Leigh W. Kendrick; 1926-2014: WWII Army vet became YMCA leader in region


Leigh W. Kendrick, who devoted his career to the YMCA and for a decade led the Toledo organization, died Monday at Otterbein in Monclova. He was 87.

He was diagnosed with cancer several months ago, when a tumor was discovered in his spine, daughter Marty McIntyre said.

He and his wife, Adeline, had returned to northwest Ohio about 19 years ago when they moved from North Carolina to Bowling Green. More recently, he moved into Otterbein Portage Valley near Pemberville.

Mr. Kendrick left a position with the YMCA in Chicago to become the executive vice president of the YMCA of Greater Toledo from 1970 to 1980.

During that time, the organization raised millions to open facilities in Oregon and on Holland-Sylvania Road, and planned an addition to the now-demolished South Toledo YMCA.

His “servant’s heart” led him to devote his career to the YMCA, which played an important role in the lives of many, Ms. McIntyre said.

“My dad certainly saw that, as being a Christian, outreach to people and having a mission that valued people was way more important than making a lot of bucks working in industry some place,” she said.

Mr. Kendrick helped lead an effort to build a facility, now called Wolf Creek YMCA, to serve Toledo’s southwest area. Skip Gardner, who helped with the project, recalled how he met Mr. Kendrick at a Rotary meeting and talked to him about building a YMCA branch for that area.

Mr. Kendrick balanced compassion with “good business acumen,” said Mr. Gardner, who now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., and kept in touch with Mr. Kendrick’s family.

“He was just so kind and giving and a mentoring-type guy,” he said.

Prior to accepting the Toledo position, Mr. Kendrick worked with the YMCA in Chicago for 20 years in a variety of positions, including as a community outreach worker, youth gangs coordinator, and vice president for corporate resources and development.

“He did a lot of work in the 1960s with gangs, and he was one of the first community organizer guys before community organizers had a bad name,” his daughter said.

Mr. Kendrick returned to an administrative position within the Chicago YMCA organization after leaving Toledo, and later moved to North Carolina where he worked as a consultant for YMCA campaigns.

He assisted with fund-raising projects, traveling to states such as Texas and Arkansas.

Born Sept. 29, 1926, in southeast Ohio’s New Lexington, Mr. Kendrick graduated in 1944 from Norwood High School in Cincinnati. He started college at Bowling Green State University, but left to serve in the Army for about two years at the end of World War II, Ms. McIntyre said.

He returned to BGSU to earn a bachelor of arts degree in economics. He also studied political science, social science, and health and physical education — fields that prepared him for his lifelong work.

He and his wife married in 1954. She died in 2009.

Surviving are his daughters, Martha McIntyre and Cathy Begley; son, David; 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be at 10:30 a.m. April 23 at First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green.

Blanchard Strabler Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to BGSU or First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.