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Leonard LeClaire

100 Years of Charity: A Conversation with Leonard LeClaire

Posted by | Connor Skaggs

Leonard sits across from Director of Donor Engagement Sarah Granger and me at McGrath’s Fish House in Beaverton. We’re at McGrath’s because it’s Friday, and Leonard fasts on Fridays. He’s done this his whole life, an impressive feat given that Leonard has just celebrated his 100th birthday.

Throughout the lunch, he shares some of his many stories, from serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII to running a successful plumbing business in Los Angeles. When we ask why he initially got involved with Catholic Charities, Leonard says, “I have enough. My family has enough. The best thing I can think to do is support organizations that help people in need.”

He speaks a lot about his faith and on growing up in a Catholic family. It becomes clear during our lunch that Leonard’s convictions, most of which are rooted in his Catholic faith and morality, are not a result of a century of experiences but a disciplined preservation of his faith that he has maintained throughout his life and the countless difficult situations he has encountered over his last 100 years.

After the wait staff surprise him with dessert and he has a chance to talk to some old friends sitting in the booth next to us, he and I talk more about his life and his relationship with Catholic Charities.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned over the last century?

I’ve learned that your faith is the most important thing in your life. I find it difficult to think of what life would be like without it. Fact is, at the age that I am now, it’s the backbone of my life, and it’s wonderful – like you’re on the right track and doing the things that are important and necessary to living a good life.

There’s so much I could say, now that I’m older and the days are shorter, but faith is the most important one. I have a wonderful family, four boys and a girl, and life has been good. Very good. I thank God every day for the way I am, for my health, and I’m grateful for all the blessings I’ve enjoyed over my life. 

From what you can see, how have people’s attitudes about charity changed?

Charity is just part of living. To be able to help other people – helping them to survive, helping them to get by – so long as you have the ability and the knowledge to use your life and your talents that God has given us to help other people, it’s a good thing. I’m just so grateful to be able to give  to charity and help people who need it.

How has your attitude about charity changed?

There hasn’t been much of a change as far as my attitude and my faith is concerned. It’s always been this way [for me]. I feel, though, that if your life is good to you, then you should give back some of it. I continue to live the way I believe God wants all humans to live, and it’s been good for me. Life has been good. I’m so happy that it has been that way. No regrets and lots of happiness and fun. I’m thankful for the life God has given me and the blessings I’ve had, and I feel it’s the right thing to do to share that good fortune with many people.

What do you say to younger people get them involved with charity?

I always tell people to live the life God has provided for you, whatever that is. Try to get along as best you can with everybody. The best way to live life is to be grateful for whatever God has provided and be happy that you have the time and resources to share it with others.

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