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Roy LeatherwoodApril 29, 1923 ~ September 20, 2017 (age 94)
Mr. Roy Thomas Leatherwood, 94, of Ozark, AL, passed away Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at Wesley Place, Dothan, AL, following years of struggle against Alzheimer’s disease. He met this challenge head on and enjoyed a wonderful life, lived fully, actively, and enthusiastically.
Funeral services were held 2:00 P. M. Friday, September 22, 2017, from Camp Ground Baptist Church with Reverend Al Sonanstine and Reverend Byron Bruner officiating. Interment followed in the church cemetery, Holman Funeral Home and Cremations of Ozark directing.
Mr. Leatherwood was born April 29, 1923 in Pike County, Alabama, one of ten children of the late Thomas Harrison Leatherwood and Sallie Irene Bludsworth Leatherwood. His character was influenced by the hardships of the Great Depression and molded by his parents, Tom and Irene, in a humble home life that stressed devotion to God, love and loyalty among family, honor to country, necessity of hard work and steadfastness in the face of challenges. Throughout his life, Roy T, as he was affectionately known, made it his priority to enjoy time with others, share life’s simple pleasures, work hard, and help whomever he could.
Roy grew up in the depression era doing farm work with his family. By his late teens, he had obtained life skills that equipped him to land a job with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal jobs program. He was assigned to a road project, near the community of Brothers, Oregon. During his CCC work, he was introduced to the studies of Forestry and Meteorology, which sparked a lifelong interest in weather and monitoring cloud formations.
Roy Leatherwood enlisted in the US Military in 1943 and served honorably during WWII. As he would later say, his experience gave this country boy a trip around the world. He was stationed at Tobyhanna, PA, trained in the Army Air Corps at Casper, WY, was stationed in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and became a tail gunner on a B-24 bomber. In May, 1945, his B-24 made a forced landing at Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka, USSR after an air battle with the Japanese. The flyers were detained, along with a small group of other bomber crews. The men were released at WWII’s end, flown via Soviet air transport to Baku on the Caspian Sea, Tehran, Iran, across the African continent to Casablanca. Roy had learned a bit of Russian language, which he used back home to surprise and baffle many. The story of these 291 US airmen was the subject of a book, Home from Siberia, by Otis Hays, Jr. The airmen were sworn to secrecy, and many military records remained classified as recently as 1986. Roy was a member of the Eleventh Air Force Association. In August 2005, he attended the dedication of a monument honoring the Siberian Internees located at Merrill Field, Anchorage, AK. In 2009 he was part of the Wiregrass Honor Flight. His WWII cap became his signature hat and an essential part of his identity.
While stationed in Pennsylvania during WWII, Roy met and later married Helen Draus of Old Forge, the daughter of Polish immigrants. She agreed to settle with him in Alabama, which he boasted was “the garden spot of the world.” They married in Ozark before the War’s end and created a family together, eventually having six children, three boys and three girls. Their loving marriage endured thirty seven years until Helen’s passing as a result of cancer.
In the late 1940s, they purchased a large tract of land in rural Camp Ground Community. Roy and Helen firmly established themselves as good neighbors in the community, helping others as opportunity and need arose. They joined Camp Ground Baptist Church in the early 1950s and brought their children up to become Christians in the Baptist Faith. Roy was a leader in his church, a Sunday School Teacher and Deacon. He also served as the Chairman of the Building Committee in the 1960s, and in 1967, oversaw the construction of the new church sanctuary.
Roy spent approximately 28 years from the early 1950s, employed in Federal Civil Service with the Center Engineers and later with the Directorate of Facilities and Engineering at Fort Rucker, AL. He began his career as a carpenter when the post was still called Camp Rucker, and retired as a Maintenance Supervisor.
