Our dear friend Stephen (Steve) Leonard passed away on Friday, March 15th. Steve was born on August 18, 1946 in Manhattan New York, to Viola (Cronin) and Stephen Leonard Sr. His sister Kathy was born two years later. The family moved from the Bronx to Hawthorn New York in 1954. While in high school, Steve worked two summers as a day camp counselor followed by two summers as a machinist. He graduated from Stepinac High School in 1964, and would have continued working as a machinist in the Singer Kearfott machine shop if it were not for the Vietnam War. Always practical, he elected to go to college so he could enlist as an officer in the military, instead of being drafted as infantry to fight in Vietnam. He attended the Westchester Community College in New York, and then finished his Bachelor’s in Chemistry at Valdosta State College in Georgia. He joined the Air Force in February, 1970 where they determined he was best suited to be a Radar Navigator, flying the B-52 Bomber. He earned several commendations and medals throughout his military career and retired as Major Stephen F. Leonard after 20 years of service in February, 1990. He had made many friends during his two tours at Castle AFB, and he liked the weather and the sailing and mountain biking opportunities in the area, so he settled in his home in May of the same year.
Steve loved mountain biking. He rode his mountain bike to Snelling and back several times a week and out to Lake Yosemite to watch the sunset almost every evening. But what he really loved was to take his mountain bike up to the hills and take a long ride on a twisty, lumpy, bumpy dirt road or trail. He gleefully referred to the steep hills and lumps and bumps as ‘Whoop De Doo’s” and would often come back from a ride all scratched up and filthy, but smiling from ear to ear.
Steve also loved to windsurf. He spent many epic hours windsurfing at Woodward Lake, Lake Yosemite, and especially the O’Neill Forebay. The windier it was the more he liked it; he was happiest sailing with his 4.0 square meter sail in winds exceeding 35 knots. With shining eyes and a big grin he would drive home exhausted, hoping to return the next day for more of the same. Steve met his wife, Rachel Hadley, in the summer of 1992 at Lake Yosemite while waiting for the wind to come up so he could go windsurfing. Periodically, if it wasn’t windy enough for Steve to windsurf, he would crew with Rachel on her sailboat during a race. Steve enjoyed the races, and eventually purchased his own boat and was stiff competition for everyone else on the Lake. Steve and Rachel spent many happy hours racing their boats in many venues, but Steve’s favorite venue was racing his Ultimate 20 on San Francisco Bay. He loved the stiff winds, the fierce competition, and the challenging tides and currents, but more than anything he loved flying downwind with his spinnaker full and the boat planing, just barely in control. He had a memorable and infectious laugh, which was loud enough to be heard and recognized across the Raccoon Straits during a race!
Steve enjoyed a heated discussion about politics, was interested in and knowledgeable about many and varied subjects, could fix anything, and was helpful to anyone who needed help. He was an outgoing and sociable man, making friends wherever he went. He will be sorely missed.
A Memorial Reception will be held at the Lake Yosemite Sailing Association’s clubhouse on Monday, April 15, 2019, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Lake Yosemite Sailing Association (LYSA) – PO Box 3994, Merced, CA 95344
To send flowers to Stephen's family, please visit our floral section.