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LEONARD, Marie E., age 86

Died: Tuesday, December 5th, 2023

Memorial Service celebrating the life of Marie: will be held on her birthday, Monday, January 15, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. at the funeral home

Visitation: one hour prior to the service at the funeral home

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations be made in Marie's name to either the Women's Giving Circle of the Eau Claire Community Foundation or a charity of your choice.


Marie Esther (Green) Leonard, age 86, of Eau Claire, WI, passed away peacefully with family on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, at MCHS-Eau Claire after a decades-long battle with cancer. Marie lived independently with the help of her "village" until the day she passed away and leaves behind a lifetime legacy of strength and perseverance. 

Born on January 15, 1937, in River Falls, WI, to the late Alexander and Esther (Rydberg) Green, Marie grew up playing on the banks of the Kinnickinnic River with her brothers and sisters. She attended River Falls High School, where she met her future husband of 60 years, James Leonard, after repeated attempts by him to flirt with her in chemistry class. Marie went on to be her class valedictorian and then received a Bachelor's degree with honors from UW Madison and a Master's degree from UW Eau Claire. She and Jim were married in 1958 and she taught for several years while he was in the Air Force before they settled in Eau Claire in 1962.

Marie was a longtime community supporter and educator. She taught school for over 40 years, 36 of which were in Eau Claire at Central Junior High School and later at South Middle School. Chances are if you are reading this and remember seeing A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater, the Greek symbolism of pomegranate seeds, the meaning and taste of Reflections on a Watermelon Pickle or watching The Outsiders in the last days of 8th grade, it was thanks to Mrs. Leonard. She was active in both local and national teaching organizations, received many teaching awards, and was a successful pioneer in fighting for equal parental leave rights for women teachers.

As an avid traveler, Marie visited Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Iceland, the Bahamas, Greece, Turkey, Costa Rica, France, Russia, China, Alaska, California, the Outer Banks, Colorado, Maryland, Texas, Hawaii, Florida, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, and Door County with family and friends over the years. She treasured her annual trips to Treeland Resorts on the Chippewa Flowage. Marie also spent considerable time at her "other" homes in Arlington, VA, and Annapolis, MD, and was an ever-present figure in her grandson's life and sporting events out East.

Marie was politically and civically active throughout her life. She was a longtime member of First Congregational Church and participated in its Altar Guild. Marie also campaigned for the candidates of her choice until the last years of her life. She and Jim were active members of the Blugold Backcourt Club and the Viking Fan Club of the Chippewa Valley and were usually next to each other for Badger and Brewer games and other social events at various establishments around town throughout the years. In retirement, Marie enjoyed hours-long gatherings with her teaching colleagues, China travel group, Guthrie girlfriends, and political therapy groups. When grandnieces and grandnephews came to town for sporting events, she was an enthusiastic supporter in the stands.

Marie was a constant and loyal wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend. She will be an everlasting role model and is missed by her daughters immeasurably. The family takes comfort in that she is now again with her husband Jim and her grandson Gage, who are no doubt both making her laugh and engaging her in mischievous escapades.

Marie is survived by daughters, Kaileen Leonard (Glen Cullen) and Kirsten Backstrom. She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Janice Swanson; numerous nieces and nephews; many family "four-leggers," and countless other relatives and friends in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Virginia.

Marie was preceded in death by her husband, Jim; grandson, Gage Backstrom; brothers, Eugene (Arlene) and Reuben Green; sisters, Marion (Donovan) Robey and Joyce Green; nephews, Dean Swanson and Jeffrey Robey; brother-in-law, Arlyn "Bud" Swanson.

The family would like to express their sincere gratitude to Doctors Lisa Gillette and Sandeep Basu and their respective staffs, as well as the staff at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and Luther Campus Hospital for the care and outstanding dedication they provided to Marie over the years.

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