During his years at Fort Rucker and afterward, Roy’s second job was as a small farm operator growing timber, peanuts, corn, cotton, vegetables, hay, hogs, and cows. He loved the land and basked in his joy of farm life, loved to see newborn calves frolic in the fields, watch wild turkey and deer, and check wild hog traps. On countless occasions, Roy could be heard by all those in ear shot whistling as he worked at the old barn. He owned and operated tractors, hay balers, peanut pickers, trucks, bulldozers, dirt pans, backhoes, motorcycles, and boats. Those were his “toys.” He loved attending equipment auctions and prided himself in buying and selling farm equipment. He especially loved to share farm life with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He delighted in seeing them gather to frolic, fellowship, and fish at his Lake Helen meeting place.
He was an avid NASCAR fan. As far back as the 1950s and as late as 2005, he would travel to Daytona Beach to watch the Daytona 500 from the stands. He shared this pastime with his sons, also attending local races. Sunday afternoon would usually find him listening to or watching his “FORDS” race. He was a squirrel and deer hunter and woodsman all his life. He loved a good football game, too, but his passion was fishing. He was an expert fisherman and loved fishing salt and fresh water. He enjoyed many good times wetting a hook with friends and neighbors. Together with his sons, he built numerous ponds for many to enjoy feeding and catching fish. He took special pride in inviting others, especially children, to come fish with him.
He enjoyed singing gospel music. In his latter years, he fell back on still familiar song lyrics and clever sayings to bolster his communication. He loved the old hymns and popular tunes, especially The Old Rugged Cross, Silent Night, and Delta Dawn. An old song from the 1940s inspired his mantra: “Accentuate the positive/eliminate the negative.”
Nearing the end of his life, Roy found a new group of “old friends” who embraced him in love and respect, focusing on the essence of his beautiful spirit. They are the Volunteers at Respite Care Ministries (First United Methodist Church, 1380 West Main Street, Dothan, AL). The family requests that those who may wish to honor Roy T, make memorials to this ministry.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Helen; two sisters, Verlon Leatherwood and Mattie Earl Bruner, and five brothers: Aubrey, Forrest, Kenneth, Donald Ray, and Charles Leatherwood. Mr. Leatherwood is also predeceased by five of his Leatherwood family brothers- and sisters-in-law and several in-laws related to him through his wife’s family.
Mr. Leatherwood is survived by his children: Dennis (Jane) Leatherwood of Montgomery, AL; Nancy Leatherwood of Ozark, AL; Ronald (Kathryn) Leatherwood of Ozark, AL; Janice (John) Newcomer of Cartersville, GA; Mark (Alexa) Leatherwood of Midland City, AL; and Sylvia (David) Rollins of Ozark, AL; twelve grandchildren: Scott (Pam) Elmore of Ozark, AL; Amy (Chris) Carmack of Montgomery, AL; Dr. Keri (Brent) Miller of Auburn, AL; Christopher Grider of Atlanta, GA; Eric (Elizabeth) Leatherwood of Pike Road, AL; Zachary (Ansley) Beadle of Johns Creek, GA; Jeremy Leatherwood of Ozark, AL; Jonathan Leatherwood (Michael Staeb) of Renton, WA; Dustin (Xiaofang) Beadle of Hong Kong; Mary (Eddie) Leslie of Ozark, AL; Krystle Leatherwood (Dixie Hylton) of Midland City, AL; Joshua (Jenna) Watkins of Acworth, GA; and seventeen great-grandchildren. Mr. Leatherwood also enriched the lives of several blended family members. He is survived by three special step-grandsons: Scott (Jennifer) Hall of Headland, AL; Quintin Underwood of Dothan, AL; and David (Hannah) Rollins of Chatsworth, GA; seven special step-great-grandchildren; and seven special step-great-great-grandchildren. In addition, he is survived by one brother, Max (Angela) Leatherwood of Ozark, AL; one sister, Hazel Free of Daytona Beach, FL, his very special sister-in-law, Kathleen Leatherwood of Ozark, AL; sisters-in law Violet Drause of Taylor, Michigan and Eleanor Draus of Duryea, PA; numerous nieces and nephews and first cousins also survive; and loyal, devoted friend and fishing buddy, James Alexander of Ozark, AL.