George O. Leonakis

Born: Mon., Jan. 30, 1939
Died: Mon., Sep. 6, 2010


4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Thu., Sep. 09, 2010
Location: - Not available -

Funeral Service

11:00 AM Fri., Sep. 10, 2010

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George O. Leonakis

January 30, 1939September 6, 2010



George Otto Leonakis, 71, of South Bend died at 4:44 a.m. Monday, September 6, 2010 in his home surrounded by his loving family.  George was born January 30, 1939 in Gary, IN to Phyllis (Kallimani) and the late Otto G. Leonakis and lived most of his life in the South Bend, Elkhart area.  On January 13, 1963 in Savannah, GA he married Catherine Harritos who survives.  Also surviving are three daughters, Maria Strafford (Chris) of Granger, IN, Filio Riber (Sam) of Cincinnati, OH, and Stephanie Holland (Steve) of Granger; nine grandchildren, Lexi, Nick, Kristina, and Alaina Strafford, Sam, Nina, and Evie Riber, and Alec and Mia Holland; his mother, Phyllis Leonakis of South Bend; and a brother, Thomas O. Leonakis (Deb) of South Bend.  He was preceded in death by his father in 1979 and a brother, Kris O. Leonakis in 1993.  In 1957 he graduated from Washington-Clay High School in South Bend.  He earned four varsity letters in basketball and was most valuable player and captain for the Colonials as a senior.  He lettered in football as well, playing quarterback.  He attended Western Michigan University in 1957 and 1958.  His college was interrupted when he enlisted in the US Marines for whom he served from 1958 until 1961.  After marrying Catherine in 1963 he returned to Western Michigan and earned his undergraduate degree in 1965.  He later received his Masters Degree as well.  George taught math at Monroe Junior High School in South Bend, beginning in 1965 and also coached the basketball and football teams.  He went on to coach at South Bend Central High School, initially as an assistant football and J.V. basketball coach.  He became head basketball coach for the 1969-70 season, which was the final season at South Bend Central.  After Central closed as a high school he taught and was head basketball coach for the South Bend LaSalle Lions.  In 1974 he became head basketball coach at Elkhart Central High School where he also taught accounting and business classes.  During his career at Elkhart Central he led the Blue Blazers to the 1978 Indiana State Finals while posting a 25-4 record that season.  Following his years at Elkhart Central he, along with his brother Tom, took over Roseland Garden Center, a family business owned since 1946 by their father Otto.  He then continued his love of coaching with positions at South Bend Adams, IUSB, and Southwestern Michigan College while continuing to operate Roseland Garden Center with his brother.  Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Friday, September 10th in St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, 52455 Ironwood Rd. with Rev. George Konstantopoulos officiating.  Burial will follow in St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park, Granger.  Friends may call from 4 until 8 p.m. today, September 9th in the Welsheimer Family Funeral Home North, 17033 Cleveland Rd. where a Trisagion service will be held at 7:00 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, 52455 Ironwood Rd., South Bend, IN, 46635.  Family and friends may leave e-mail condolences at

Charitable donations may be made in George's memory to the following organization:

Saint Andrews Greek Orthodox Church
52455 N. Ironwood Dr., South Bend, IN

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Condolence Booklet

Kathy Crawford
   Posted Wed September 08, 2010
Dear Catherine & Family, I am so sorry for your loss. Remembering your fond memories of George will get you through this very tough time. Much love, Kathy

Martina & Garry Roberson
   Posted Wed September 08, 2010
So sorry to learn of your family's loss. George will always be remembered fondly and with admiration. His laughter will live on.

Sincerely, Garry

Les Bias ('78 ECHS Player)
   Posted Wed September 08, 2010
Dear Catherine & Family,

I am so very sorry for your loss. I have always remembered Coach and the years that I played for him with very fond memories. I hope you know what he meant and means to all of those who knew him.

Much Love and Peace to you,
Les Bias

Carl (Officer Friendly) & Sharon Harrison
   Posted Wed September 08, 2010
To Georges Family

Were sorry for the loss of George. He has touched so many lives as God shared him with us. With regret we will not be able to get back from Yuma AZ where we now live. Please know the just as the sun warms our bodies our hearts will forever be warmed my the memories of times spent with George.

May Grace and Peace Be With The Entire Family.

Carl & Sharon Harrison

Mark Yoder (92,93 SMC Player)
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
I am sorry for your loss. Coach meant a lot to all of us who played for him. He will be missed. God bless,

Barb Canoy Beven
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
I will always remember the kindness Mr. Leonakis showed me in junior high. It is my pleasure to have known him.

Barb Canoy Beven
Former Student Monroe School

Carol Fiess
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
Catherine and family, so sorry for your loss. Try to keep the good memories near.

