Remembering a Man I Loved on the Anniversary of His Death
Five years ago this Sunday, I lost a man who meant the world to me. Leo Valliere was a truly amazing man. He was intelligent, humble, and brave. Leo walked the walk, but he didn't talk the talk because there was no need. He simply was a decent human being. My Leo simply did what he thought was best. Every time. Leo never cared about faults that people had, he just loved us and wanted us to be happy.
Leo served his country proudly in the "Big Red Division" in the United States Army for over 10 years as an Army platoon and company commander. After his time in the Army, Leo continued his service to the American people through four terms in the Vermont Legislature.
One of Leo's biggest passions was getting people to take a stand and get involved in their community. After Leo passed away, we found an undated newspaper clipping in which he was quoted as saying, "...you don't have a right to not get involved. If you don't, you will deserve what you get. If you're busy, then part of your 'busyness' should be service to the community." I couldn't agree more.
Leo was the kind of man that a person couldn't help but be drawn to. His laugh was infectious. He was a good talker, but an even better listener. I used to ask Leo for advice and instead of telling me straight out what he thought I should or shouldn't do, he'd sit down and talk with me until I was able to figure out the answer for myself.
There's so much that I miss about Leo, but most of all, I miss his hugs. He would wrap me up in his arms and hold on tight and he always called me "kid" no matter how old I was.
We found out that Leo was fighting pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2011 and in February of 2012, I took a week off from work and spent that entire week with Leo in Vermont. He and I chatted and napped. Laughed and cried. I think we both knew that it would be one of the last times we'd have together and so we soaked up every minute of our time. By June 18th, my sweet Leo was gone.
The morning Leo died I'd finally fallen asleep after tossing and turning for hours, not really knowing why. I woke up suddenly in the early morning hours and grabbed my phone thinking that it was ringing. It wasn't and so I went back to bed. A short time later I received the call that Leo had passed at the exact time I suddenly woke. There's no doubt that Leo was saying goodbye and I'm glad he did.
I wish Leo had been alive to see me and my husband get married and to know our son- he'd be so happy. Jay and I have talked about baby names if we were to ever have another baby and have decided on the boy's name 'Jackson Leon.' We love the name 'Jackson' and 'Leon' would be a tribute to Jay grandfather (Leon) and my Leo.