2013-02-07 / Obituaries

Barbara M. Leonard

Barbara M. Leonard, former R.I. secretary of state, prominent businesswoman, philanthropist, civic leader, wife and mother, died peacefully Jan. 24, 2013. She was 88. A resident of Providence and Jamestown, she was the wife of the late Elwood E. Leonard Jr. Born in Newport, Barbara was the daughter of the late Anthony and Anna (Dever) Martin. She attended Rogers High School and received her bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1946, and an honorary doctorate from Johnson & Wales University in 1981.

With her husband Woody, Barbara raised six children. Upon his sudden death in 1977, she took on a new role, stepping in as CEO of his company, H&H Screw Products Manufacturing in Lincoln. In 1984, Barbara began her political career by running for United States Senate. Although her Senate bid was unsuccessful, she went on to become the highest woman appointee in the Reagan administration when she was appointed by President Reagan as New England regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration. She later served under President George H.W. Bush as director of development for all nonmilitary federal employee child-care centers throughout the country.

Mrs. Leonard was elected secretary of state of Rhode Island in 1992. She also served the state through appointments to numerous state boards and commissions including the R.I. Port Authority, Economic Development Corporation, Job Training Council, Vocational Education Advisory Board, Advisory Committee on Refugee Resettlement, Veteran’s Memorial Commission, and the board of commissioners for R.I. public TV. She was a R.I. commodore and a founding member of the Brown University medical school, the Newport Music Festival, and the Committee of 200 American Women Business Leaders.

She held directorships at Woonsocket Institution for Savings, the R.I. Public Expenditures Council, the Business & Industry Council, the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration National Advisory Council. She was active in educational, cultural and philanthropic organizations, serving as a trustee of Brown University, Bryant University and Lincoln School. She was also a member of the Providence College President’s Council, the URI business and oceanography advisory boards, and vice president of the R.I. College Foundation. She was president of the R.I. Philharmonic Orchestra, chaired the Campaign for the American Baptist Churches of R.I. Conference Center, and was a director of many organizations including the United Way of Southeastern New England, the John Hope Settlement House, the National Oceanic Society, and the National Conference of Christians & Jews.

Among many honors, Mrs. Leonard received the National Humanitarian Award and the R.I. Woman Business Advocate of the Year Award, as well as being named the 1984 Rhode Islander of the Year.

Whether it was politics or business, education or sailing ships, archeology or her Jamestown garden, Barbara rolled up her sleeves and dug right in. She was an intrepid world traveler, an enthusiastic music lover and pianist, an awardwinning bridge player, a dedicated teacher, and a faithful member of Community Church of Providence. She was generous, thoughtful and energetic in her community pursuits – a true citizen of her state, country and the world. Most of all, she was a loving and much-loved wife, mother and grandmother. She will be greatly missed.

Barbara is survived by her children, William A. Leonard of Jamestown, Barbara L. Bennett (Paul V. Curcio) of Providence, Cynthia Leonard (G. Paul Damon) of Jamestown, and Elwood E. Leonard III (Julie) of Little Rock, Ark.; a stepdaughter, Karin L. Leonard of Dublin, N.H.; five grandchildren, Anna L. Bennett, Christopher A. Curcio, Mackenzie E. Damon, Elwood E. Leonard IV and Elizabeth M. Leonard; and a brother, Norman A. Martin (Phyllis) of Green Valley, Ariz . She was also the mother of the late Anthony L. Leonard.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lincoln School, 301 Butler Ave., Providence, RI 02906.

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