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Tribute to Mary Leonard

This page commemorates Mary Leonard and her husband, Carl Leonard, who generously presented Whangarei Libraries with a donation for the purchase of career information materials in 2005. 
Updated: 3/05/2017 3:31 p.m.
Picture of Carl and Mary Leonard. (Northern Advocate April 2005 taken by Tania Webb).

It is with sadness we acknowledge the recent passing of Mary Leonard aged 102 at a nursing home in Brisbane, Australia. In 2005 Mary and her husband Carl presented Whangarei Libraries with a generous donation of $25,000 to be used for the purchase of material related to career opportunities and choices. These items make up the Carl and Mary Leonard Collection which is housed in the Teens section of Whangarei Central Library and is widely used by people of all ages looking for information on career options.

Carl and Mary were particularly interested in assisting young people achieve their full potential and giving them a helping hand to realise their dreams and ambitions. We are very appreciative of their contribution to our Library.

Generous Globe Trotting Yachties

Mary Leonard (nee Petley) spent most of her married life travelling the world with her husband Carl, teaching English in local communities while he worked on civil engineering projects.

The couple, who never owned a house, lived a gypsy life aboard a yacht or motorhome as they worked and travelled through more than 50 countries, mainly in the developing world.

Originally from the USA, they met while Mary was teaching in Bangkok in the late 1950s and went on to marry in Switzerland in 1959.

It was sailing that brought the couple first to New Zealand, where their two of their yachts 'Bona Dea' and 'Annabelle' were purpose built. When Carl retired from civil engineering at age 73, the couple combined living on their yacht 'Annabelle' for six months in Whangarei's Town Basin with residence in Brisbane and trips back to North Carolina, USA.

Carl said Whangarei was a "very unique place" for sailors. "There's no other place in the world that we have ever been that measures up to Whangarei in terms of a place to have a yacht. Part of it is the convenience of living right downtown, the other part is it has a nice atmosphere to it. It's a community."

The couple still sailed between Australia and New Zealand until Mary turned 90 in 2001. Then they would fly between international destinations. When they returned each year to Brisbane, incredibly Mary would teach a Latin course at The University of the Third Age.

In April 2005 the couple gave the largest financial donation ever received by Whangarei Libraries. Their reason for giving the money is simple: they want to repay the city they've come to think of as "home".

"We have reaped the benefits of living here and we just would like to give back something to the community," said Mary. They saw the library as an ideal recipient because it was public, unrestricted and free. “That's what we like - there's no restriction, it's not for a privileged few."

They readily agreed to the suggestion by Pauline Rose, Whangarei Libraries Manager at the time, that the donation be put towards buying books to help young people work towards a career.

The Leonards spent their last years in a rented Brisbane CBD apartment. They devoted themselves to teaching at the University of the Third Age and to a number of philanthropic projects, including the Carl and Mary Leonard International Relations Award for Queensland University of Technology (QUT) students to undertake study or volunteer work in a less developed country. They had no connection to QUT, apart from years looking out the window of their apartment and watching students walk to the university nearby.

Carl Leonard died suddenly on the day of Mary's 100th birthday in March 2011, a few hours before they were due to attend a birthday celebration. He is survived by a son from his first marriage.

Source: The Northern Advocate;  The Courier Mail, Brisbane; Queensland University of Technology.







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