Obituary

Don
Leatherman
Wadsworth

DON MILTON LEATHERMAN, AGE 100 YEARS AND NINE MONTHS, PASSED AWAY PEACEFULLY ON JUNE 16, 2024, APPROPRIATELY ON FATHER’S DAY. HE WAS SURROUNDED BY THE LOVE AND WARMTH OF HIS DAUGHTER PEGI AND HIS CAREGIVERS, WHO HAD BECOME HIS FRIENDS, AT THE INN AT COALRIDGE.
DON THOROUGHLY ENJOYED HIS REMARKABLE LIFE, WHICH BEGAN WITH HIS BIRTH IN WADSWORTH, OHIO ON SEPT 18,1923 AS THE ONLY CHILD OF HELEN AND FRANK W. LEATHERMAN. HE WAS A GRANDSON OF MILTON LEATHERMAN AND GREAT GRANDSON OF JACOB LEATHERMAN, OF WADSWORTH. THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE, HE WAS FONDLY KNOWN AS “RED” TO HIS MANY FRIENDS, AND “BUMPA OR PAWPAW” TO HIS BELOVED GRANDCHILDREN, GREAT GRANDCHILDREN, AND NIECES AND NEPHEW.
DON LIVED THE MAJORITY OF HIS LIFE IN WADSWORTH, OHIO. DON WAS BLESSED WITH A VERY HEALTHY, HAPPY, LIFE, SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO DEARLY LOVED HIM. HE LIVED HIS LIFE EXACTLY AS HE WISHED TILL HIS VERY LAST DAY, A DAY OF BEAUTIFUL PEACE.
DON GRADUATED FROM WADSWORTH HIGH SCHOOL IN 1941, WHERE HE WAS A MEMBER OF THE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM. THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE, DON SUPPORTED AND ATTENDED MANY WADSWORTH SPORTS FUNCTIONS AND BAND EVENTS, INCLUDING EVERY HOME FOOTBALL GAME AND GIRLS BASKETBALL GAMES, UNTIL HE WAS WELL INTO HIS 97TH YEAR. HE AND HIS WIFE, ILA JEAN, A FORMER W.H.S. CHEERLEADER, ALWAYS RESERVED A SEASONAL BOX SEAT ON THE FIFTY YARD LINE UNTIL BOX SEATS WERE NOT LONGER OFFERED AFTER THE STADIUM WAS RENOVATED. AFTER THE AGE OF 97, HE DIDN’T MISS WATCHING THE GAMES ON T.V. FOR HIS 100TH BIRTHDAY, DON WAS AWARDED A W.H.S. FOOTBALL JERSEY WITH HIS JERSEY NUMBER 54, AWARDED TO HIM BY COACH TODD AND HIS PLAYERS, AS THE OLDEST LIVING FOOTBALL PLAYER IN WADSWORTH.
DON ATTENDED KENT STATE UNIVERSITY PRIOR TO ANSWERING THE CALL TO WAR AND BEING OF THE GREATEST GENERATION, ENLISTED IN THE ARMY AIR CORPS, ON JANUARY 23, 1943. AS A STAFF SERGEANT, HE BELONGED TO THE 315TH BOMB GROUP,20THARMY AIR CORPS., AND WAS STATIONED AT NORTHWEST FIELD, GUAM. AT A VERY YOUNG AGE, DON LEAD ROUND-THE-CLOCK MECHANICAL CREWS INSTALLING THE THEN NEW RADAR SYSTEM ON THE AIRCRAFT USED DURING THE WAR. HE WAS HONORABLY DISCHARgED IN 1945. WHILE DON WAS OVERSEAS, HIS FATHER FRANK LEATHERMAN, CLOSED HIS LUMBER BUSINESS FOR ONE YEAR, VOLUNTEERING AT B.F. GOODRICH, INVENTING THE TOOLS DON NEEDED TO INSTALL THE RADAR WHICH DID NOT EXIST AT THAT TIME, AND WHICH B.F GOODRICH THEN MADE TO BE SENT OVERSEAS.
AFTER HIS DISCHARGE, DON RETURNED TO WADSWORTH AND FOUNDED THE LEATHERMAN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, WHERE HE CREATED A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS, BUILDING 169 HOMES IN WADSWORTH TOWNSHIP DURING HIS CAREER. THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE, DON BELIEVED IN SUPPORTING LOCAL WADSWORTH BUSINESSES AND REFUSED TO LEAVE THE CITY OF WADSWORTH FOR ANY SERVICE OR ITEM IF IT WAS OFFERED BY A WADSWORTH MERCHANT.
