February 17, 1958 – December 18, 2020
Leona was born in Patchogue, NY during a huge snowstorm on February 17, 1958. Due to the storm, Leona’s father had to return home from the hospital to care for Leona’s 3 big brothers who were at home awaiting Leona’s arrival into the world.
The doctor called Leona’s anxiously awaiting father and brothers to give them the exciting news that they now had a little baby daughter/sister! Standing nearby, Lou heard his Father say, “That’s all right! We will keep her!” That must be when the doctor informed their father that Leona had Down’s Syndrome. Leona’s family did keep her and they kept her in every good way, close to their hearts with a dedicated love. From that time, Leona became the heart and joy of her family.
From the time she was a baby, she was always impeccably dressed, from head to toe with lace and all the frills, and often in her favorite color, pink. Throughout her life, Leona’s taste for dressing to a T, remained, including nails painted pink.
Leona was brought up in a Christian family and was greatly influenced by her oldest brother, Danny, who often preached messages at church. As an adult, Leona was very fond of serving as a greeter at church.
Leona was close to and had a deep love for all her family, which always included their family dogs. She was loving to everyone and always wore a smile and was loved by anyone who ever met her. Her eyes always shone with love and the Joy of God.
Leona so looked up to and loved her brothers. In her early life, there were several heartbreaking losses: her Father passed away, then Danny. Frankie moved away to upstate NY. Lou then arranged for Leona and her mother to live with him. Then their Mother passed away. Soon afterward, Leona moved into a structured group home and quickly loved the staff and residents whom she considered “family”.
Leona’s personality was similar to Lou’s: jovial, fun loving with light hearted joking. They had a special closeness from the time Lou taught Leona to walk, to recently when they were the only 2 remaining members of their immediate family, after Frankie passed away. Lou was Leona’s guardian and her fiercely loyal brother.
In early adulthood, Leona enjoyed living with her new “family” in a group home, and working at workshops through AHRC. She was always outgoing, fun loving, and liked to tease. She loved parties, dancing, travel, singing along with Elvis, singing Christmas songs at family gatherings, breakfast pancakes and Baked Zitis.
At Lou’s and Kay’s wedding, Leona gave an impromptu yet sophisticated toast. She had privately planned it, unbeknownst to anyone. She said all the appropriated pleasantries and complimented everyone. She concluded with one of her favorite things: flirting! She lavished the DJ with her charm, telling everyone how handsome he was.
Some of our best memories were at Christmas, which Lou, Kay and Leona spent together - at home in NY, or FL where Lou and Kay now live, or in NC with Lou’s, Kay’s, and Leona’s NC family. Often in NC, Kay dressed as Santa with Leona as Santa’s elf. They visited patients in the local hospital, so Leona could pass out candy.
In the past 2 -3 years, Leona’s health declined and she lost her mobility and speech. She eventually moved into a home run by Cerebral Palsy in Bayville, where she was loved by many loving care givers. She was befriended by Carmite, a very special care giver from a previous home, who continued to visit Leona until restrictions due to the virus.
Leona, a very strong fighter, fought for so long, even surviving COVID-19 in April 2020. She succumbed to other health issues a week before Christmas.
Lou and Kay are so appreciative of the hospital nurses at Huntington Hospital who spent much time explaining Leona’s health status and they set up a special Face Time for Lou and Kay to have their last visit with Leona.
They called out names of all Leona’s relatives and friends and told her how they all loved her, and last but most importantly that Jesus loved her and would come take her to be with Him, Mommy, Daddy, Danny, and Frankie and that everything would be perfect. Lou and Kay ended with singing “Jesus Loves You”, and then the sweet nurse comforted them with the knowledge that she would be “right with Leona” until the end.
Leona was full of life and loved life, living it well for almost 63 years.
Leona is survived by Lou and Kay, 5 nephews and their families, many NY, NC and FL family and friends. A service will be held at Washington Memorial Park in early summer, (due to the current restrictions of COVID-19) where Leona will be laid to rest beside her parents and brother Danny.
Mary Ellen Bourne
January 17, 2021
I have so many happy memories of Leona. I am thankful for the time we had with her and I pray for peace and comfort for her family, and rejoice that Leona is with her heavenly family !
January 7, 2021
One Christmas, Kay, Lou, Leona and I went to Raleigh to visit Randi. Leona and I was sharing a bedroom with twin beds. I got the flu as soon as we got there. That night I walked into the bedroom, and Leona had turned down my bed for me. She was so sweet. But that’s the way Leona was. She will be dearly missed.
January 6, 2021
Life is so strange sometime, this morning I went to my church to say a prayer. As I entered, I began to feel a joyful mood over me and started first humming a song and then singing it. I first wondered to myself when I hummed it, where did this come from? Then I thought to myself that this is one of the songs that Leona and I always enjoyed singing together. Leona was a very fun and lovable person. No matter where she went she always captivated and gravitated people toward her. One of my fondest memories of her was when we sang "Jesus loves me, this I know ". She will indeed be surely missed all.
January 5, 2021
I was so hoping that Leona would be able to overcome the health issues she had been fighting for the last several months so she could return to live with her housemates. She loved them all so much. When she would come to visit us in North Carolina, she always had a good time but when the visit came to an end she was always so happy to be able to go back home and be with her friends. In the end, she wasn't able to make it back to that home. But, she IS at home now and at peace with her beloved mother, father and brothers. For those of us left behind, we'll always remember her loving heart , infectious laugh and big smile. With these sweet memories, we will be waiting for the time when we can all be reunited.
January 5, 2021
I have wonderful memories of my Aunt Leona from when I was a kid. I can remember going to my Grandma’s house on Sunday with my family for dinner. Grandma’s spaghetti sauce was amazing. Leona was so fun to see and play with. She would color with me and play hide and seek. Her giggling laugh was infectious and would make everyone laugh.
We would spend time in the back yard blowing bubbles with Leona. While the dog would try and eat the bubbles (Max). She always had that young child spirit that we all lose at some point in our lives. She knew what was important in life and the only thing that really matters, LOVE. I will miss her but know she is with God in heaven making Uncle Dan and Grandma and laugh.
Lou & Kay Presutti
January 2, 2021
We have been enjoying celebrating Leona's life by viewing old home movies and many photographs. We receive much comfort from the many condolences we have received from relatives and friends in several states. We are so appreciative.
In June or July we hope to have a service in memory of Leona and her life. This will be at Washington Memorial Park in Coram, NY.
We will notify you by mail, email, and relatives.
Lou and Kay