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Life Story / Obituary
Well liked and easy to get along with, Dave Leonard never asked for much. With those he loved and good friends by his side, he was content in doing the many things he loved and enjoyed. A kind and peaceful man, Dave had a way of finding the good in everyone. A jokester at heart, he loved making those around him light up with a smile. With faith as his guide, he was ever prayerful, loving, and hardworking. Although he is gone far too soon, Dave leaves much to be remembered through the many memories he leaves behind.
The 1960s ushered in an entirely new way of thinking within the culture of America. The Vietnam War was at the forefront, and young people were learning how to make their voices heard. Many found reprieve in the form of drive-in theaters, popular music from The Beetles and The Rolling Stones, and beloved television shows like Andy Griffith and Bewitched. In the bustling city of Cleveland, Ohio, it was during these changing times in the New Year of 1962 when David and Patricia (DiVincenzo) Leonard Sr. welcomed the birth of their baby boy, David Leonard Jr. on January 1.
Growing up an only child, Dave was raised in the Cleveland area where he experienced boyhood adventures playing with neighborhood kids. For the most part, he never got into too much trouble although he could be a little sassy at times. Once, when Dave was six years old, his mom was watching TV and their dog kept nudging her. Dave said, “Mom, that dog thinks you’re human.” She asked Dave if he was human, and he replied, “No mom, I’m American!” Turning a phrase and making people laugh became a hallmark throughout Dave’s life.
Monday Night Football on TV was important for a young, sports-minded boy like Dave and when he was ten years old his parents often allowed him to stay up until halftime. One night, Dave and his dad decided to make chocolate chip cookies before the game. Bowls and pans were stacked and scattered everywhere throughout the kitchen. The cookies ended up far larger than normal on the baking sheet and by the time they were done, they had melted into one big, yummy cookie sheet. True to form, Dave promptly went to bed so he wouldn’t have to clean up the mess!
Since he was a little boy, Dave played rocket football and by the time he was a teenager, he had become quite an accomplished player. In fact, two coaches personally came to the Leonard home and recruited Dave to play for Cathedral Latin High School, offering him a full scholarship. The school closed his senior year and he went on to graduate from Trinity Latin High School with the Class of 1980. The last football game Dave played was opposite the schools archrival. Dave sacked the quarterback, keeping him out of field goal range and winning the game for Cathedral Latin. Dave went on to graduate with his Bachelor’s from Western Michigan University in education and, later, earned his Masters from Grand Valley State University.
When Dave was 22 his parents moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. He came along to find a fresh start and soon began working for his dad in the engineering lab at Eaton. Dave later took a job in the truck parts division, working in marketing and sales. When that division closed, Dave felt called to become a teacher, which was his heart’s truest desire.
Teaching came naturally for Dave. He absolutely loved mentoring and being a positive guide in the lives of so many young people. He taught social studies to middle-school students and truly loved working with kids. He was instrumental in their lives through the Academic Achievement program. He took a genuine interest in his students and made his classes fun and interesting. Dave was proud that his daughter was following in his footsteps at WMU currently working to earn her teaching certification. Many of Dave’s former students continue to remark how much they enjoyed his class and what a positive influence he was, mentoring many of them far beyond the classroom. His greatest reward was to see his former students excel in their lives.
Dave came to know love in the heart of Kim Moffit when the two met at the gym. Both enjoyed bodybuilding and weight training, and Dave was great fun to be around. For their first date they attended a bodybuilding show. Dinner followed and they even took in an awful preview of Childs Play. Not long after, Dave told his parents he’d met the one, and after they met Kim, they agreed she was absolutely the one for their son. Deeply in love, the two were happily married on July 1, 1989 and they began writing new chapters in their genuine love story together.
Blessed with the birth of their daughter, Mackenzie brought added joy and love to Dave and Kim’s lives. They raised their daughter in a home of faith and every night it was important for Dave, Kim, and Mackenzie to have dinner and say their prayers together. Dave had a deep relationship with God which brought him a wonderful peace in his life. He loved St. Thomas More Parish where he was a devoted member.
There were many things Dave enjoyed, but lifting weights and power lifting topped his list. He began in high school and it became his passion for many years to come. Beginning in the 1970s, Dave took part in numerous bodybuilding contests and at one point took second place in a Mr. Kalamazoo contest. This was a testament of Dave’s perseverance as it took hard work and much dedication.
Fishing was also a big part of Dave’s life. He took many great trips throughout Michigan and many weekend fishing trips in their boat. He, Kim, and Mackenzie shared many wonderful trips on their boat where they would have the “big fishing contests.” Great times were always shared with his two fishing buddies, John and Jay, particularly on their yearly fishing trips along with Dave’s dad. Dave liked fishing with anyone, especially Kim’s mom, Judy and brother, Rich.
Dave’s love for sports was evident. He coached football and track for a time and was a fan of the Cleveland Browns. He was so glad when he finally had the opportunity to watch them in a playoff game. Dave knew his way around the kitchen and was a good cook. He was an avid reader. When it came to music, Dave’s favorite included Johnny Cash’s album, Ring of Fire. Dave also loved his dogs and had different voices for each. They always slept with Dave, but it was clear the bed belonged to the dogs!
From his earliest years, Dave had such interest in history which extended into his eventual career. His passion for history began in the 1960s when he’d watch old shows with his grandfather and listened to his WWII stories. Well studied on the subject, he was an expert on the Civil War, often recalling battles and all the details. He also took a keen interest in the U.S. Constitution, and knew it well. In 2018, Dave and his daughter took a memorable trip to Washington D.C., visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the Capital all while serving as a chaperones together for other kids from school.
Spending time with family was equally important to Dave. Each Halloween, he and Mackenzie could always be found watching old Godzilla movies together. He loved going to Kim’s parent’s house, visiting with extended family, and playing cards and games with his nieces and nephew. As a family they always took a summer trip with both sets of parents on an overnight casino trip. Dave played the slots, but never bet big despite being known as a lucky winner. On one trip he even wore a suit with dollar bills all over it and had many gamblers asking to take a picture with him.
Dave possessed a wonderful sense of humor and quick wit. He always had a joke probably could’ve had another career writing jingles. With ways all his own, he could turn a phrase into something hysterical and amusing. One time when he got mad at his mom and grabbed a decorative fork from its hook hanging on the wall and said, “Fork you mom” . . . and all she could do was laugh! Dave could take any situation and make it better. He loved making people laugh and his humor, most often, was his signature trait.
With a smile that could light up a room and eyes of blue that could convey his genuine nature, Dave was a man who lived by his convictions. He cherished those entrusted to his care, and as the foundation of his family, Dave worked hard to provide for those he loved. With a faithful and dedicated heart, he led by example with integrity and unconditional love. Deeply missed, Dave will be lovingly remembered by those who knew and loved him best.
Dave Leonard Jr., age 59, died on February 1, 2021. Dave was preceded in death by his grandparents, Joseph (Dorothy) Leonard, and Adeline Ritchie; and his father-in-law, Richard Moffit. Surviving are his wife, Kim, and his daughter, Mackenzie. Cremation has taken place. A private Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Thomas More Parish. Please visit Dave’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may share a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Thomas More Parish. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.