John R. Leitner
January 7, 1949-June 23, 2023
John R. Leitner, a native of the Twin Cities and resident of McGregor and Nisswa, died on June 23rd at the age of 74.
John was the third of nine children and grew up in St. Paul and Columbia Heights. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) and then his law degree from William Mitchell. John and family moved north to McGregor, where John established a private practice in 1975. In 1978, he was elected Aitkin County Attorney, a position he held for 14 years. John was recognized as an excellent trial attorney and consummate professional. In 1992, he was appointed a Minnesota District Court Judge seated in Crow Wing County by Gov. Arne Carlson. John remained on the bench until he retired in 2009.
John cared deeply about child welfare and the treatment of children in the judicial process. From 2000 to 2009 he led the Children’s Justice Initiative for northern Minnesota. In that role, he worked to ensure that the courts put the best interests of children at the center of every case involving minors. He often said that these cases were the most difficult but most rewarding and important for a judge. Another joy his career afforded was presiding at the weddings of family and dear friends and their children. John was honored to officiate the weddings of his son, Tim and Ruth and grandson, Nick and Alysa. The family will always cherish these memories.
John was a highly accomplished lawyer and jurist and a tireless worker. However, he never considered his career to define his life. He was devoted to his family, especially his wife of 45 years, Joyce; children Tracy (Troy), John (Claire), Tim (Ruth), and Davy; grandchildren Nick (Alysa), Lexie, Bram, and Ingrid; and great-grandson Asher. His family was paramount and he was proud of each and every one of us. He enjoyed reading, spending time outdoors, walks, biking, boating, and doing myriad yard and household projects. John also enjoyed editing books written by his brother-in-law and yearly fishing trips with his high school buddies. He was close to his siblings and in-laws, the Tiller and Anderson families. In retirement, John and Joyce made frequent cross-country trips. Their favorite destinations were Palm Springs, CA and the Florida panhandle, with many excursions and visits to family and friends along the way.
John was active in his community over the years. He was an EMT for the McGregor Volunteer Ambulance, a little league and youth football coach, a Cub Scout leader, a member of the Lions Club, a softball player, and a church usher. The family has heard from several of John’s former colleagues that they considered him a mentor in their careers. John would be honored and humbled by that.
John was a loyal Vikings fan since 1961, missing only one live game broadcast (on doctor’s orders) which of course he recorded and watched afterwards. He also cheered for his alma mater, the Golden Gophers, and all of Minnesota’s franchises. He loved classic rock and a wide range of other music genres. John frequently attended live music events with family and friends.
John experienced a major heart attack in 1995 which doctors expected to be fatal. It is a testament to his determination, passion for life, and love for his family that he survived and thrived for many more years, resuming his career, raising his family, welcoming his grandchildren and great-grandson, and enjoying retirement.
In addition to his wife and children, John is survived by seven siblings: Bev (Dale), Bob, Tom (Bobbi), Dan (Teresa), Pat (Dave), Kathy (Steve), and Barb (Todd), as well as many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents (Robert and Gladys), first wife (Teresa), and brother (Joe).
John will be remembered at a wake from 5-8 PM on Thursday, August 3rd, at Miller Funeral Home, 6210 Highway 65 NE, Fridley, MN 55432 with a special remembrance by John's son Tim at 7PM. There will also be an opportunity for guests to share their memories at this time. His funeral will take place at 11 AM on Friday, August 4th at the Church of St. Odilia, 3495 Victoria St. N., Shoreview, MN 55126, with visitation from 10-11 and a brunch following mass. In lieu of flowers, John’s family suggests a donation in his memory to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Second Harvest Heartland, or Arm In Arm in Africa.
To view the livestream of the mass on Friday, August 4th, CLICK HERE