Leon Ray Wilkens
Reverend Leon Ray Wilkins
November 17, 1925 – February 22, 2015
The Reverend Leon Ray Wilkins, 89, passed away peacefully on February 22, 2015, at Sunrise Assisted Living in Boulder, CO. Also known to many as “Father Wilkins” or “Father Leon”, he moved to Boulder in September 2012 from Steamboat Springs, CO, where he had been a long time resident.
Leon was born November 17, 1925, to Albert Ray Wilkins and Minnie Rosalie McVeigh, in Keokuk, IA. After graduating high school in Keokuk, he enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1943, and flew many missions over central Europe as the waist gunner on a B-17 bomber. He was honorably discharged in 1945. He then attended the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, where he received a BA in History in 1949.
Leon worked at a number of jobs through the 1950’s in Iowa, California, and Colorado. While working as a bank teller in Denver, Leon became reacquainted with his spiritual mentor from his university days, the Rev. Gerald Graham, rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Through that association, Leon was guided toward his ultimate calling, as a minister in the Episcopal Church. He attended seminary at Nashotah House, in Wisconsin, and was ordained a priest in the Colorado Diocese in 1962.
From 1962 to 1971, Leon served the St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church mission in Rangely, CO, while also serving as a circuit minister for other churches in the region (Meeker, Rifle, and Craig, to name a few). In 1971, he was called to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Steamboat Springs, CO, where he actively served from 1971 until his retirement in 1988. Even after his retirement, he continued to serve the church as Rector Emeritus for a number of years.
Leon married his sweetheart from high school, Mary H. Calhoun, on November 8, 1962. He adopted and helped raise her two sons from her previous marriage, Michael and Gregory Calhoun.
In addition to his devotion to his “flock” in the Church, Leon had many other interests and passions. He was an avid gardener, was very accomplished at needlework, and loved reading about English history. Later in his life, he could be seen walking voraciously around Steamboat Springs. He was devoted to the Steamboat Springs community, particularly to those in need. During his tenure at St. Paul’s, the church was always open to the stray traveler in need of assistance. He also helped start the Lift-Up program.
Leon touched many people throughout his life, and particularly during his ministry. Through his many years of service in the war and ministry, as well as the various “walks of life” that he followed, he developed qualities of solidity, compassion, and gentleness for which he will be dearly remembered.
Leon is survived by his wife, Mary, of Boulder, CO; his stepson Gregory Calhoun and daughter-in-law, Patricia Calhoun, of Longmont, CO; his daughter-in-law, Jodi Calhoun, of Friday Harbor, WA; and, 4 grandchildren (Copper, Kirsten, Koben, and Sean). His nephew Mike Wilkins, of San Clemente, CA, also survives him. Leon was preceded in death by his stepson, Michael Calhoun, as well as by his 3 brothers (Bill, Bob, and Bev) and his parents.
A memorial service, followed by an interment of his remains in the church columbarium, will take place later this summer at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 846 Oak St., Steamboat Springs, CO. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Steamboat Springs, CO.
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