A memorial service will be held at Sarett Nature Center at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21.
Memorials may be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor (c/o Janet Farley, 1200 E. Main St., Benton Harbor, MI 49022 -- please be sure to note that it is a Bob Leuty memorial) and Hospice at Home, 4025 Health Park Lane, St. Joseph, MI 49085.
Whether catching tadpoles on Ox Creek, teaching kids how to bunt or walking alongside the Benton Harbor High School marching band with an armful of coats during the Blossom Parade, Bob lived his life with a quiet dignity and always treated others as he would like to be treated.
Bob loved to be out in nature, if that meant just puttering in his seemingly ever-growing garden on Pavone Street, fishing, riding his bike to work on Klock Road or picking apples at Higbee’s orchard. He loved sports, from his beloved BHHS Tigers to the University of Michigan to the Detroit Tigers.
Most of all, Bob loved his family — his wife, the former Joyce Curtis; his four children; and his grandchildren — and his friends, especially those since childhood.
Bob was born on Nov. 27, 1932, in Grand Rapids, and raised in Benton Harbor by his parents, grandparents and cousins in the Flats, and other locations, including the house his dad built at Parker and Marion streets.
After graduating from BHHS, where he played baseball and played trombone in the band, Bob and many of his friends entered the Air Force during the Korean War. He stayed stateside throughout his service.
After he was discharged, he and his returning veteran friends welcomed in 1956 at a New Year’s Eve party, where he met Joyce. Ten months later, they were married. As they drove to their honeymoon destination the next day in Traverse City, Joyce talked on about their beautiful wedding, and Bob seemingly listening attentively. The car radio playing in the background, however, was where Bob’s ear was more tuned, as Don Larsen was pitching his World Series perfect game for the New York Yankees.
A little more than a year after their honeymoon — or the perfect game, whichever stands out more — their daughter, Marlene, was born. Diane, Steve and Ron followed over the next eight years.
Bob’s activities usually centered around those of his kids. He was president of the Benton Harbor Band and Orchestra Parents, he coached his kids’ baseball and basketball teams (and rarely missed one of their games, whether he coached or not) and taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and played in the bell choir at First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor.
During baseball season, Bob usually could be seen around Benton Harbor with a car full of neighborhood kids heading toward baseball practice. He helped build the Fairplain Babe Ruth field off of Union Street, coached for many years in Benton Harbor youth baseball and, later in life, assisted with teams in St. Joseph.
In particular, he enjoyed helping coach his son, Ron, and a rag-tag group of inner-city kids, known as the Pearl A’s, to a Babe Ruth championship at the Eaton Park baseball tournament in 1981.
Bob loved animals and bowling. He loved to watch old movies, especially Westerns, was a voracious reader of mysteries and mowed the lawns of many elderly neighbors.
Bob ran unsuccessfully for Benton Harbor City Commission in 1972, but continued to serve the city over the next two decades on the planning commission and parks and recreation board. At First Congregational Church, he served on many boards and choirs, but kept a keen eye on the church grounds and Roosevelt Park across the street.
He is survived by his children — Marlene (Ron) Robinson of Copemish; Diane (Michael) Venn of Kohler, Wis.; Steven (Maureen Lannon) Leuty of Kalamazoo; and Ron (Christine Kilpatrick) Leuty of San Francisco — and grandchildren, Christina Venn, Nicholas Venn, Raymond Venn, James Robinson, Ian Leuty and Benjamin Leuty.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Joyce, in 2000, and his parents, Berniece and Steve, in 1988.