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Safe Haven Ministries
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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Leo Chenard, it is easy to see his insatiable love for life. He was never one to be still, and his days were filled with countless adventures of all kinds. Leo deeply loved his family, and he was happiest when surrounded by their love. Fluent in sarcasm, one never needed to wonder what Leo was thinking as he didn’t shy away from letting his opinion be known. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of our nation were focused overseas as countless young men and women answered the call to serve during WWII while rationing became a way of life within our nation. It was during this same time that Leo was born on February 1, 1943, in Stanislaus County, California. He was one of three as he was joined in his family by his younger brothers, Richard “Dick” and David. Raised in the family home by his parents, Jack and Florence Dean, the family moved to Cascade Township, Michigan. There, his father had a family cottage on the Thornapple River that became their home once his father had made some improvements. Leo proudly traced his ancestry to the family that owned the Chenard-Walcker automobile company in France.
From the time he was a young boy Leo was always busy. Living on the river brought all kinds of fun for Leo and his brothers. In fact, they were in bathing suits and bare feel all summer long. Leo liked building model sailboats and later fell in love with sailing. He attended Cascade Elementary and then was in the first graduating class of Forest Hills High School. Leo was social and outgoing and also played football and bagged groceries at the local D&W Store.
After graduating from high school in 1961, Leo was eager for all that life had in store. He started college at Grand Valley College, but his education was interrupted when he enlisted in the Army. Leo served for a couple of years during the Vietnam War. Although he had dreams of being a helicopter pilot, he was in traffic control instead. As is the case for so many, the war had a lasting impact on Leo. Among the more obvious effects was ongoing hearing loss.
With his military duties fulfilled, Leo retuned home. He continued his education and went on to graduate. Leo worked several jobs, but later settled into sales at Lear Siegler. This was a great fit as he was social, passionate, and genuine. During this time Leo was blessed with two daughters, Tracy and Maranda. Moving on from Lear Siegler, he owned a bar on the Grand River near Allendale. Among his other jobs Leo owned a vending machine and delivery business and also worked at World Securities. In everything he did, Leo gave it his all as it has been said that he would eat and sleep whatever he was involved in. Working at World Securities became a fateful move for Leo as it was there that he met Denise, who became his partner throughout the rest of his life.
With a history of starting and running businesses, Leo established a mortgage brokerage, Consolidated Mortgage. He had recognized that people needed a way to finance their dreams, and Leo was excited to come alongside them in this way. He also became passionate about bringing others on board to work alongside him and create success of their own. Leo ran this business for several years and served as a mentor to so many during this time. He also volunteered with a program that helped women suffering from abuse get a fresh start. During this time he also welcomed his son, Xavier into his life. Leo then started long haul trucking, which he truly enjoyed as it allowed him to see the country. In time. He felt that regulation ruined the job for him. A doting grandfather, Leo did enjoy picking up toys for his grandchildren at various truck stops around the country. He loved seeing his grandchildren whenever he could, and they loved climbing all over him. In his last years, Leo remained busy as an Uber driver.
All who knew Leo knew of his passion for sailing. He kept his boat at the Muskegon Yacht Club, and it was his home away from home. At times, it was even Leo’s only home. He loved having fun with family and friends there, but he also went there at different times during the year to work on his boat, which sometimes proved to be aggravating. Leo also sailed in some races including the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac among many others. As someone who enjoyed a play on words, one of his boats was named “Flo’s Trauma,” after the girls in his life, Flo, Tracy, and Maranda.
There were so many things to love about Leo. He could be quiet and reserved, yet at other times he could be very social and engaging. Described as fluent in sarcasm, Leo had a way of talking to you and making you laugh in the moment, but at times you’d later realize what he was really saying! He was a great cook, which was something he learned from his mother, and among his specialties were steak and the best fried potatoes made in his cast iron skillet. When his children were younger, Leo would dress up their oatmeal with maple syrup. He was always an early riser, but he would also settle in for a long nap right after dinner and before bedtime. He loved a bargain or a great deal, and the running joke was that Leo was at his best with the wind running through his hair.
With a journey that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Leo Chenard lived life to the fullest. He had a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near, and there was no shortage of laughter when Leo was around. He loved mentoring and helping others in whatever way he could, and he touched the lives of so many as a result. Leo’s devotion to his loved ones was unmatched, and the memories he made with his family were near and dear to his heart. Whether he was out on the water or driving across the country, Leo gave everything he did his very best. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Leo F Chenard, age 78 of Grand Rapids, passed away December 22, 2021. He was preceded in death by his parents, Florence and Jack Dean; and by his brother, David Dean. Leo is survived by his life partner, Denise Brander; his children Tracy Chenard, Maranda (Russell) Montgomery; Xavier Doke; grandchildren Angela Bihn, Keagen Herzog, Jurnee, Autumn, RJ (Alicia) Montgomery, Joanna Montgomery, Rachael (Zack) Springfield, Chance Montgomery and Rosie Torretta; great grandchildren; brother, Richard (Betty) Chenard; nephews Scott (Donna) and Todd (Tiffany) Chenard; as well as grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
A memorial service for Leo will be held on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Safe Haven Ministries are appreciated. To read more about Leo, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com