J. Kenneth Leithman
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J. Kenneth Leithman
  • July 24, 1930 - July 10, 2017
  • Gretna, Louisiana

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J. Kenneth Leithman

On July 10 at 4:46 PM at home, passed peacefully surrounded by his loving family. Beloved husband of his high school sweetheart and wife of 63 years, Cynthia Tillotson Leithman. Loving father of Lauren Leithman Karam (Dr. Gerard Karam) and J. Kenneth Leithman, Jr. and caring grandfather of Dr. Zachary Karam, Nicholas Karam, and Christian Karam. His grandchildren were the light of his life and he was very proud of their many accomplishments. Ken was proceeded in death by his devoted parents, John "Tammy" Leithman and Annabel Poche Leithman. Ken was known for his ability in befriending those in need, and his loyalty to lifetime friends was never ending. His poor jokes, repetitious track stories, and humorous life experiences are happily remembered by family and friends. Ken's altruism extended beyond Gretna, the metropolitan area, and Louisiana, and was recognized on a national basis. As state representative, his prime legislation which he initiated, chaired, guided and passed provided a program for the education of exceptional children. Following years of study, the final passage of Act 754 of 1977 drew tears from Ken, parents, and many concerned citizens. This legislation was used as a model and within one year 22 states expressed interest in the legislation. Ken traveled the country addressing and speaking on this legislation from Washington D.C. to San Diego, from Stanford University to the halls of the Florida capitol, and throughout Louisiana. He considered the special education act more important than his Mississippi River Bridge Bill of 1977, which passed by only 4 votes, the Westbank Elevated Expressway, as well as the numerous other bills he guided into law. He was educated Valedictorian from Gretna Primary #2, with honors from St. Aloysius High School, and graduated with a BS degree from Loyola. As a walk-on at Loyola, never previously run track, he earned a four-year full scholarship. He felt he earned his keep - four-year letterman, three-year all-conference G. S.C., 1951 captain of the Gulf State Conference and S.A.A.U. championship teams, four-year leading scorer, MVP, twice elected into the Loyola Hall of Fame, and honored with the coveted Loyola St. Sabastian Award. A fact that Ken insisted upon and persisted to his athletes and team mates - the ability and talent they exhibit was a gift from the Almighty. The effort they put forth is to their credit. As "Coach" Ken was involved with the St. Anthony Champs, Gretna Park/Shirley Johnson teams, S.A.A.U. and founder of N.O. T&F Officials Assn. For 25 years, Coach Leithman promoted and/or directed the Westbank Lions Relays, labeled by World Wide Track & Field News as the largest high school track meet in the South, first televised in Louisiana. His tenure encompassed meets: N.O.R.D. Meet of Champions, Knights of Columbus, Sugar Bowl. First Christian Brothers, District & Regional qualifying, C.A.A. , S.A.A.U., and the late 60's state IV Championship at Chalmette High School. While assistant coach, the Westbank Lions Bantam Football Team, out of Mel Ott Park, won the Jefferson Parish Recreation Championship, the first Westbank team in any sport to win a parish title (Dec. 11, 1960). The locals defeated Metairie (19-2), Sam Barthe (20-0) and allowed no touchdowns all season. Manresa retreats dominated his adult life. In December 2016, Ken attended his 58th Manresa Retreat. He attended his first retreat on November 28, 1946 as a senior under Brother Martin at St. Aloysius High School and the lovable brothers of the Sacred Heart. On December 6, 1992 Ken became the founding "Captain" of Group 49-A under Fr. Harry Tompson. A standing lifetime question for Ken: "How can a St. Aloysius grad and a Jesuit principal combine to be such a metaphor in my life?". His religious background guided him in 1956 to Archbishop Blenk Knights of Columbus Council 1905, T.J. Larkin Assembly, and the Order of Fleur De Lis, a five state highly respected Catholic Association. Ken dedicated much of his adult life to civic, community, and religious service. He was past president of the Westbank Lions, Timberlane Country Club, twice elected national vice-president of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., and for years he was chairman of the Adult Advisory Committee for the Teenagers March Against Leukemia in support of St. Jude's Hospital, board member Cerebral Palsy, Westbank Red Cross, Southern Regional Education Board, and many others. In appreciation for his dedication, Ken was recognized outstanding Westbank citizen by the Rotary, Lions, Catholic Charities, Best of the West, K.C. Carol Council Legislator of the year, together with many other acknowledgments. Ken was always quick to remind us and did so, one person alone can do little without the subsidiary, lending, loyalty, and dedication of many. Military service represented proud years in his life, 10-year contract, served four years at Loyola, recognized distinguished military graduate, two years active duty - 1953 in the Pusan Perimeter as a lieutenant in the 91st M.P. Bn., then four years inactive status. Received his honorable discharge in 1957. Ken was proud to discuss his earning a position on and coaching the Fourth Army Area, 15-member track team in the All-Army Championships at Ft. Jackson, an impressive experience. Ken maintained membership in VFW Post 3121, Gretna, and the American Legion. During his 86 years he found himself answering to more names than his family can recall. To Cynthia, Lauren and Kenny, Jr. he was "Dad". To his three grandchildren he was "Gamps". "Coach" was also one of his favorites due to his thirty-eight-year attachment to coaching track and field. He was selected to the Wall of Legends for his efforts in support of prep track. His earning one of fifteen spots and head coaching of the Fourth Army Area track team in the All Army Championship meet at Ft. Jackson, SC was an adventure. He had fond memories of his participation in Loyola meets such as the Texas Relays, Milwaukee Central Collegiate, Drake, S.L.I. Relays, Sugar Bowl, Florida State, Southern-Birmingham, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Florida relays, SAAU, and other meets. Ken always considered, as anyone who would

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