DON MARRIED THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE, HIS ONE AND ONLY FAVORITE DANCE PARTNER AND TRAVEL COMPANION, ILA JEAN, ON DECEMBER 6, 1943. THEY MET AND BEGAN DATING IN HIGH SCHOOL AND SHARED 65 COLORFUL YEARS OF MARRIAGE UNTIL HER PASSING IN 2009. THEIR MARRIAGE WAS DESCRIBED BY A DEAR FRIEND AS A UNION BETWEEN TRUE CHARACTERS WHO WERE MADE FOR ONE ANOTHER. THEIR LOVE WAS PALPABLE, CONTAGIOUS AND GREGARIOUS, AND, AS MANY HAVE ALSO AGREED, NO OTHER COUPLES EYES WOULD WIDEN AS LARGE OR EARS PERK UP AS QUICKLY AT THE WHISPER OF THE WORD “PARTY” AS THEIRS, FOR THEY WERE THE FIRST TO ARRIVE AND THE LAST TO LEAVE.
FROM THEIR CABINS IN SEBRING AND SALT FORK STATE PARK IN OHIO, TO THEIR WINTER HOME IN LARGO, FLORIDA, DON AND ILA JEAN FORGED NUMEROUS CHERISHED FRIENDSHIPS AND A MYRIAD OF STORIES THAT EXTENDED WELL BEYOND STATE AND COUNTRY LINES.
DON LOVED CARS AND BEGAN DRIVING AT AGE 11! AT ONE TIME IN HIS LIFE, HE OWNED UPWARDS OF SEVEN CARS, HIS EXCUSE BEING EACH CAR SERVED A PARTICULAR PURPOSE IN HIS DAY-TO-DAY LIFE!
HE WAS A MEMBER OF THE WADSWORTH LIONS CLUB, THE WADSWORTH CITY CLUB AND THE GYROS. HE WAS INVOLVED WITH THE FOOT LIGHTERS AND WAS A CHARTER MEMBER OF RAWIGA COUNTRY CLUB. DON WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR RENOVATING THE OLD BARN AT RAWIGA INTO THE GOLF COURSE’S PREMIER HOTSPOT, WHERE HE AND HIS JITTERBUGGING PARTNER OF 65 YEARS, WIFE ILA JEAN, SPENT MANY A NIGHT TWIRLING ON THE DANCE FLOOR. AS DON AND ILA JEAN JITTERBUGGED, THE DANCE FLOOR CLEARED AS THEIR MANY SPECTATORS CHEERED THEM ON. UNTIL HIS PASSING, HE RECALLED EVERY DETAIL OF COUNTLESS TALES OF RAUCOUS FRIVOLITY WHICH HAD BECOME EITHER THE FUNNIEST OF STORIES, OR THE SILLIEST OF SECRETS BETWEEN HIS AMAZING CIRCLE OF FRIENDS.
DON ENJOYED PLAYING HIS LAST ROUND OF GOLF AT RAWIGA AT AGE 98, PUTTING ALMOST EVERY GREEN, STILL EASILY SINKING 20FT. PUTTS!
DONS PASTIMES IN LIFE HAVE BEEN IMAGINING, CREATING AND DESIGNING LIMITLESS THINGS, TRAVELING AND VACATIONING WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS, HE AND ILA JEAN’S ADVENTURES SEEING THE WORLD HAVE FORGED NUMEROUS AND CHERISHED FRIENDSHIPS THAT EXTEND BEYOND STATE AND COUNTRY LINES. INCLUDED WERE DON’S ENJOYMENT OF THE OUTDOORS, GOLFING, BOATING AND FISHING.
THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE HIS HANDS WERE NEVER STILL… AT THE AGE OF 97, WITH A PENCIL PERCHED OVER HIS EAR, ONE OF HIS LAST PROJECTS WAS DESIGNING, MOVING STONES HIMSELF AND INSTALLING A 6 FOOT PATH OF COBBLESTONES LEADING TO A 10 FT. PATH OF LARGE STEPPING STONES. THE STONES CREATED A PATH THRU HIS GARDEN, INCLUDING A HANDRAIL. HE COMPLETED THIS PROJECT USING ONLY HIS HANDS AND HIS INGENUITY, WITH NO OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE.
DON PARTICULARLY LOOKED FORWARD TO HIS EVENING MANHATTAN AT SUNSET, SITTING ON HIS PATIO SURROUNDED BY HIS BEAUTIFUL GARDEN AND AN OCCASIONAL CIGAR WITH HIS BUDDY TOM. THESE SPECIAL TIMES OFTEN INCLUDED FAMILY OR FRIENDS, WHILE HE SHARED HIS WISDOM AND RECOUNTED ENDLESS STORIES OF HIS LIFE’S ADVENTURES AND TREASURED MOMENTS. MANY OF HIS FUNNIEST AND MOST CHERISHED STORIES OF HIS LIFE INCLUDED HIS FRIEND, FORMER MAYOR OF WADSWORTH, JACK SOMMER.
HE WAS A MEMBER OF TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST IN WADSWORTH AND ALSO A SEASONAL MEMBER OF ST. PAUL’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH IN LARGO, FLORIDA.
HE AND HIS LATER-IN-LIFE COMPANION, JUANITA (DAVIS) ENJOYED DINNERS TOGETHER, TAKING RIDES , HAVING PICNICS, AND ATTENDING CONCERTS IN DOWNTOWN WADSWORTH AND BARBERTON, UNTIL HER PASSING IN 2021.
