew.
Memorial service will be held 11:00 a.m. on Monday, December 17, 2018, at Evergreen Funeral Home (off Golf Road one block east of Hwy 93). Visitation will be from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday at the funeral home. A private family interment will be held at a later date. Evergreen Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the family.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made in Jim’s name to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (https://secure.qgiv.com/for/ pulfibfou/).
To send your condolence to the family, please visit our obituaries at www.evergreenfuneralhome.com.