Jan. 14, 1918 - Oct. 30, 2008
BOTHELL, Wash. - John L. Greenleaf was born in Billings, MT, the son of Sylvia and Henry Greenleaf. His artistic talents were evident even as a child. Artist LeRoy Greene became his mentor and teacher, taking young John on wilderness trips in Montana and Wyoming, where the two would fly fish and paint. He graduated from Billings Senior High and was accepted into the Philadelphia School of Fine Art. After a year, he transferred to Yale, where he graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree. He was awarded a scholarship to study in Rome, but due to the onset of World War II, he opted to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He became a pilot and crew chief, flying B-29s in the Pacific Theater in WWII, as well as the during the Korean Conflict. He remained in the Air Force Reserves, eventually becoming head of the Montana Air Force Reserve. He became an art teacher and dean in Billings Public Schools and colleges while maintaining Greenleaf's Agate Shop, where he continued his dad's business of manufacturing native stone jewelry for distribution to local shops and Yellowstone National Park. In 1956, Col. Greenleaf took on his biggest challenge, marrying widow Irene (Hove) Haack and agreeing to be "dad" to her three small children, who were ages 7, 5 and 1. He and Irene soon added Patricia to the clan.
He was called back to active duty in Washington, D.C., in 1969, and he became legislative liaison for the Selective Service and later worked in President Ford's Clemency Program. He retired to Billings, resuming his jewelry business and fishing. He and Irene later moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., and finally to Bothell. He lost his beloved Irene on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Like many teachers, John supplied many of his art supplies for his classes, and he spent hours at garage sales and in the garbage dumpsters behind department stores, claiming broken pottery pieces that would be transformed into mosaics. An early proponent of recycling, the family's decorative plates and ashtrays all had telltale signs of his masterful use of epoxy. His alley hunt on Christmas Eve one year also scored the family the infamous pink flocked Christmas tree that had graced Hart Albin's front window since well before Thanksgiving.
An avid hunter, he once gave an impromptu pheasant-cleaning clinic in the family's living room, much to the delight of his children and the amazement of his wife. He was an excellent golfer, and at various times held the titles of Billings Pool Champion and Montana State Bowling Champion.
Col. Greenleaf is survived by three sons, Bob (Cindy) Greenleaf, John (Theresa) Greenleaf, and Paul (Betty) Haack; as well as three daughters, Sue Slayton, Mary (Rick) Hyatt and Pat (John) Clayton. He is also survived by four grandsons, one granddaughter and two great-granddaughters.
As they view his paintings, his children will continue to see through his eyes the beauty of nature and the Montana he loved.
Burial will be private. Donations would be appreciated to Evergreen Hospice or St. Brendan's Church.