Paul's Story

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July 7, 1924—Dec. 13, 2015 Paul H. Leighty, 91, passed away suddenly at his home Dec. 13, 2015. Paul had been a resident of Fairfield Glade since 1993, with his best friend and devoted wife of 29 years, Mary. In addition to his wife, Mary, he is survived by his daughter, Francine Abitan Backofen and husband, Jimmy, of Shreveport, LA, and son, Joseph Abitan and wife, Gina, of Orlando, FL. He had four daughters, Mary Kay Harkins (Jack) of San Diego, CA, Terri Ballew (Curtis) of Chesapeake, VA, Janis Couch, and Susan Hendrix (Kirk). He will be missed by eight grandchildren, Matthieu Abitan, Everett Robertson, Luke Abitan, Alex Robertson, Kelly Cusic, Kyle Crouch, Cadence Matiyevich and Brian Harkins. He had five great-grandchildren. Paul was preceded in death by his parents, Hubert H. and Helen Doran Leighty. He also lost his only sibling, Patricia Leighty Carlson, and his beloved stepson, Richard Case. Although he was born in Kansas City, MO, July 7, 1924, Paul’s parents soon moved to Des Moines, IA, where Paul grew up. He always thought of Des Moines as home. He attended Drake University in Des Moines and later worked at “The Des Moines Register” and “Des Moines Tribune” newspapers for seven years before moving to New Mexico to go into the real estate business. This led to his entry into the resort business where he had countless extraordinary experiences that led to his dual life as a successful resort developer and published author, weaving his real-life experiences into mystery/suspense novels. He delighted in developing thinly-disguised characters for wildly delightful or eerily suspenseful scenes in his books. His resort work led him to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. He especially loved New Orleans, where he met Mary. Paul, always a compulsive doer and dreamer, pursued life with vigor and enthusiasm. His cup was always more than half full — in fact, it runneth over. His dream was to spend his retirement years playing golf with his friends and following other sports such as football, baseball and basketball. And he did. In his own words, “Retirement to me has turned out to be the happiest and most enjoyable time of my life.” Though unknown to most of his friends, Paul overcame many adversities during his lifetime — polio at age two; growing up during the hard years of the Great Depression; inoperable aneurysms; and several major surgeries, including a quadruple bypass in 2003. Nevertheless, Paul fulfilled his retirement ambition of playing golf several times per week right up to three days before his death. Shortly after World War II began, as a young man of 18, Paul volunteered for the Army. After basic training and maneuvers, he was sent to New Caledonia in the South Pacific where he received further extensive training as an automatic rifleman. He was also a Life-Saving Swimming Instructor and trainer for abandon ship procedures. In 1945, his regiment was temporarily assigned to the 3rd Marine Division to assist in one of the most terrible battles of the 219-year history of the Marine Corps — the battle of Iwo Jima. Though he was awarded the Bronze Star, Paul was very reluctant to discuss the horrible events of that experience. He was promoted from Private First Class to Staff Sergeant while on Iwo Jima. From there, his regiment went to the island of Tinian for a “mopping up” operation involving its use for the atomic bombing of Japan. He was en route by ship to Japan for a land invasion when the Japanese surrendered so he was diverted to Okinawa. He was injured on Okinawa. Offered the choice of recuperating in a military hospital or an immediate plane ride home, he didn’t hesitate a second before choosing the quickest way home. His service medals include the Bronze Star, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, American Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Marksman Badge Carbine and Rifle, and Honorable Service lapel button, WWII. With such a variety of experiences in his own life, Paul appreciated life, family and friends. He had a quiet, gentle demeanor and he was observant and thoughtful. When visiting with his grandchildren, he took the time to help them enjoy sports and other family time, unconsciously instilling some of his own principles into them. After a recent visit from one of his grandsons, Paul found a note from the grandson telling him how much he loved him and what an inspiration and help he had been in molding and shaping his life. Paul had many friends everywhere, all of whom respected him for his humor, his wisdom, his dignity, and his reliable, enduring friendship. Paul was a devout and long-time member of Fairfield Glade First Baptist Church. His own manner of living by Christian principles was an inspiration to his family and friends. He was an avid supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and he donated the proceeds of his last novel to FAC (uppercumberlandfca.org). He also was a great supporter of the Bread of Life Rescue Mission located in Crossville (breadoflife.org). He was a member of the Plateau Writer’s Club. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice or to Paul’s favorite charities. Services, including a Veterans Honor Guard ceremony, will be at Fairfield Glade First Baptist Church, 130 Town Centre Dr., off Peavine Rd., at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18. Dr. Leonard Markham will officiate. Visitation will be prior to the memorial service, from 10 to 11 a.m. Following the service, a reception for family members and out-of-town guests will be held in the Fellowship Hall. Inurnment will be in the Fairfield Glade First Baptist Church Columbarium at the corner of Peavine Rd. and Lakeview Dr. Hood Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC was in charge of the arrangements. An online guestbook is available at www.hoodfuneralhome.com.
Published on  December 15, 2015
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