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Leo Rose

Obituary for Leo Rose

March 11, 1921 - July 8, 2020
San Antonio, Texas | Age 99


Leo Rose - WW2 Veteran, Community Leader, Sports Maven, Adored Patriarch, Son, Brother, Husband, Father and San Antonio Legend passed away peacefully at home on July 8th, 2020 at 99 years of age.

An icon of the Greatest Generation, Leo was born in Minneapolis in 1921 and moved to San Antonio in 1929 with his mother, stepfather and brothers Julius and Bernie. Widowed again in 1935, Mama Rose supported her three sons by baking wedding cakes while deeply involved in Jewish life and community service, modeling values Leo would take on fully. Although growing up in Depression era poverty, Leo remembered a childhood of family closeness, friends, and improvised fun.

Leo Rose attended Jefferson High School where he began his lifelong passion for sports, excelling on Jewish and high school softball and basketball teams. He turned down a basketball scholarship to St. Mary's University as he was the main breadwinner in his family, and although he regretted not attending college, Leo was gratified to be able to send his younger brother Bernie to college.

After high school, while working as a grocery checker, in a paper warehouse and attending night school, Leo played competitive softball and basketball in San Antonio City leagues, his teams winning several city championships in both sports. He was named to the All-City team for 6 consecutive years and was voted Outstanding Jewish Athlete of San Antonio.

In 1941, Leo volunteered for the Army Air Corps. During his navigation training in Hondo, Texas, he would bring his fellow cadets' home for Mama Rose's famous enchiladas. Leo moved onto Bombardier training on the new B-29 (designed specifically to fly the long distance from the South Pacific to Japan). While his crew was being assembled, Leo received word that his brother Julius was missing in action. After the war Julius' submarine was found at the bottom of Tokyo Bay.

As Bombardier and Navigator, Leo (with smuggled record player and 50 78 RPM records) and his team flew their B-29 Superfortress, christened Forbidden Fruit, to the Mariana Islands. From these islands, Leo and his crew flew bombing missions across the Pacific to mainland Japan a staggering 37 times. For their exceptional valor, they received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two additional clusters and the Air Medal with three additional clusters.

In 1945, First Lieutenant Rose returned to San Antonio. He was 24 years old.

In 1946, Leo, with friend Melvin Lachman, began selling specialty paper, Army surplus pots and pans and, fortuitously, a die cast racecar whose popularity along with an investment of $6,000 launched them into the wholesale toy business. Lachman-Rose became the first toy distributor in Texas successfully buying and manufacturing toys in Asia under the LARCO trade name as well as enjoying the frenzy of Barbies and Hula Hoops. In the late 1960's, Lachman-Rose created Kiddie City, a chain of 5 successful discount toy stores and grew into the 5th largest toy distributor in the United States with over 150 employees. After the acquisition of Lachman-Rose by WR Grace in 1971, Leo became President of their Toy Hobby and Houseware Division until he retired in 1978 to fully devote his energies to community endeavors.

In 1951, Leo married Gloria Zimmerman and although the marriage ended, their children Kenny and Julie became the first of the close-knit Rose next generation.

In 1966, Leo went on a rocky blind date with Chickie Ringel Levit, a divorced mother of four. Dinner at Mi Tierra, Leo's polyester pants and his love of sports did not bode well for their relationship, but when Leo hesitantly tried again, an enviable and extraordinary marriage was launched. Leo always credited marrying Chickie as the best decision he ever made. Laughter, friends, travel, tennis, golf, community work, family, (and natural fiber clothing) were the joys of their life together.

Giving back to his community was central to Leo's life. After chairing numerous committees, he served as President of the Jewish Community Center 1966 - 1969. Motivated by the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Leo raised a record $2 million for Israel through the Jewish Federation. His remarkable ability to share his passionate commitment made him a hugely successful motivator and fundraiser. He remained deeply involved with the Jewish Federation, becoming Endowment Director after his retirement, growing their Endowment fund from $1 million to $15 million and chairing their 2008 Israel Emergency Campaign in 2008.

Leo's charitable involvement included Leo devotedly running the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon from 1978 - 1983 (work for which he was granted the Thomas Jefferson Award for public service) as well as the Capital Fund Drive for KLRN. He was an active board member of the United Fund and the United Jewish Appeal. He served as board chair for the Community Guidance Center and Temple Beth El.

He has been recognized with Israel's City of Peace award, the B'nai B'rith American Traditions award, The McFarlin Center Court Award, as well as the National Conference of Christians and Jews Brotherhood Award, and honored by Brandeis University, University of the Incarnate Word and the Ronald McDonald House.

Leo shared his passion for sports with the city he loved. As an original owner of the ABA San Antonio Spurs, Leo and his partners' early vision of bringing a basketball franchise to San Antonio was responsible for transforming the city.

Leo then went on to create the San Antonio Racquets World Team Tennis franchise (which won two league championships). He chaired the boards of the Sports Channel and the Sports Task Force bringing two Southwest Conference basketball championships to San Antonio. And was the South Texas chair for the Maccabiah Games, chairman of two USTA National Women's Hardcourts tournaments, an original and ongoing member of the board of the San Antonio Sports Foundation, led the fundraising effort for building a center court at McFarlin Tennis Center. Additionally, Leo chaired the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Sports Task Force and co-chaired the Senior Olympics (in which he also nationally qualified for the men's tennis doubles and competed in the long jump and shot put until the age of 90). He was proudly inducted into the San Antonio Sports Foundation Hall of Fame in 2017.

Leo was a lifelong athlete. As an avid tennis player, he qualified for the men's tennis doubles in the Senior Olympics and after hanging up his racket at 88 and returning to the game of golf, proudly, at the age of 90, hit a hole in one.

And yet, Leo will not be best remembered for his bravery, accomplishments, and accolades but rather for his huge heart (and feet), easy smile, wise counsel, and deep sense of gratitude for the full and happy life he led.

His unwavering commitment to us, his family, and ability to fully love each of us makes us the luckiest people in the world.

Leo is survived, and will always be remembered, by his wife of 54 years, Chickie; his children, Kenny Rose (Sherry Ritchie-Rose), Julie Rose, Laurie Levit (Steven Ades), Kalima Rose (nee Cathy Levit), Nancy Levit (Cathy Underwood), and Stephen Levit (Ann Levit); his grandchildren, Osha Levgin (Jenny Eiger), Andraya Austin (John Austin), Rachel Levit Ades, Noah Levit Ades, Joby Levit, and Mila Levit; his great- grandson, Elijah Levgin; nephews, Paul Rose, and Barry Rose; and his sister in law, Maxine Rose.

Leo is predeceased by his mother, Mama Rose, and brothers, Julius and Bernie.

Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, the family will have a private interment service.

Beginning promptly at 12:00 p.m. there will be a Virtual Memorial Service on Friday, July 10, 2020. Those wishing to participate may access the memorial via this link: . Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl, Rabbi Mara Nathan, presiding.

Honorary Pallbearers are Mike Beldon, Alvin Frieden, Bob Gurwitz, Bill Orr, Seymour Palans, Stanley Schoenbaum, Rick Shaw, Tommy Smith, Hugh Wolff, and Al Honigblum.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Leo & Chickie Rose Maccabee Sports Fund at the Jewish Community Center, the Chickie & Leo Fund at San Antonio Sports, or to the charity of your choice.

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Porter Loring Mortuary

1101 McCullough Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78212
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