Walter passed away on January 17, 2018 , after a long battle with dementia. He is survived by his wife of almost 44 years, Jacqueline; daughters Hillary Leonard and Andrea Leonard; daughter-in-law Farrel Duncan; nieces Catherine Tarwater; Joanne Brown, and Tricia Beattie and nephew Joseph P. Trunz III.
Walter also known as ‘Claude’ was born August 26, 1927, in Bronx, NY, to Charlotte Leonard (nee O’Rourke) and Walter J. Leonard. He had two sisters, one older, Margaret Leonard, and one younger, Joan Trunz (nee Leonard), all of whom have proceeded him in death. He was a graduate of St. Margaret Mary’s grammar school (Bronx); Power Memorial High School (Manhattan) and Manhattan College (Bronx) where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Walter received his nickname of ‘Claude’ because of his Claude Rains impersonations.
Walter worked for Allstate Insurance as an underwriter for 30 years after which he took early retirement and enjoyed life in Avalon, NJ. He worked after retirement for Golden Nugget and Bally’s Grand as a limousine chauffeur and also worked at the Cape May Court House Library. He ultimately retired again to Spring Lake Heights, NJ, with his wife.
Walter loved the ocean, reading Dostoyevsky, and summer afternoons enjoying cold beverages at the Windrift in Avalon, NJ. You could reliably find him in his favorite seat at the ‘long bar’ right by a bright, sunny window where he would read materials pertaining to his stock market investments. He was an avid investor with a strong faith and belief in the American financial system.
Walter’s enduring passion, however, was Dixieland or Traditional New Orleans style jazz, and stride piano. He was an avid collector of this music at first records, then cassette tapes and finally CDs. He also thoroughly enjoyed seeing it performed live on ‘Swing Street’ (52nd street in Manhattan) specifically Jimmy Ryans jazz room and attending Jack Crystal’s “The Sessions” down on 2nd Avenue. He also went to many other haunts in NYC to hear ‘his’ music and much later attended festivals when he could find them locally in NJ.
Walter was called home to Our Lord in whom he had an enduring faith after reaching his goal of making it to his 90th birthday.
Reposing Sunday January 21, 2018 from 1-5 pm at Riverdale-on-Hudson Funeral Home, 6110 Riverdale Avenue, Bronx NY. Mass of Christian Burial Monday 9:45 am at St. Margaret of Cortona Church. Interment Gate of Heaven Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Walter’s memory to Preservation Hall Foundation which is dedicated to protecting, preserving and perpetuating Traditional New Orleans Jazz. Donations can be made online at https://www.preshallfoundation.org/ (be sure to tick the Tribute Donation box) or mailed to Preservation Hall Foundation 828 Royal St., #534 New Orleans, LA 70116