Oct 14, 2011

Be well and laugh

Anita Marie Leon
Anita Marie Leon of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin died at the age of 71 on Wednesday at Saint Agnes Hospital where she was surrounded by her loving family.

Anita is survived by her husband, Anthony 'Tony' Leon and their children Brian (Kari; sons Kevin and Jason, and daughter Nichole), Michael (Jackie), James (Shana), Joan (Bruce; daughters Isabel and Victoria). Anita is survived by brothers Johnny and Gene, and sister Jeri, all of Georgia; and by sister-in-law Sophie Guge of, Illinois (daughters Regina and Maria).

Anita was born on January 21, 1940 in Carrolton, Georgia to J. D. Byram and Louise Redding. On May 20, 1961, Anita married Tony Leon at Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta, while he was serving in the United States Army. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Anita and Tony have four children, and five grandchildren whom Anita loved and cherished.

Anita loved the sentiment that more powerful than a thousand armies, is an idea whose time has come. She was never afraid to stand up for justice, even when it was neither comfortable nor popular to do. She was a delegate to the 1976 Democratic National Convention that nominated her fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter.

Anita was a woman of ideals, humor, deep love, compassion and dignity. She loved her family, books, music, knowledge, and laughter. She taught her children and grandchildren to take pleasure in the small things that life offers.

For me though, kindness defined Anita Leon. I used to help her shopping for groceries and complete strangers like every time we went shopping would walk to her and tell her a concern or complaint. 'Why do people you don't know walk up to you and say stuff like that,' I asked. But I know now why.

She was of the world. Anita loved the poet John Donne who raved, "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."

Visitation will be held at Uecker-Witt Funeral Home from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, October 15, 2011.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Public Library in her name are encouraged.

Few grew up in rural Georgia feeling a compulsion to tell their future children about the early twentieth-century lynching of Leo Frank.

More than feeling, committing to a rational life means you love people and stand against injustice and bigotry where you see it.

Desegregating "black taxis" as a young Southern teenager to some neighbors' alarm because 'Nita didn't know any better' than to ride with "them" hardly registered, but Anita laughed about it later. Damn ignorant bigots, but we effort to not to hate in return.

Early disgust with racism and war is an outgrowth of a thirst for justice for Anita Leon—passion leading to the discovery of Ralph McGill, Harper Lee, Sam Cooke, Paul Robeson and just about any author and artist you could get her hands on in a region not exactly devoted to the Wisconsin Idea in its libraries and University system.

Questioning everything remains a pursuit akin to breathing.

Through all the injustice encountered living in Georgia, genuine disappointment and heart-felt betrayal with American segregation, the Holocaust, our own nation veering into McCarthyism after World War II, the Vietnam War, and American Apartheid, working for the Atlanta office of the FBI somehow became the object of humor and amusement where Bureau friends warned Anita's husband, Tony, about the perils of accepting a position with the CIA. Good call.

Meeting the love of your life at some Catholic dance where troops from Fort McPherson frequented, the geographic journey from Georgia to Illinois and then Wisconsin, a consistency of character endures: Humor and music remain vital.

Congrats on a great life, Mom. More to come. Who the hell knows? Here's one of your favorites I played for you once.

Be thinking about you this weekend, and likely every day of my life. Not with sorrow though, with laughter, just might take some time but I'll get there fast.

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