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James "Jim" Lee Leonhart

April 8, 1946 ~ November 26, 2020 (age 74)


“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,...

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 

And treat those two impostors just the same...”

- Excerpted  from “If” by Rudyard Kipling


MADISON - James “Jim” Lee Leonhart, age 74, passed away on Thursday, November 26, 2020, surrounded by family at New Perspective Senior Living. He was born on April 8, 1946, in Denver, Iowa to Martin and Irene (Homeyer) Leonhart.

Born with innate gifts and a proclivity towards leadership, Jim meant many things to many different people. He was genuine and steadfast, always prepared. He was quick and adaptable. He was at home in the company of others - Jim mastered the delicate balance of giving of himself, while truly listening and learning. He was just as comfortable talking policy with D.C. elites, as he was with a clipboard in his hand, drawing up a new play for the youth basketball team.

Walking through a crowd with Jim was often an exercise in patience. It seemed as though he was on a first-name basis with most of Madison, DeForest, or any number of smaller circles in which he had left his mark. Jim once said, “A person’s name is gold.” Assuming that metaphor to be true, his pockets were full of gleaming trinkets and his generosity unmatched. He gave indiscriminately of his time, energy, his humor and wisdom. He was a mentor both officially and informally to many.

Jim was a loving and dedicated father. He guided with grace. He balanced a myriad of commitments and responsibilities, never missing a game, performance, or recital.

A leader, a coach, a problem-solver. A teacher, a dreamer, a doer. A son, a brother, a father.

Jim attended UW-La Crosse and received a BS in Physical Education and Chemistry. He then went onto UW-Madison where he received his master’s degree in Educational Administration. Jim’s careers reflected his interests, extending from education to the private sector and beyond. His early years were spent teaching, coaching, and working as an administrator and principal. Later, he found success as V.P. of Government Relations at AT&T, Senior Consultant at DeWitt, Ross & Stevens, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association (WBMA), and Executive V.P. at the Celebrate Children Foundation.

Jim gave of his time and expertise to many different organizations. He served his community in roles including President of WI Jaycees (1974-1975), V.P. of National Jaycees (1975-1976), University of Wisconsin-Extension Board of Visitors, United Way Volunteer - he was selected as an Outstanding Young Wisconsinite by United Way. Jim was also on the Board of Directors of the Badger State Games for six years, serving as President for three years (1993-1995), Co-Founder of the Tri-County Youth Basketball League, member and President (2001) of the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison, Board Member and Chair of the UW-La Crosse Foundation and was an advocate for the Aaron J. Meyer Foundation.

Jim is survived and loved by his children, Jonathan (Emily) Kent, Darrin (Gina) Leonhart, Carolyn (Matt) Stegmann, Erik Leonhart, Abby (Thomas) Mlsna; grandchildren, Alexander, Olivia, Emmitt, Camille, Elijah, Remi; siblings, Gene (Pat) Leonhart, Audrey (Dan) Thompson, Bob Leonhart, Cynthia (Mike) Whiteman, Beverly (Arlin) Schmidt. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews along with their families.

He was preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Alyssa Jo Leonhart; grandchildren, Elizabeth and William Kent.                                                                                                                       
A Virtual Visitation will be held on Friday, December 4, 2020 from 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Central Time.
Jim's family welcomes you to share a brief memory, tribute, funny story or message with them during this virtual visitation. Upon logging into the Zoom meeting, visitors will be placed in a virtual waiting room. When it is your turn, you will be welcomed into the private visitation room with Jim's immediate family. Please plan to limit your visit to 2 minutes.

A Private Family Service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Interment will take place at Hoepker Cemetery. 

Zoom Virtual Visitation Link:

Meeting ID: 857 8793 5551
Passcode: 365107

Jim’s family would like to give a special thanks to the kind and caring staff at New Perspectives Senior Living and Agrace Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Celebrate Children Foundation, the Sunshine on a Ranney Day Organization, or any other organization of your choice.

To view and sign this guestbook, please visit


Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services

Windsor/DeForest Chapel

6924 Lake Road


To send flowers to James "Jim" Lee Leonhart's family, please visit our floral store.


Virtual Visitation
December 4, 2020

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Private Services

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