Keith Peter Leyendecker


Keith Peter Leyendecker (May 11, 1939-Oct 31, 2021)

From birth in Northern Minnesota to death in Arizona, Keith was always cool. Didn’t try to be. Just was. Parents Alois and Edith (Bauman) knew, and they left him to his devices. In first grade, he got off the school bus, grabbed his .22, and hunted partridge until dinner. When Al bought an old schoolhouse, Keith read through most of the books in its library, making him try to remember throughout his years why he knew Shakespeare or French history or Greek mythology. He held a wide range of jobs out of high school: in a match factory, on a barge, in Korea supervising an army crew and guarding the 38th Parallel as an MP. While Keith was a high school counselor and teacher of such varied subjects as small engines and German, he made his principal fret: “Keith, do you really have to tell the kid to sit his ass down? “I do if I want him to sit his ass down.”

After teaching heavy equipment operation on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, having enough of Minnesota winters, and moving to Arizona, he settled into the construction area as a wash plant operator/manager--a job that required the attention to detail that he gave nearly everything in his life, yet which also gave him time to develop a familiarity with desert animals to accompany his knowledge of those of the northwoods. He built kit cars, rode motorcycles, built and fixed anything (sharing with his son, Jeff, an ability with the mechanical workings of the world as they tinkered with go-karts and motorcycles), got married a few times, and had three kids: Connie (Jim Rynders), Sue, and Jeff, who always knew they had the smartest and the BEST dad. Sue remembers him being sought out by a man asking for advice. She recalls that her dad listened, tapping his moustache with the side of his index finger, and replied, “Yeah...sure. You could do that. It wouldn’t be smart, but you could.”

Keith is survived by his wife, Bridget Gillespie, whom he described lovingly as the nicest person he had ever known. Besides his children (with first wife, Beverly Jorland), Keith is also survived by granddaughters Jory Stillwell, Alyssa Leyendecker, and Joyce (Cody) Wilson; and a great-granddaughter, Ali Stillwell. He was predeceased by his parents and brothers (Thomas and Kermit Leyendecker and “adopted” brother William Weiberg).

He regretted that much of his knowledge would die with him, but not a whole lot else. Unexpectedly gentle, Keith was handsome; pessimistic (though he would say “realistic”); a warm, strong hugger; an appreciator of music (his daughters’ especially or Nordic composers: “Listen,” he would say, head cocked, finger up, “it’s pretty.”); a true Renaissance man.