April 11th, 1939 - April 23rd, 2022
83 years of being blessed and being a blessing
Every human being enters this world as a naked soul, in the mortal coil of infancy. Leon entered this world on April 11th, 1939 in Ruvno (aka Reevna, as its name had changed due to being a border town) on the edge of Poland and Germany, amid the turmoil of Adolph Hitler's reign. As the family persevered those tumultuous times, there were a great many instances where certain doom lingered in the air, and Leon's father Julian, had no other choice but to reach out to God for guidance and shelter. Julian himself had become saved as a younger man, after experiencing dreams in which a man came knocking on his door, asking to come in and live with him, yet in his dream, he had only a small bit of room, so he initially declined. After Julian confided in his pseudo uncle about the mystery of this recurring dream, that gentleman suggested that perhaps the man in the dream was a representation of God or Christ, and he should consider letting him in. Thankfully, Julian did just that, and if were not for that, this account might never have come to pass, because it was Divine intervention that we, as a family, owe our lives to! I have every confidence that God worked in many families in the same way, and the absolute treasure is not in their possessions accumulated throughout their lives, which time imposes age and decay upon, but it is in their testimonies of trials and triumphs that God takes great delight in, as should we!
As Leon grew up in Europe until the age of ten, he and his older brother Peter saw many horrible atrocities that children should never have to see, and for those that knew Leon, this explains why he had a bit of a sobering intensity to his exterior projection of his personality, yet possessed a gentle and generous heart.
In 1949 the family immigrated from Germany to America, and Julian literally kissed the ground and thanked God for fulfilling His promise of deliverance. The family settled in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Julian worked as an indentured servant for a four-year contract, under a man named Sam Nicodemus. Those were very hard times for the family, due to the effects of starvation and malnutrition experienced from their time spent in war-torn Germany, and doing hard farm work was nearly torturous, but it did get done. Julian prayed about it for many nights, and God answered!
One day, a man by the name of Mr. Cornberg, who owned the Tri-State Milling Company, (a flour mill) happened to stop in Rapid City, for reasons unbeknownst to himself, and attended church there. When Julian saw him, he knew that God has sent him. Julian asked his older son Peter to go make an introduction, as Peter had the best English-speaking skills, and as he talked with Mr. Cornberg, he discovered that Rapid City was just a town he usually would drive past, while on his circuit, but for some strange reason, he felt compelled to stop there that day. When he learned that Julian had worked in a Grainery in Germany, he offered him a job, which Julian greatly appreciated and accepted.
It was through many experiences such as these, that Leon grew up witnessing, but he would be the first to tell you that he was yet a wild little guy, living a worldly life according to what he perceived as ideal freedom, and it wasn't until he was persuaded to attend church by a Christian police officer named Burt Smith, that Leon actually became "saved", after the alter call was made. He cried out tears he didn't even know he had in him! He couldn't tell you what the sermon was even about, but he knew what happened to him was ABSOLUTELY, UNDENIABLY REAL! When he went home to share the good news with his father Julian, Julian asked him to take a seat because he had something to tell Leon. Before Leon could even share his news, Julian told Leon that he already knew that Leon had made the choice to serve God, because he had a dream the night before. The visual details of that dream and their meanings were shared, which are very personal, but they all came true throughout Leon's life.
As Leon grew older, he dated different girls, and learned a lot more about himself through those experiences, and when he was 20, he felt he had found "the one", and so he asked for his father's blessing. Julian asked him to name seven reasons that this girl was the right one for him. As Leon rolled off his 7 best, Julian wrote something down on a piece of paper. When Leon finished, his dad said: "I'm sorry son, but I can't give you my blessing". Leon was shocked, and asked "why not?". Julian said that every reason that was given was a value of zero, so seven zeros! He told Leon that if his first reason was that she loved God, that would have been a score of "1", and all the zeros to follow would have made the value a million!
Time went by, and Leon eventually took notice of Janis, and initially got to know Janis's mother Lydia, because Lydia worked at the same hotel as Leon. He dated Janis with Lydia's permission, and as their friendship grew into love, he asked Julian for his blessing, because Janis loved God. When he proposed to Janis, it was in the stock/storage room in the back of a camera shop. He told her that he would always love God first, and she understood and accepted that.
It is because of these tender beginnings for Leon.....his war-torn childhood, his rebel years, his spiritual conversion, and the guidance and blessings from God, that Leon invested in helping so many others who emigrated to our country from other countries, full of people filled with despair! He had true empathy, and was grateful that God gave him broad enough shoulders to bear the burden, as we are all commanded to do.....Galatians 6:2 "Bear Ye One Another's Burdens".
There are so many other accounts of where the Holy Spirit worked miraculously through Leon's father Julian, through Leon, through his friends Ben Christian Zimmerman, who has served God his whole life as a Pastor, and Buzz Goertzen, who served God in his own unique capacity of ministry in song as "The Idaho Yodeler", and through a great many other people in his life. God Blessed him with a wonderful wife Janis, whom he shared 58 good years with, until her passing in 2019. He told me that God blessed them with three great kids, and the truth is actually the other way around! He was blessed to have lived a long full life, where there were many trials and struggles, but within all of that strife, there is true beauty. He always told me that we are sent here to be "refined as gold", Zechariah 13:9. People who seek to blame God for all the evil in the world, fail to realize that they are buying into the lies from the father of lies, and this world is the battlefield, so hold fast to your faith and put on the whole armor of God!
It is because of this faith, that I witnessed Leon pass away so gently, smoothly, and peacefully! He would often share his testimony with anyone willing to listen, knowing that there are so many souls in the world who hunger for the knowledge that there is so much more to life than just what the physical eyes see, and that there is a purpose to every life, and God is eager to share His love, guidance and blessings!
From what I witnessed, I know that Leon has received that command that all believers long to hear...."Come forth, my good and faithful servant!"
A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, May 5, 2022 at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church. A viewing will be held starting at 9:30 a.m. until the time of services.