Approximately 200 community members occupied chairs and bleachers at Eagle Point High School’s new gymnasium on July 30, at 11 a.m. Above the rostrum, a huge portrait projected the familiar half-smile of an unforgettable citizen all in attendance had come to commemorate—Nancy Lynn Leonard.
As visitors arrived in the lobby, a contingent of young, volunteer greeters encouraged them to sign a guest book that the family would cherish. E.P. residents, Savannah and Katelyn Helton, Teresa Cartwright, and Shady Cove’s Nick Wolf, sported dark blue uniforms identifying their affiliation with the Future Farmers of America. “FFA’s an organization Nancy loved, and worked hard to help,” the members agreed. The greeters also offered buttons bearing a slogan Nancy Leonard had coined—“Positively Eagle Point.”
Others paying their respects included Firefighters, and Chaplain Lorin Myers of FD 3, plus numerous friends from various walks of life.
Family friend Tom Harrison served as Master of Ceremonies for the well-planned memorial service. After noting Nancy’s birthplace–Indianapolis, Indiana, — and graduation from University of Denver, he recalled several awards she’d received for service to local civic organizations.
“She advocated…based on principals and fairness,” he said, “not on personalities.”
Nancy’s daughter, Marcia Aaron surmised that her mother would be “grumpy” about a large audience making all this fuss over her. “Yet, inwardly she’d be happy,” Aaron continued, “because Mom feared that after selling the newspaper, she’d be forgotten.”
Aaron related the fervor with which her mother challenged any threats to the quality of education. “When I was in 7th grade, and our district went on strike,” she recounted, “Mom marched in E.P. and in Salem.”
Nancy’s son, Michael, echoed the thanks his sister had previously extended to everyone present. He considered the huge turn-out “overwhelming, yet not surprising, based on who Mom was.” Most important, he added, she was able to see us all okay, happy, successful, loving one another, and pulling together. We’re the culmination of all her hard work.
“Everyone has opinions,” he continued. “Not many have the guts to stand by those, publish them, and make their living at it. She mentored many, helped them blossom, and she lives on in all of us.”
Former Superintendent of Jackson County Education Service District, Shelby Price, said he could name a litany of people (involved with school programs.) “None were more interested in Education than Nancy Leonard was.”
Upper Rogue Independent’s Production Manager, Kathy Sell described the 4’11” Leonard as “The strongest person I ever met.” Sell also regarded her among her best friends. “She made you work hard by working alongside of you,” Sell said. “She believed in me; we were a team. I will miss her every day.”
Mayor, Bob Russell, referred to Eagle Point as “A City in mourning.”
Commenting that he felt honored and privileged to call Nancy his friend, he spoke of her frequently expressing opinions, and never sugar-coating them.
Son-in-law Phil McCarty recalled cooking many Thanksgiving dinners at Nancy’s house. His mother-in-law would never meddle, or find fault, he maintained. She might ask questions to see if he needed anything. He once mentioned that a larger-sized kitchen trash receptacle might be helpful.
“The next year, there sat a full-sized garbage can in her kitchen just for me,” he said.
“But she had brought it in from the garage, and returned it there right after I left.”
The memorial concluded with the view screen’s displaying a series of photo slides depicting highlights from Nancy’s life: Wedding pictures, scenes showing her reading to a tot, images of her smiling into an infant’s cradle, etc.
Megan Iverson played sentimental tunes on the full keyboard in the background, as the final slide read, “Rest in Peace.”
Nancy’s family then invited all present to join them for a reception in Arthur’s Restaurant, at Eagle Point Golf Course.
To benefit students of EP High School, donations in Nancy’s memory may be made to the Nancy Leonard Scholarship Fund, c/o Eagle Point School District 9, P.O. Box 548, Eagle Point, OR 97524.
By F. Blake