Leo Franz Diewald, 93, passed away Monday, January 29, 2024, at his home in Indian Land, South Carolina. Leo was born September 3, 1930, in Dearborn, Michigan, to Emil and Barbara (Lemuth) Diewald. As a child, Leo loved spending time with his father and playing with his younger twin sisters. He loved music and learned to play the piano and the flute.
Like many Americans during the Great Depression, Leo's family lost their home and moved to a rented apartment. To help his family, he began working after school and on Saturdays. He worked at Banker Street Supermarket, as a stocker, delivery driver and produce manager. Then, at age fourteen, Leo discovered his talent for and his love for the Machine Tool Industry, when he went to work for Fairfield Engineering Company, running lathe and milling machines and operating a drill press. On Saturdays, he operated a lathe machine for Blenden Engineering.
After graduating from St. Alphonsus High School in Detroit, Michigan, Leo began a four-year Tool and Die Maker Apprenticeship Program. However, Uncle Sam and Harry S. Truman decided they needed his skills and young, trainable self to help fight the Korean War. He was called up to active duty and spent the next five years in the United States Navy. Among other duties involving potatoes, deck swabbing, and patrolling, Leo practiced his machine tool skills on the Aircraft Carrier, the U.S.S. Essex, stationed out of Yokosuka, Japan. He earned a Korean Service Medal (1 Star), a United Nations Service Medal, and was also awarded the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon for his military service. After an honorable discharge, Leo returned to his apprenticeship program and in 1955, he became a Journeyman Tool and Die Maker for General Motors.
Leo played Semi-pro Football in Dearborn, and he was also an avid bowler. It was during a bowling outing that he met the first love of his life, a young lady named Shirley Kresta. Shirley and Leo married in 1957, and eventually went on to have three sons, and be blessed with three grandchildren. They moved to Portage in 1966, when Leo transferred to accept a promotion to Tool and Die Supervisor and help start the new Fisher Body G.M. plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He started out working second shift, but traded to third shift, because it gave him the opportunity to be involved in all sorts of activities like: fishing, hunting, coaching little league or rocket football, bowling in leagues, and helping his sons, Brian and Scott, with their newspaper delivery jobs. He also enjoyed giving swimming lessons to neighborhood kids. Leo was active in his church, including mentoring new members. He was also a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and served as a Grand Knight in his local council. In 1988, after thirty-nine and a half years, Leo finally retired from "Generous Motors," as he called it.
Leo had married a wise woman. Shirley immediately knew he needed to keep busy and recommended he take up a hobby. She thought the craftsmanship of stained-glass art would fit with his skills. So, she signed him up for classes. Leo took to it the way he did everything, with passion. He made many beautiful pieces for his own home, and for friends and family as well. Leo loved to help people out whenever he could, and he loved to please his wife. He would often keep busy doing repair jobs, helping others in his local community. Over the years, he fixed many things from stained glass globes for lighting fixtures at the State Theater to stained glass windows for St. Monica's Church. He also began to drive a school bus for St. Monica's School field trips and sporting events. He even helped coach their football team for a while. Leo loved to work in his yard, take care of his pool and grow vegetables. He remodeled a closet in his home into a master bath for Shirley, after she was partially paralyzed from a stroke. Shirley loved Leo, was proud of Leo and greatly benefited from his "hobbies" and his gentle caretaking, until she passed away in 2004.
Not one to stay idle, Leo again looked to stay busy. He started visiting the bowling alley to watch friends from church bowl in a league. Then history repeated itself when it was there he met the second love of his life, Jan Brand, a retired Portage Public School teacher. After turning him down once, she finally said, "Yes!" to a date. They quickly became friends and their adventures together began. They married in 2005 and had eighteen fun filled years together. They enjoyed dancing, traveling and socializing with friends. Leo took up golf and enjoyed playing in tournaments and charity fundraisers. In fact, he won the first ever charity tournament he played in with his son Scott, stepson Jim, and "surrogate son" Roger. Eventually, he and Jan became snowbirds, spending the coldest part of a Michigan in Florida. Leo and Jan recently sold their home in Portage, Michigan, and condo in Bradenton, Florida, and moved to a senior community in Indian Land, South Carolina, to be near Jan's family. Jan cared lovingly for Leo in his final days on this earth.
Leo embodied the mission of the Knights of Columbus, "living his faith at home, in his parish, at work and in his community." People knew him as a loving husband, a man of his word and a man with a hand extended to help others. His help didn't come with strings or bragging rights. Leo lived a good life, made the world a better place for those with the good fortune to know him and he will be greatly missed.
A visitation will be held at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church at 10:00 a.m. Friday, February 9, 2024. This will be followed by a Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. A luncheon will immediately follow the funeral mass in the church's Marion Hall. Private interment will take place at Ft. Custer National Cemetery.
While visiting Leo's webpage at www.amsfuneralhomes.com please sign the guestbook and/or share a memory with the family. The family is being assisted by Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home; 5975 Lovers Lane in Portage 269 344-5600.
In lieu of flowers, hug your spouse, thank a soldier for their service, and help someone in need. Memorial contributions can be made to St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 1150 W. Centre Ave. Portage, Michigan, 49024.