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1925 – 2020
Valkenburg obit pic
Leo was born February 19, 1925 in Yates Center, Kansas, the son of Flynn and Estella Van Valkenburg. They were successful farmers until the Dust Bowl hit Kansas, and they moved their family to California via their Model A when Leo was five along with his siblings. Leo’s Father joined the Los Angeles City Fire Department and became a Captain serving for 33 years; encouraging other family members to join the department in the future.
The family settled in Eagle Rock outside of Los Angeles, and Leo attended school at Dahlia Heights Elementary and Eagle Rock High School. During his school days, he participated in the Woodcraft Rangers and competed in racing pigeons. His musical talents led him to having the First Chair Violin in the Los Angeles City Public School Orchestra. Leo was an active member of the Boy Scouts of America. He always loved animals and regularly took care of the rabbits and chickens at his house with his sister Letha and loved his dog Spot. He sold newspapers during the Depression era before and after school along with magazine subscriptions. In high school, he was a Track, Football and Gymnastics all around outstanding athlete. World War II and the U. S. Navy called Leo to serve before the end of high school.
In the U.S. Navy, Leo was part of the Ninth Battalion, a Seabees division, with training in Rhode Island and then was shipped to the Pacific theater of the war after Pearl Harbor. He was stationed on Molokai, in Hawaii, preparing for his duties that he would encounter in the Marianas Islands; specifically, Tinian and then Okinawa. On Tinian, he helped build the largest airplane landing strips for the B-29 Pacific bombing operations and this is where the Enola Gay with the Atomic bomb took off from. He had a clear memory of the “big bomb” that had its own hangar on the base. Leo became known for his beautiful flowers that he grew behind the mess tent on Tinian and is part of the WW II published book regarding the History of the Seabees. He rose to the rank of Machinist’s Mate Second Class and received his WW II medals in recent times for the following: WWII Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, Active Combat Star Pin, and U.S. Navy Honorable Discharge Pin.
After returning stateside, he completed his service to the Navy at Point Hueneme along with his high school diploma. Leo attended Glendale Community College and passed the exam to become a fireman on the Los Angeles City Fire Department. For 30 years, he was on the Los Angeles Fire Department gaining the rank of Engineer along with being the “fire house chef” while on duty at Station 17’s. He participated in many famous fires and received a citation from the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles for rescuing many people out of downtown hotel fire.
Leo married the sweetheart of his life, Marjory, and they spent 68 wonderful years together. They were married at the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills, California and raised their daughters to be successful professional women. After retiring from the fire department, Leo was the Principal and all-around supervisor of the Valley Professional School/Sherman School. Leo and Marjory started the schools together to assist professional children achieve an education along with pursuing their career goals. They traveled extensively to Austria, Russia, Siberia, England, Switzerland, Spain and China pursuing the different educational systems around the globe. Many vacation breaks were taken at the “Double VV ranch” in Grass Valley where his parents had bought a Quarter horse and Hereford cattle ranch. Being outdoors and spending time with his family and fellow firemen was his true joy in life.
Leo and Marjory joined their daughter in 2013 by moving to northern California after many years of being in southern California. They all moved to Escalon in 2017. His stepdaughter, Candy Coburn of Las Vegas, pre-deceased Leo in May of 2020. Leo is survived by his wife Marjory and their daughter Cynthia; in addition to his sister Letha McCord of Missouri, and Wanda Hayes of Louisiana. His older sister Lacyne Van Eaton, of Washington predeceased Leo.
Cynthia assisted them in moving to Escalon, in 2017, where they enjoyed their home and traveled together across the United States. His eldest daughter, Valeri, resides in Portola. Leo enjoyed the American Legion Post #263 as a member of the Escalon branch with holiday parties and fish fry get togethers. They gave him a 21-gun salute, along with Taps at his Memorial service in November of 2020. Pastor Troy Onsager, of Escalon Presbyterian Church presided at the service.
There was a private burial at the Sacramento Valley Veteran’s Cemetery and the nation said a goodbye to a true hero of the WWII era.
Donations in Leo’s Memory can be sent to the CEC Seabee Historical Foundation, Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association, Gulfport, MS.
Leo was a wonderful family man and will live in our hearts forever.
The Escalon (Calif.) Times

Feb. 24, 2021