General Walter P. Leber, USAR

  • Born: September 12, 1918
  • Died: August 3, 2009
  • Location: Palm City, Florida

Tribute & Message From The Family

Lt. Gen. Walter P. Leber, USAR, 90, of Palm City, Florida, died August 3, 2009 at Sandhill Cove, Palm City.
Born in St. Louis Missouri, he had lived in Palm City and was a Florida resident for 37 years coming from Washington, DC .
He attended college at the Missouri School of Mines and majored in petroleum engineering.
He served 35 years in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. His assignments included World War II, serving in Europe, Korea and Vietnam, civil works in the North Pacific and the Ohio River basin and command of the Ballistic Missile Defense Program. In 1967, he was appointed Governor of the Panama Canal Zone and president of the Panama Canal Company. After retiring from active service with the rank of Lieutenant General, he joined the Harza Engineering Company and as vice-president, he had been responsible for directing projects in Iran, the Middle East, China and Argentina, retiring in 1986.
He was a member of the Crossroads Yacht Club, the Society of American Military Engineers and was a member of and a valuable resource in the construction of the new sanctuary for The Episcopal Church of the Advent. He will be remembered for his outstanding leadership, loyalty, camaraderie with all that knew him and his laugh.
Survivors include a son, Randolph “Randy” Leber of University Place, Washington; a daughter, Bonnie Dehlinger of Coral Springs, Florida and 5 grandchildren, Jason, Brianne and Kelsey Dehlinger, Phillip and Allen Leber.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice J. Leber in 1996 and a son, Kevin Leber in 1972.

SERVICES: There will be a memorial service at 10:00 AM on August 10, 2009 at the Episcopal Church of the Advent. Inurnment will be in Sunset Memorial Park, St. Louis with full military honors.

For those who wish, contributions may be made to the Episcopal Church of the Advent, 4885 SW Honey Terrace, Palm City, FL 34990, or the Treasure Coast Hospice, 1201, SE Indian Street, Stuart, FL 34997, (772)403-4530 or on line at in Gen. Leber’s memory.


Condolence & Memory Journal

To The Relatives (Fig & Family, Randy & Family) of A Great Great Man:
I am just now being apprised of the passing of your Father, LTG Walter P. "Philip"
Leber, USAR. I know you miss him because I can still picture him like it was only yesterday and I can actually hear his very distinguishable laugh when something really struck him as funny --- and this of a man I last saw in Washington DC when he was in the Office of the Chief of Staff, Gen William Westmoreland. So you know that your Dad made quite an impression on me as a young Officer and as a young civilian. I remember when I was first called upon to act as his "Protocol Officer" and civilian aide in the Canal Zone when he was Governor. I will spare you the details of our great times together, both on duty at the various Fairs all over the Interior of Panama, at meetings of the Sea Level Studies Commission etc.. and off duty ... I can still see them (your Mom, Bernie was wailing out some Irish song sitting on top of my piano and your Dad and I were telling jokes in the kitchen at our house in Balboa Heights). It was a great night!
Your Dad was the only man who knew about my various roles within the Government --- I was always being assigned to the US Embassy to handle some
"problem" with the Guardia Nacional HQ --- or they'd sentd me back to Vietnam on an assignment --- or put me on Kissinger's Dept of State team --- or a myriad other things. Through it all he always smiled ... except for the one time he caught me "shooting the bull" with some of the guys in Al Baldwin's office. I was regaling them with the way your Dad had told me a joke and I was laughing just like him (God! what a marvelous laugh!) when everyone got quiet and froze.
I thought "uh oh!" and turned around and sure enough, there was your Dad frowning at me. I tried to talk but nothing would come out .. He just pointed "upstairs" and barked "Now!" ... I scrambled and everyody else disappeared. Well, he stormed into his office and I followed right behind..He said "Close the dorr!" I did. Then I stood there shaking my young oots off.
Then he sat down behind his desk..looked at me...and he started laughing saying, "You know? YoU do that pretty good...Do it again!" And I had to imitate his laugh for him and we ended up laughing our butts off that afternoon ...
Of course, everyone else thought that I had gotten my head handed to me and I acted sad and let them think that.... But that's the kind of man your Dad was: when we worked, brother, we WORKED... But when we played it was PARTY TIME!

I am truly sorry for his passing except that he's with Bernie again and they are having a blast! Your Dad was an exceptional Officer and a dynamic man who held his own among a bevy of exceptional men of that time ... GEN Westy Westmoreland, GEN Bernard Rogers, Henry Kissinger, etc etc His place in history has yet to be chiseled in stone but he will rank right up there with the great men who made history, who made this country what it is (was?) from Rolla, Mo to Oak Ridge to Vietnam to the halls of Washington DC.

