Ila Jean Leatherman of Wadsworth, 85, passed peacefully on Monday, September 7, 2009. Fondly known as “Gigi” or “Pearl”, she was surrounded by the love and warmth of her friends and family.
Gigi was a life-long resident of Wadsworth, Ohio. She was a graduate of Wadsworth High School’s class of 1941 where she belonged to the cheerleading squad and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was President and Charter Member of the Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital Auxiliary, co-chairing the hospital’s 1st Charity Ball and various Christmas Bazaars. She loved working with children, having taught 8 years of Sunday and Bible School and being a Red Cross swimming instructor. She was a life-member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Wadsworth, as well as a seasonal member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Largo, Florida. Gigi’s passion for service and volunteer work continued for the rest of her life as a tenured volunteer at both Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital and Hospice in Largo, Florida.
Known for her love of dancing, Gigi’s enjoyment ranged from jitterbugging with her husband to taking belly dancing classes. Gigi was an enthusiastic member of the footlighters, where she exercised her love of stage as well as serving as Vice President, Program/Hospitality, and Membership chairperson. She was a member of a variety of clubs including the Wadsworth Study Club, Order of the Eastern Stars, and the Wadsworth Garden Club, through which she earned awards of distinction for her flower arranging.
Later in life, Gigi began working for The Packaging Corporation of America as an executive secretary. She retired after 20 years of service as one of the first women in Medina County to earn her CPS certification.
Gigi and her husband were Charter Members of Rawiga Country Club where the countless tales of vivacious memories have famously become either the funniest stories or the silliest of secrets between their amazing circle of friends.
Gigi’s favorite times were spent traveling and vacationing with family and friends from their cabins in both Sebring and Salt Fork State Park in Ohio to their beach home in Largo, Florida. From their winters in Florida to their adventures seeing the world, they have forged numerous, cherished friendships that extend beyond state and country lines.
Gigi adored learning, was an avid reader, an accomplished knitter, amazing cook, and Olympic sun-worshipper, professional shopper, and fashionista.
Her daughters, grandchildren, and great granddaughters were the shining joys of her life. ‘Doting’ Gigi, she famously hosted the most fabulous tea parties, gave wonderful backrubs, provided spiritual guidance, and always knew exactly when to listen, when to advise, and when to giggle. Gigi created magical and cherished Christmas memories for her grandchildren including her famous crab soup, the “secret” salad dressing recipe, cheesy Tobies, and gifts wrapped into amazing works of art. It has been agreed by all of her grandchildren, however, that one of her greatest gifts was instilling the true meaning of competitive card playing.
Ila Jean is survived by the love of her life, her one and only travel companion, and favorite dance partner Don M. Leatherman. Gigi and Bumpa shared 65 colorful years of marriage, a marriage described by a dear friend as a union between “true characters who were made for each other”. Their love was palpable, contagious, and gregarious. And as many have also agreed, no other couple’s eyes would widen as large or ears perk up as quickly at the whisper of the word “party” for they were the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Gigi is also survived by 2 beautiful daughters, 4 very special grandchildren, and 3 precious great-granddaughters. Our circle of life continues with the birth of her fourth great-granddaughter Emma “Gigi” who is expected to dance into this world early October.
Sparkles followed Gigi wherever she went. She created laughter and fun with the simplest of things and was a true believer in positive thinking. Fiercely independent, Gigi was outspoken by few. She lived her life exactly as she wished to her very last day, a day of beautiful peace surrounded by her family.
Gigi’s gift is the legacy she leaves within each of our hearts: strength, courage, faith, beauty, laughter, family, and above all else….love….and a wink. She was our constant whose spirit lives on in each of us. We will forever treasure the examples she has set and her zest for living life to the fullest as we strive to continue her legacy.
A private celebration of Ila Jean’s life will be held for the family at a future date. Because of the amazing care and kindness Gigi and her family received while at the Hospice Care Center in Akron, in lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to plant a tree in her honor to: VNS/Hospice Development Fund, 3358 Ridgewood Rd. Akron, OH 44333-6118.
The family would like to thank Beverly Yurchiak and Julie Arnold for their unbelievable dedication, love, and support during Gigi’s final days. Additional gratitude to Dr. Michael Bianco.