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Marilyn Jean Smith Leiter

Posted By Jackie Andrews On July 26, 2019 @ 11:23 am In Obituaries | 8 Comments

When Marilyn Jean Smith’s roommate Bonnie told her in April 1971 that she wanted to fix her up with a guy who was a friend of the man she was dating, Marilyn wasn’t too impressed with the details. “He’s divorced, 34, and a teacher.” Marilyn was just 25 and had only been in Phoenix two years. She hadn’t dated much since moving to Phoenix from her hometown of Akron, Ohio. It took some convincing, but she agreed to go out with this blind date, Les Leiter, who showed up in all brown attire.

“You looked like a mail man“, she told him on a later date. They laughed and kept laughing for the next 48 years (46 married). They had two sons, Edward and Stuart, plus two daughters-in-law, Jessica and Danielle, and two granddaughters, Sophia, 9, and Ellie, 5. Both girls loved their “Gram” who helped raise them, attended swim meets and dance recitals, hung on their every word and utterly adored them.

Marilyn started out as a teacher but when Stuart was born she told Les that she wanted to be a nurse, like her mother. It took her three years of classes from local junior colleges to get all the credits she needed for her nursing certificate. Nursing jobs were scarce then, but a new neighbor turned out to be the head of the oncology floor at Good Samaritan Hospital and helped Marilyn start her second career.

The one-time elementary school teacher was now an oncology nurse and learned so much about medicine and people and life over the next 23 years. It was hard work, but nursing came naturally to her. Despite her schedule, she found time for many family vacations with Les and the boys. Among their adventures, they frequently traveled to San Diego, Akron, Niagara Falls, the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and Durango, Colorado, along with many other destinations which brought laughter and joy to the family.

As her sons grew and made lives of their own, Marilyn and Les enjoyed a wonderful trip to England and Scotland. Later, this now old, married couple loved an Alaskan cruise, as well as her dream trip to the exotic Galapagos Islands that Marilyn had admired after seeing the movie Master and Commander. She also traveled to France with her sister, Diane, which included a visit to Paris and Normandy.

In 2007, Marilyn’s health declined when she was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune disease. It forced her to quit nursing, the job she loved. There were numerous other health issues that plagued her over the years, but her spirit remained unshakable. She became an avid gardener and her friends and relatives marveled at her beautiful garden filled with vibrant and lush plants and flowers. She also found time to give back as she volunteered for the Duets program. But as she had done throughout her life, Marilyn dedicated herself to being the glue for her family spending most of her time with Les, her sons and their wives, and her beloved granddaughters.

Marilyn died July 23, 2019 at the age of 72. She leaves her grieving husband and sons and her extended family, including sisters, Diane Smith and Elizabeth Turner, and brother, Douglas Smith and their families.

The Leiter family is planning a Celebration of Life to honor Marilyn in the fall. All who knew her and loved her are welcome. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Please donate at https://www.cff.org/Arizona/. Visit https://www.hansenmortuary.com for condolences.

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Condolence from Cathy Eich-Mitchell on July 28th, 2019 1:03 pm

Hello Les, Ed, Stuart, Jess, Danielle, Sophie, Ellie, So very sorry for the loss of this wonderful woman. She was the best to so many people. She loved you all so very much. It’s been my gift to be her friend. Please call if you ever need anything. Cathy

Condolence from Alan and Marsha Giroux on July 28th, 2019 1:25 pm

Les, Marsha and I are very sorry for your loss. We remember Marilyn very well from our gym days, and a party that we had some years ago at our home. Please take care of yourself Les.

Condolence from The Thoene Family on July 29th, 2019 11:29 am

Our family get-togethers will not be the same without Marilyn. Our condolences, thoughts and prayers are with you all during this difficult time. She will be deeply missed! Please let us know if there is anything we can do or help with in the planning of her Celebration of Life.

Condolence from Laura and Chris Turner on July 29th, 2019 6:20 pm

I’m glad I got to meet Aunt Marilyn when Chris and I went to visit about 4 years ago. She was very welcoming and such a lovely lady. I’m deeply sorry for your loss. We join you in mourning and send our love, prayers and a big Texas hug.
Chris and Laura Turner

Condolence from Julie Lanley on July 30th, 2019 11:03 am

My heartfelt condolences go out to Les and the rest of the family. Marilyn was a beautiful soul – I consider her more than just a neighbor, but a friend. She will be greatly missed. I always jokingly said, she should maintain my front yard so she could look out her front window and reap the benefits of her green thumb. As I have the pleasure of looking out my front window and marveling at her beautiful yard.

Condolence from S. Sedor on July 30th, 2019 8:38 pm

Dear Les and family,
I’m so sorry for your loss. Marilyn was a delightful person. Her warmth always made me feel so at home in her presence. Part of that was our Akron connection, but it was mostly her lovingkindness and her sparkle. Deepest sympathy to you all.

Condolence from Ron Thoene on August 1st, 2019 8:42 am


I am very sorry to hear about Marilyn. You did so much for Amy and her Girls. I don’t know what 48 years would be like, but I know how bad it was for me after only 6 1/2 years with Jane. Take care.

Love, Ron

Condolence from Chris Weber on August 12th, 2019 2:32 pm

Dear Les, Eddie, Stuart , and family,
I am so sorry for your loss! It just does not seem possible. Marilyn and I had wonderful talks during my prep hour at Orangewood Elementary School. Marilyn made me feel so welcome as a new teacher to the school and always provided tremendous support. Les, you left such an impression on our kids while they attended Paradise Valley High School. Eddie and Stuart, I’m sending hugs and love!!! You were such special students! Oh the memories of all of you!! Please stay in touch. I would so much like to attend her memorial service. We are now living in Greer, Arizona and enjoying mountain life. (602-564-8669)

Sending prayers that the love of others may be a source of strength at this difficult time.

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