I was truly honored to have served the man in many capacities at various times in my career --- in Vietnam , in Panama, in Washington. He was one of only a handful of men I was glad to call "Sir!" not just as my senior Officer but most importantly, as my friend. I will truly miss him!
May God bless you and yours and forgive this old war horse's vivd memories of a great, great man!

Posted by COL Franklin O. Bright, (Ret) - FL - Good Friend,Civilian Aide,   March 31, 2011


I am writing this letter of condolence for John Klug my name is Monica Smith one of John's caregivers. John sends his heartfelt sympathies to the family. He speaks very highly of Mr. Leber, they graduated from college together and share military experiences together. Bob, as we call him, speaks of him being the smartest one in their graduating class along with his military experience. Bob is a WWII vet he was with the 166th. We apologize for the being late in sending our condolenses but we just found out in the UMR book for alumni. Our hearts go out to the family he will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.

John Robert Klug

Posted by John Klug - lebanon, MO - school mate   March 22, 2010

I am so sorry to learn of your father's passing. Knowing him and working as his Aide-de-Campe was one of the highlights of my military service. I remember once Edward Teller telling me that your father was a great American. He was!!

Posted by COL(R) William M. Arrants - Arlington, VA   August 26, 2009

Randy and family, I know you will miss your Dad a lot. He was a good man. Keep the good times close to your heart and he will be with you always. Remember especially the REALLY good times in the Canal Zone at Balboa High School. Hope to see you at a BHS64 class reunion. Janie Holgerson Thompson

Posted by Jane Holgerson Thompson - Saluda, NC   August 17, 2009

I was a freshman at the Canal Zone Junior College, active in local theatre and a lifeguard when I first became aquainted with Governor Leber. My father worked for the Department of the Army as a civilian management analyst and my mother was an assistant pool manager/swimming instructor for the Pan Canal Schools Division. When we first came to the Canal in 1963 we lived in Curundu and eventually moved to Curundy Heights. We weren't part of the military or civilian elite and as a family we never aspired to social ladder climbing. We were just an ordinary family, keeping our heads down, greatful for what we had and enjoying our lives.
I first became aquainted with Governor Leber when I was a rather strict lifeguard at the Balboa pool and had to expel one of his sons from the pool for inappropriate behavior. The Governor called the pool and spoke to my boss who explained what had transpired and concurred with my action. The Governor then asked to speak to me. At that point I figured my lifeguarding career was over. But during the course of our conversation he actually thanked me for taking the action to protect his son against possible injury. That conversation left me with a deep respect for his integrity and wisdom.
Some months later the Governor called me at my home and invited me to bring some of my friends to his mansion to picnic with the visiting entertainment troup called Up With People. I asked him how many people I should invite and he said as many as I thought who would enjoy meeting and mixing with the entertainment troup. So I started calling the people I knew and ended up accounting for approxinately 25 of the 60 or so young Zonians who showed up. Most of the people I invited were from Curundu and like myself would have never had the opportunity to mingle with a person of the Governor's stature had it not been for his personal invitation.
On another occasion the Governor called me at home and requested that I escort his daughter to a junior high school dance. He told me that he was not able to take her to the dance, but that he would be available to take her home and that he wanted someone he could trust to present her at the function. That evening a staff car arrived with his daughter and took us to the dance.
My last memorable and somewhat embarrasing conversation with the Governor was the morning after a cast party for the United Way summer theatre production of My Fair Lady. The cast party had been held at the British Embassy residence. He called to inquire if I had any knowledge of the whereabouts of an autographed picture of Queen Elizabeth that had gone missing from the residence. I assured him that I didn't and immediately started calling everyone that I knew who had been at the party. Eventually one of the cast members who was also in the military came forward with the picture and returned it undamaged.
I have always had the greatest respect for the Governor and consider it one of the highest honors to have had the opportunity to meet with and converse with him and to have gained his trust. I cherish my menories of him and I grieve along with his family.
The world has lost a great man.

Posted by Tom Mitchell - The Villages, FL   August 12, 2009

General Leber is a great example of "the greatest generation."

It was my pleasure to have known him when he was serving in the Panama Canal Zone.

He was highly organized in his thoughts, actions and principles. A conversation with him was always a demonstration of his mental rigor.

I was young when I met him, and the impressions he left are permanent.

He was a great thinker, leader and father.

I offer his family my respect for his life of service, commitment and courage of action.

Posted by Steven Swann - Stuart, FL   August 05, 2009

On behalf of the staff of the Forest Hills Funeral Home and myself, I would like to extend our deepest, heartfelt condolences on the loss of your father.

Posted by Jim Ostrand - Palm City, FL   August 04, 2009