AUSTIN, LEON GEORGE of Ortonville, Michigan; passed away in Naples, Florida on April 17, 2023 surrounded by his wife and five children.
He was 85. Leon was born on October 11, 1937 in Royal Oak Township, Michigan to the late Belmont and Blanche (Schaaf) Austin. He attended Madison High School until the age of 17. He married his beloved wife of 64 years, Judith Smith, on September 12, 1959. Together they welcomed five children: Karen (Steven) Ramanauskas, Kathy (Kevin) Heikkila, Charmaine (Chris) Criger, Daniel (Nancy) Austin and Eric (Andrea) Austin.
The family settled in Royal Oak, Michigan. In 1988 they moved to and currently reside in Ortonville, Michigan. During winter months Leon and Judy snowbird in Naples, Florida.
Leon proudly served in the United States Army (Korea), stationed in Okinawa. He had a choice to serve in Europe or the Pacific and used it as a chance to experience cultures far different from his own. His duties included locating dormant landmines and rebuilding infrastructure.
After the military, Leon owned and operated a gas/service station in Warren, Michigan. His experience there opened the door to join General Motors at the Warren Tech Center, where he worked in product testing for 30 years. During that time, Leon began working with metals, becoming a talented artist most-noted for his intricate eagle sculptures and wire trees. After retiring from GM, he spent some time working at the Metamora Golf & Country Club and the Ortonville (Big Fish Lake) Recreation area. Leon had a brilliant and technical mind. It’s worth noting that his career and artistic achievements were all earned without any formal training.
Leon seized every opportunity for adventure. His family enjoyed numerous vacations and activities including road trips, camping, hunting and fishing. Their summer home is a 14-day campsite at South Higgins Lake State Park, a trip that has taken place for 63 consecutive years (and counting). Thousands of hours have been spent around campfires, sharing stories and enjoying the little things.
Leon developed friendships that lasted a lifetime, including Roland & Marge Hamlin and the late Mike Pilot and Tom Miller. Wherever he went he made fast friends with his approachable personality and his genuine interest in conversations. Countless not-for-long strangers would be engaged in pleasant dialogue during sporting events, parties, at campgrounds…everywhere.
Other than his cherished bride Judy, Leon’s greatest loves were his five children, their spouses, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Leon and Judy are ever-present at games, recitals, graduations, weddings, etc. and beam with pride while supporting their loved-ones. Their passions were his passions. Leon’s legacy is a generation of youngsters who respect nature, build fires, hunt for their food, slide into home, celebrate a win, endure a loss and love their family eternally. His greatest gift was teaching through experiences and example.
Leon is survived by his loving wife Judy Austin, sister Nina (late Floyd) Zuber, his five children and their spouses (above), grandchildren Kirsi (William Chatfield) Heikkila, Amber (Joshua) Dickey, Nathan (Katie Fenlon) Heikkila, Sadye Criger, Derek Austin, Nicole Austin, Kayla Austin, Stefan Austin, August Austin and Elin Austin, great-granddaughter Ruth Chatfield and Savannah Chatfield, numerous nieces and nephews and many great friends. He is preceded in death by his parents Belmont and Blanche and dearest siblings Jeannette (late Ivan) Koop, Belmont “Whitey” (Carol) Austin, Madeline (Al) Westin, Ronald Austin, Yvonne Evans and Sandra (late John) Galer.
Interment will be on July 21, 2023 at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan and family will receive friends at a memorial celebration at Independence Oaks County Park.
Memorial contributions can be made in Leon’s name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research or to South Higgins Lake State Park: www.Michigan.gov/DNR/Places/State-Parks/Giving
What a beautiful epitaph, a fascinating summary or a well-lived life!
Leon will surely be missed.
Mark & Toni Hentschel
He will be missed by many. ❤️
Until we meet again Uncle Leon, rest in peace.
Mike, Sue & family