Michael Leonard was devoted to faith
Michael Patrick Leonard of Mobridge, who died April 3, 2014, at age 42, was a voice of conscience of those who knew him and a modern-day apostle for his church. To both roles he brought an apologist’s intellect, a pilgrim’s spiritual intensity and a wise man’s humility. That combination made him one of the most beautiful Christian examples known to us in this modern age.
Michael was born in Detroit, Mich., on March 5, 1972, to Robert and Ann Leonard. Michael had a fervent passion for the Lord and his Catholic faith. He spent many hours each day in contemplative prayer, unceasing catechesis studies, always learning more about the Catholic Church doctrine and early church fathers. He was an avid supporter of right to life organizations and wrote notable testimonials to legislators and was a Pro-Life Warrior. He was a catechism teacher and served his fifth and sixth grade classes with vibrant joy and enthusiasm. His inexhaustible service to everyone, including those in our community and at the senior center and church, will never be forgotten.
At Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Mobridge, he was a member of the Knights of Columbus at fourth-degree, and he was always excited to serve his brother Knights. He was an Altar Server and considered by most parishioners to be a beautiful example of reverence. He was also a choir member and we will all remember his wonderful tenor voice. He will also be greatly missed at his Friday morning Catholic men’s group.
Michael graduated from Fraser High School in 1989. In 1990, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Soon after basic training he was transferred to Ellsworth Air Force Base. Later, he served in South Korea as a special ops supply journeyman, where he earned the National Defense Service Medal and presidential honors. He served in Oahu, Hawaii, before his retirement discharge with honors.
Later, Michael began studies in psychology in Macomb Community College in Macomb Township, Mich., and earned a degree at Northern State University in Aberdeen.
Family and the church always came first in his life, attending all their needs. Michael was also an avid sports fan from opening day to the playoffs, watching Detroit Tigers baseball. He also loved to watch the University of Michigan football games. He could tell you any historical stats and facts about the games and players. He enjoyed many years as an athlete himself, playing baseball, football and running track. For many years his life, ministry to others and work reflected personal trial and much suffering. An athletic and energetic young man before he became ill, he gradually lost his ability to run and walk, to stand and express himself clearly – the result of brain cancer. By the time he was 40, Stephanie routinely aided him in his everyday needs and reading for him. Yet he rejected any notion of losing his independence and pushed himself to the limits of his declining physical and mental capabilities, convinced that such suffering was a form of spiritual leadership and an opportunity for spiritual growth. He understood its redemptive value and bore his cross with love and dignity.
He is survived by his most beloved and best friend, Stephanie Monica Lynn “Puntindoodle” of Mobridge; his loving father-in-law, Everette West of Virginia; his parents, Robert and Ann Leonard; brothers, Bob Leonard and Richard Leonard; his sister, Janice Reynolds; four nephews and two nieces of Michigan and five nephews and two nieces of Virginia. He left behind family and friends who loved and admired him for being a wonderful husband, beautiful son, cherished brother, loving uncle, respected teacher, beloved in-law and faithful friend.
He was preceded in death by his Papa and dearest friend Chris Dolecheck and his wife Eileen Dolecheck of Mobridge and his grandparents of Michigan.
Family and serving God were his greatest joys. He prayed everywhere he went, morning, noon and night, and recommended prayer as the first and basic Christian response to everything. On the morning of, and up to his last breath, he prayed while in the arms of Stephanie as together they sang the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Those closest to him said the key from which he drew his energy to persevere was his deep spiritual life. Beyond the mark he leaves as a beacon towards the institutional church, Michael will no doubt be remembered by many as a very human frailty elevated by grace and honor.
Visitation will start after 5:30 p.m. Mass at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 11, 2014, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Then a rosary vigil will be led by Sister Agnes and prayer servicewill start at 7:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial will be concelebrated by Father John Short, Father John Lule and Father Bill Hamak at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at 11 a.m. The fourth-degree Knights of Columbus Honor Guard will be in procession. Following Mass, full military honors and presentation of the flag ceremony, there will be a luncheon provided by the Saint Joseph Altar Society in the parish dining room.
Kesling Funeral Home of Mobridge will be conducting burial arrangements. Rite of Committal ceremony at graveside with Father Bill Zandri,will be on April 16, 2014, at 1 p.m. MDT at Black Hills National Cemetery, Sturgis, including the colors flag production, full military honors and singing.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to: Father John Lule of Ugandan Missions, 608 Cleveland, Rapid City, S.D., 57701; St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mobridge for Masses and Saint Peregrine Cancer Shrine at Christ the King Catholic Church, 1551 E. Dana Ave., Mesa, Ariz, 85204, or online at www.cancershrine.org.
Stephanie would like to thank everyone with her whole heart for their kind words, gifts, masses, flowers and prayers.