Obituary of Mary Lu Leon
June 4, 2018
Mary Lu Leon, born in Fresno, California, passed away at Brookdale Assisted Living at age 83 in San Pablo, California, where she had been residing since January 27, 2018.
As a California resident for most of her life, Mary Lu lived her first seven years on a farm in Orange Cove with a large, loving, boisterous Lebanese family. About two dozen Arab families had settled in "Section 10" and she was surrounded by uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. She moved with her parents to Oakland in 1941. For the next ten years, she went to school and formed enduring friendships. With her friends Marilyn, Elinor, Janet, Roy, George and Joanne she formed a teenage show troupe and won a government contract to perform at the many military bases in the area. She enlisted in the Army in 1954 and played clarinet in the WAC band at Ft McClellan in Alabama; she took military flights everywhere in the United States; she earned a BA in Liberal Arts in 1959, an MA in English as a Foreign Language and a teaching credential in 1972 from San Francisco State University; she worked one summer at Yosemite National Park, beginning a life-long love for and involvement with the valley and the High Sierra; she married (twice) and had three children whom she loved devotedly: Sherri, Roger, and Kamala. She had one grand-son, Nicholas, and one great grandchild, Madelyn, whom she also adored. She taught high school English in Carmichael, Grass Valley, Hayward, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame and Bakersfield and ESL to adults at Heald Business College in San Jose. International and domestic travel also occupied a good part of her life – starting in 1965, she traveled to Iran; thereafter, she and her daughter Kamala spent time in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Italy, England and France.
A published writer, she sold her first short story at age 29: "A Game of Chess", and embarked upon a continuous hobby of writing. She frequently contributed to "Guideposts" Magazine, with essays, stories, and jokes published in "Cosmopolitan", "Family Digest" and the "Saturday Evening Post". 2010 saw the publication of her first book, "Something to Love".
Mary Lu moved to Grass Valley in June, 1998, and thoroughly loved the area, delighting in the South Yuba River and the surrounding Sierra Foothills—she had taught at Nevada Union High School from 1960-61,found the community to be a delightful place, and always targeted retiring there after many wonderful years in San Francisco, San Leandro, and Oakland. She was a consummate chess player and managed over the past fifty years to find several diverse partners. The Senior Center in Grass Valley provided a place on Tuesday afternoons for her and other dedicated chess players. Although it would be easy to name Mary Lu's favorite movies: "Lawrence of Arabia", "Dr. Zhivago", and "Fanny", and her favorite foods: kibbeh, Arabic dolmas and Cirino's artichoke dip, it would be impossible to name her favorite family member or friend: there was more than enough love for all.
Mary Lu is survived by her three children: Sherri, Roger and Kamala, her grandson Nicholas and great grand-daughter Madelyn. A liturgy in her honor will take place June 15 at the 8:30 a.m. Mass of the Divine Savior Catholic Church at 9079 Greenback Lane, Orangevale, California.
A private memorial service will follow.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to: Tahoe National Forest Seedling Planting Hwy #49/Coyote Street Nevada City, CA 95959 Yosemite Conservancy 101 Montgomery Street #1700 San Francisco, CA 94104.