Paul "Pete" Leatherwood
Paul R. “Pete” Leatherwood, 85, Granger, IN, passed away peacefully on Friday, December 8th in the company of his family.
Born in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1932, Pete graduated from Westminster High School in Maryland as a member of the class of 1949.
On his 18th birthday, he enlisted with the United States Air Force and was assigned to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Strongly driven by his desire to fly, Pete served as an airborne radio operator aboard mid-air fuel supply planes during the Korean War. He also utilized his passion and talent for music as a trumpet player in the Air Force band, performing ceremonial duties at military funerals throughout his enlistment. He was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in 1954, and many years later chose to donate his military uniform to the South Bend Historical Museum.
Soon after leaving the military, Pete married the former Miss Joan Stimax at Westminster Methodist Church in Westminster, Maryland on September 10th, 1955.
The couple remained in Westminster for a time, where Pete worked as an industrial engineer for Black & Decker.
He began secondary education, but ultimately pursued national accreditation in the field of public relations. He received accreditation and began work for Bendix, joining the company in Baltimore and later being transferred to Granada Hills, California. There, he served as head of public relations for the entire west coast, remaining in this position until being transferred to South Bend, Indiana in 1973.
Assigned to the Aerospace Division at Bendix, Pete worked in conjunction with NASA at the height of the space race era and was present at Cape Canaveral for twenty-five manned launches spanning the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and STS shuttle programs. He traveled internationally after each launch, making his way to mission tracking stations across the world for which Bendix provided the manpower. In 1967, his role allowed him to bring his wife and young daughters to witness with him in person the launch of Apollo 11, mankind’s first voyage to the moon.
Pete received the key to the city of South Bend from Mayor Joe Kernan at his retirement celebration in 1993 after 30 plus years with Bendix. He and Joan relocated and filled the next ten years of their life with sunshine and golf in Fort Meyers, Florida. Pete stayed busy even in retirement, however, volunteering many hours for S.C.O.R.E., an organization dedicated to helping small businesses, and for a time also served as a guide at the Thomas Edison Estate.
The couple returned to South Bend for good in 2005 to be closer to family, and, not surprisingly, Pete remained active. He served on several boards including the South Bend Historical Society, the Boy Scouts of America, Memorial Hospital, and D.A.R.E., earning numerous honors and awards for his service. The Boy Scouts presented him with the Silver Beaver Award, their highest honor. Pete was also named a Tennessee Squire, an honorary title bestowed by the state of Tennessee, and in Maryland he was named Vice President of the Jaycee’s and a JCI Senator.
Pete is survived by his wife of 62 years, Joan; his daughters, Cherie and Laurie; his three grandchildren, Reid, Zach and Adam; and by the countless impacts he made during a lifetime of public service.
The family would like to thank Dr. Christopher Hall, the Memorial Hospital tenth floor nurses and doctors, Heart To Heart Hospice, Signature Healthcare and Tammy Higginbotham with Care Patrol for their care and dedication.
There will be a viewing Tuesday, December 12th, from 3 to 7 pm at the McGann Hay, Granger Chapel, 13260 SR 23, enter off Cherry Rd.
A second viewing will take place on Friday, December 15th, from 1-2 pm at Eline’s Funeral Home in Hampstead, Maryland with burial to follow.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to a hospice of your choice.
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