DON LOVED ANIMALS AND ALWAYS HAD PETS. AS A VERY YOUNG CHILD HE RODE HIS PONY EVERYWHERE IN MEDINA COUNTY, OFTEN PACKING HIS LUNCH AND GOING FOR THE DAY, THEN CAMPING OUT OVER NIGHT WHEREVER HE DECIDED TO STOP. HE LIVED HIS LIFE ALWAYS WITH A FAVORED PET BY HIS SIDE.
DON WAS CHERISHED AS A GOOD FRIEND, AN EASY-GOING FUNNY GUY WITH A QUICK SMILE, POSSESSING A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR AND A POSITIVE ATTITUDE THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE. HE ABUNDANTLY LOVED AND WAS DEDICATED TO EVERY MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY, AND THEY CHERISHED HIM EQUALLY. HE WAS QUICK WITTED AND NEVER CEASED PLAYING PRACTICAL JOKES ON HIS FAMILY, NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS. HE ACTUALLY DID WHISTLE AS HE WALKED AND WORKED!
DON ENJOYED THE LAST TWO+ YEARS OF HIS LIFE WITH HIS BELOVED CAT, SPOOKY, STEADFAST BY HIS SIDE, RESIDING AT THE INN AT COALRIDGE IN WADSWORTH. HE MADE AND APPRECIATED NEW FRIENDSHIPS, INCLUDING HIS FRIEND VEACH. HE ESPECIALLY APPRECIATED AND LOVED HIS HELPERS: HIS CHERISHED FRIEND AND AID, ANGEL, HIS HOSPICE NURSE PAYTON, HIS DINING ATTENDANTS, BELINDA, DEBBIE AND DEE, AS WELL AS SO MANY OTHERS WHO PAMPERED HIM AT COALRIDGE. DON APPRECIATED AND ENJOYED THE TENDER AND HEART FELT CARE HE RECEIVED, BUT ABOVE ALL, HE REMARKED THAT HE ENJOYED BEING SURROUNDED BY MANY PRETTY YOUNG LADIES WHO WERE HIS AIDES, AND THE ATMOSPHERE WHICH COALRIDGE OFFERED HIM! DURING HIS TIME AT COALRIDGE, HE JOKED DAILY THAT HE CONTINUED TO KEEP HIS SON -IN- LAW, DON (WHO HAD BEEN HIS SON IN LAW FOR 51+ YEARS AND WHO VISITED HIM ALMOST DAILY) “IN TRAINING” AS HOW TO BEHAVE AS A PROPER SON- IN- LAW.
DON LEATHERMAN’S GIFT IS THE LEGACY HE LEAVES WITHIN EACH OF OUR HEARTS: LOYALTY, HUMOR, INDEPENDENCE, STRENGTH, LAUGHTER, A POSITIVE ATTITUDE, FAMILY AND ABOVE ALL ELSE…. LOVE. HE WAS OUR CONSTANT, THE LAST OF THE GREATEST GENERATION, WHOSE SPIRIT LIVES ON IN EACH OF US. WE WILL FOREVER TREASURE THE EXAMPLES HE HAS SET AND HIS ZEST FOR LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST AS WE STRIVE TO CONTINUE HIS LEGACY.
DON WAS PRECEDED IN DEATH BY HIS PARENTS, HELEN AND FRANK, HIS WIFE OF 65 YEARS, ILA JEAN, HIS BELOVED DAUGHTER, DAWN, HIS CHERISHED NEPHEW BRAD, HIS SON-IN-LAW, JIM, AND HIS LATER- IN -LIFE COMPANION JUANITA.
HE IS SURVIVED BY ONE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER, PEGI, HIS VERY SPECIAL BUDDY TOM, AND HIS FAVORITE SON-IN-LAW, DON. FOUR VERY SPECIAL GRANDCHILDREN: HIS CHERISHED MIKE, ERIN (RON), ASHLEY (MIKE), JAMIE.
SIX PRECIOUS GREAT GRANDCHILDREN: MAGGIE AND EMMA, KATE AND CASSIE, (ERIN THEIR MOTHER), NEVIN AND AMELIA. NIECES: BROOKE, BETSY, AND RONI.
A PRIVATE CELEBRATION OF DON’S LIFE WILL BE HELD FOR THE FAMILY AT A FUTURE DATE. DON WILL BE LAID TO REST WITH THOSE HE LOVED WHO HAVE PRECEDED HIM IN DEATH IN THE LEATHERMAN FAMILY PLOT AT WOODLAWN CEMETERY, WADSWORTH, OHIO.
CONTRIBUTIONS MAY BE MADE IN DON’S HONOR TO HIS FAVORITE CHARITY:
ST. JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL
501 ST. JUDE’S PLACE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE 38106
Or
THE WADSWORTH HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
625 BROAD STREET, WADSWORTH, OHIO 44281