Upper Rogue Independent icon dies a month after selling paper

EAGLE POINT — Barely a month after she sold her newspaper, Nancy Leonard died Thursday at Providence Medford Medical Center.

"She wasn't feeling well and went into the hospital last Sunday," said Kathy Sell, who has worked for Leonard for the past eight years. "She was doing fine for a few days and then she had a couple of bad nights, so they had to move her to ICU."

Leonard, 78, had been with The Upper Rogue Independent, for 25 of its 30-year life, and owned it for the past 20. In June she sold the paper to Ralph McKechnie, one of her reporters.

"My 'baby' is about to be in new hands," she wrote last month in her final editorial. "It is with mixed emotions, but as many of you know, I have been dealing with significant health issues and can no longer keep up the pace. It has been difficult for me to hold up my end.

"There is not room or time to say thank you to all who have, and do, keep me going. I can only ask that you don't forget me."

Leonard was born to Milton and Lois Callon on July 13, 1934, in Indianapolis, Ind. She graduated from the University of Denver and in 1955 married Roger Leonard, Jr., who preceded her in death in 2000.

She is survived by her daughters, Kerry McCarty, San Jose, Calif.; and Marcia Aaron, Manhattan Beach, Calif.; son, Michael Leonard, Central Point; brother, Michael Callon, Omaha, Neb.; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

"Nancy was always either loved or hated, but she was always respected," McKechnie said. "I've asked everyone on our staff to put together a short piece to express their feelings about her. Those feelings were unanimous. Nancy came off as a real tough person, and in a way she was, but to the people who really knew her, she wasn't tough at all. She was really soft on the inside."

McKechnie said he uses the same computer Leonard had used for years and in it he's come across names of reporters who either got their start at the Independent, or once worked for Leonard.

"I think every one of them would tell you that they really appreciated her professional approach," he said.

"She was so much more than a newspaper," Sell said. "I think she was a different person to everyone who knew her. She had what you needed. "… Her memory was like a rock. You could ask her anything and she always knew the answer. She forgot nothing."

Eagle Point City Councilman Wayne Brown has been one of Leonard's close friends since 1976.

"We've lost a patriarch of our little community," he said. "She was never afraid to call it like it was and sometimes she said the things everyone else was thinking but just wouldn't say.

"She had a love for this community, the schools and everything. She was a lady and she bled Eagle Point. We're really going to miss her."

A memorial service will be held at the Eagle Point High School gymnasium at 11 a.m. Monday, July 30.

Sell said there will be a reception following the service at Arthur's at the Eagle Point Golf Course. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to a scholarship in Nancy's honor. It's being set up at Eagle Point High School.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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