Richard Nichols
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
He cut me from the team at Central his first year. I spent a period of time being bitter & not liking him very much. Then the natural course of life kicked in, I ended up coaching high school basketball in Florida. After being in that position, wow, I understood! Realizing many good guys by now went through periods of "not liking me very much".
So, I now know he touched the lives of many of my friends in a wonderful and positive way. He was also an excellent coach, he was also right in his decision to cut me!
R.I.P. Coach Leonokis & may God grant your Family and Friends with the comfort of Blessed Memories that will linger and warm there hearts for a long time to come!

Mary Miluk
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
"A stream can have no ending, for the ocean never ends. A path winds on, though we can't always see around its bend. Our view must stop where earth meets sky, but both stretch on and on. We cannot see our love ones, still, we know they are not gone. For God has promised us a home through all eternity where life and love continue far beyond what we can see." To all of George's loving family, may you find comfort in knowing that George has found true peace. He was a great man and a wonderful friend.

Tony's Mobil
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
We were very sad to learn of George's passing. He was a wonderful man who was a pleasure to do business with. All of us at Tony's will miss him.

Brad Rhoade
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
Catherine, Steph, Maria, Filio and Family - just wanted to let you know Laura and I have you in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Jean Roumell
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
Dear Tom and Leonakis Family,

Please accept my condolences in the passing of George. You were among the first of the 'Greek Family' whom Larry and I met when we moved to South Bend many years ago. Our son worked for your father, Otto, and we always enjoyed coming to Roseland Garden Center for our spring flowers. May you all be comforted by many good memories and the support of family and friends.

Marti Strain
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
To all of the Leonakis family,
I had the true pleasure of getting to know a lot of you over the past month. All of you showed what true family is all about. George was a great man. He was.close to my grandfather which is what brought George close to me. I am sorry I couldn't make it to the funeral. Work is hard to get out of. Anyone can e-mail me. I love all of you from the bottom of my heart.

Debbie ( Parker) Mohn
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
Dear Steph, Catherine and Family,

I just learned of the news and wanted to let you know you are all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Your dad was a wonderful person and I have fond memories of his witty personality. I hope you draw strength and comfort from all of the happy memories you have as a family. You are part of such a great family, I know you will help eachother get through....Much Love, Deb Mohn

Judy DeFries
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
Dear Catherine and familes, my thoughts and prayers are with you, so sorry for your loss.

Jan Pilarski
   Posted Thu September 09, 2010
I knew George through Roseland - I was a customer of his for 20 years. Always looked forward to visiting the nursery several times a year and getting his great planting advice and tips. He was extremely helpful and positive, and you could tell there was a real joy to him, an interest in doing the best job possible for the people he served. And the sense of family and the way everyone pitched in at the shop was wonderful to see. He will be missed by many of us gardeners throughout South Bend.

Joann Rearick
   Posted Fri September 10, 2010
I knew Coach at LaSalle High School where I worked for him in the basketball office keeping statistics while a student. He was a great role model for many of the students and will always be remembered fondly. I only stopped by once at the garden shop, wish I had stopped again more recently. He always spoke highly of his wonderful wife and family. God Bless.

Doug Brown ECHS
   Posted Fri September 10, 2010
To Stephanie, Mrs Leonakis, and the rest of the family;
Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. George touched the lives of many, many people, and will be sorely missed by all. He always had a smile and "hello" for everyone. May God bless all of you in this time of sorrow. Look to him for peace and comfort, as he will always be there for you.

Barbara (Rzeszewski) Ziolkowski
   Posted Fri September 10, 2010
I love gardening and I cannot help but remember the great visits I had to the garden center and being helped by George with his great smile which made one feel right at home! Since he knew my parents well, he would joke and tease with me and the friend who I brought along on our garden bumming days! I always left there feeling so light-hearted because George had a way with people! My husband treated me to two of the loveliest concrete chairs from there about five years ago (after his bout with cancer) which I call my "Alice-In-Wonderland" chairs that were his surprise gift to me. They will mean even more to me now. I will remeber George and his family when I sit in them.
Blessings to you, Barb Z

Kristy O'Chap
   Posted Fri September 10, 2010
Tom...I was so very sorry to hear of your brother's passing...First I knew you at Clay and then your brother at LaSalle...but the times I remember most is seeing you both at the nursery...those visits meant a lot...both as times to reminisce and as opportunities to get great landscaping advice...Also...that picture of George...WHAT A GREAT ONE!!!

Kristy Kerschner O'Chap

Brian McClanahan (92, 93, SMC)
   Posted Fri September 10, 2010
I am very sorry for your loss..Coach Leonakis gave me the opportunity to continue my education and play ball..Thanks Coach! He was all-around great man and will be missed..Good Bless!

Penny and Rick Rodefer
   Posted Mon September 13, 2010
We returned from vacation tonight only to learn of George's passing. I was a 1970 grad of CHS and my husband (CHS '59) also knew Kris. I had seen Coach many times off and on thru the years and he never failed to stop and chat and inquire about my family. He was a wonderful man that will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Coach. I am sure you are putting together an "Allstar" team right now!

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