Thursday, October 10, 2002

Obituary: A.O. Leslie, 90


Veteran of WW II valued family

By Rebecca Billman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A.O. Leslie's life touched upon some of the momentous events of the 20th century — in Cincinnati, America and the world.

His 90 years included a swirl of hard times, war and the demands of progress. But they were anchored by patriotism and family values.

“He had a great sense of history because he lived so much of it,” said his daughter, Connie E. Leslie of Manhattan, N.Y. “Though he had lived through the Great Depression and World War II, he said that man landing on the moon was the most significant event of his lifetime.”

Mr. Leslie, a longtime resident of East Walnut Hills, died Sept. 29 of congestive heart failure at Oak Pavilion Nursing Center in Avondale.

He was born in Conyers, Ga., in 1912, one of eight children in an African-American family that struggled to make a living raising cotton.

By the late 1920s, they were defeated by the boll weevil — a beetle that decimated the industry. The Leslies became part of a historic migration to the North — by black families who left behind their roots in search of economic opportunity.

Mr. Leslie was 14 when the family settled on Baymiller Street in the West End — close enough for the children to walk to a public school — and opened a laundry. The Leslies lived over the Omega Hand Laundry, which provided the family's livelihood for the next 30 years.

Mr. Leslie took over operation of the business from his father. He sold it 1958 when progress — in the form of Interstate 75 — rolled through his neighborhood, according to his son, Lawrence Michael Leslie of East Walnut Hills.

When Mr. Leslie was 28 and still single, the Army drafted him and sent him to war. Assigned to Company H, 368th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, he saw action in New Guinea, the Solomons.

After re-enlisting, he was on a boat steaming toward Japan when his ship was diverted to the Philippines. That's where he was three days later, when the first atomic bomb used in warfare was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The A-bomb ended U.S. invasion plans.

Mr. Leslie received a Philippines Liberation Ribbon with a Bronze Star and an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars, as well as an American Defense Service Medal.

After returning from the Army, he met Frances Rizer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. She worked there as a secretary. They married in 1948 and moved into the apartment over the Omega Hand Laundry. The two took over the business and started a family.

After selling the building in 1958, Mr. Leslie and his wife and two children moved to Walnut Hills. He drove a truck for the Postal Service until his retirement in 1976.

One of his favorite activities was attending an annual family reunion — the Leslie-Garlington-Hoard family reunion — variously held in Florida, New York and Georgia.

Mr. Leslie was a 54-year member of Calvary United Methodist Church, where he was treasurer for the Methodist Men's group and sang in the men's chorus.

His wife died in 1976. In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include: two sisters, Irabelle Hudson and Lillian Dyson, both of Avondale.

Services have been held. Burial was at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials: American Heart Association, 2936 Vernon Place, Cincinnati 45219.

E-mail rbillman@enquirer.com



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