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Published: Monday, 11/26/2001

Greeter escorted foreign visitors on Toledo tours

Katherine Lance Leslie, Toledo's former protocol representative who was often called upon when foreign visitors came to town, died yesterday in Foundation Park Care Center. She was 95.

Family members did not know her cause of death but said she had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Mrs. Leslie was an unofficial and unpaid hostess for the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies bringing guests to this country during the 1960s and 1970s.

During the height of her work, she escorted visitors on tours of the city and showed them how people here lived and worked and grappled with problems.

Mrs. Leslie had little or no budget to work with, admitting to scrounging for bus rides, dinners, trips, parties, food, and to see that guests were properly taken care of.

Her guests were from all walks of life. In the 1960s, she recalled showing off the city to Japanese visitors here to study how firms supervised employees.

She also had to deal with small unexpected crises, like a headmaster from Milan who turned up missing while with a group. He was found in a downtown department store hours later buying underwear to replace the set that burned while he was trying to dry them over a coffee maker.

“We bought him three pairs of undies, and I grabbed him by the ear and told him never to leave the group again,” she told a Blade reporter later. “I was so mad and so relieved.”

Her duties also gave her a glimpse of the world beyond the United States. While in Toledo, a visitor told her he had just learned there had been a coup in Venezuela and that his father had been elevated to the top post of president there.

For many years, Mrs. Leslie headed the Toledo Seamen's Service Organization, a group she helped found in 1960, to assist crews of ocean-going ships that docked in Toledo.

The service organization dissolved in the mid 1980s with the decline of foreign shipping here.

“It did consume her,” Cynthia Elevich, a granddaughter, said of her hostess activities. “I would go to a lot of things with her. I think she wanted to do well in the community and have her say in things. She enjoyed meeting people and traveling.”

She was a hostess for the World Cub wrestling matches here, served as president of Toledo's U.S. bicentennial committee in 1976, and formerly was a vice president of the International Institute.

Former Toledo mayor Harry Kessler, who was mayor when Mrs. Leslie chaired the local bicentennial committee, remembered her as someone who “was very constructive and meant well with everything she did.”

Mrs. Leslie owned S&B Millinery & Jewelry Co., a wholesale firm she helped operate that primarily sold women's hats in Toledo and several surrounding states. It closed in the late 1960s.

She was a former president of the Zonta Club, a women's service organization. She was past president of Beach House, the American Society of Women Accountants, and the Fort Meigs Business and Professional Women's Club.

Surviving are her sister, Suzanne Adams, and five grandchildren.

Services are pending at Christ the King Church. Arrangements by Foth-Dorfmeyer Funeral Home.

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