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Less than three months after his sweetheart passed away, Leon Bawden, our family patriarch, father, grandfather and great grandfather left this earthly existence on October 15, 2020, in Mesa, Arizona, surrounded by his loving children. Leon was born September 22, 1926, in Cleveland, Utah, to Thomas Andrew Bawden and Ann Davis Ward. He was the 12th born of 13 children and was one of only five siblings who lived to adulthood. He was reared without the ordinary luxuries of life in a Christ-centered home where he learned the value of hard work, family loyalty, honesty and personal sacrifice. He met his eternal companion when they were still teenagers. Through his determination and perseverance, they were married July 21, 1948, in the Manti Utah Temple. Their devoted marriage of 72 years brought them the blessings of five children, 34 grandchildren, and 85 great grandchildren.
Leon was rarely seen without a smile on his face. His jovial countenance and easy-going nature was balanced by his inner strength, fierce determination and his refined sense of commitment to being an honorable man. Because his father died when Leon was only five years old, he grew up without the example of a father figure in the home. Despite this loss, he forged a path for himself as a good family man who was grounded in gospel principles with the loving example and influence of his Savior. Certainly, his greatest joy and pride was the loving family he created with Clara Lee.
After graduating from high school, Leon enlisted in the navy and saw active duty during World War II from 1945 to 1946 in the Pacific Theater of Operations. It was during his military service that he made three promises to himself and to the Lord: to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; to marry Clara Lee Billingsley Killian; and to graduate from college. After his honorable release from military service, he received a mission call to serve in the Texas-Louisiana Mission from 1946 to 1948. He was a man who kept his promises, and he did so by both marrying Clara Lee and enrolling at BYU before the end of 1948! He graduated in education in 1952 and immediately launched into his teaching career by working with elementary-aged children. Leon loved being an educator. He made many life-long friends among his peers and his students. He eventually taught in seven different school districts in Utah and California. His last assignment as an educator was serving as the principal of Huntington Elementary in the Emery County School District where he was honored by the State of Utah as an Outstanding Elementary Education Principal.
Leon was very devoted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and loved serving faithfully in many different church callings. He was forthright and unashamed of his testimony of the gospel and his love for the Savior Jesus Christ, and he delighted in sharing them with others. He and Clara Lee served missions together at the Family History Centers in Tampa Florida as well as in Mesa Arizona. They also served for many years as Ordinance Workers in the Provo Utah Temple and the Mesa Arizona Temple. Leon’s leadership callings in the church included serving as Bishop of the Price 5th Ward, as Stake President of the Price Utah Stake, and as Patriarch in the Hermosa Vista Mesa Arizona Stake.
Leon and Clara Lee helped many family members and friends wherever they lived. They were quick to open their home to anyone in need of a meal or a haven from the troubles of the world. Their door was always open and the light was on for anyone seeking it. His family will keenly miss his gratitude for all the blessings that came his way, his sense of humor and his optimism and joy in the simple things of life (especially food). We’ll also miss his enthusiasm and love of everything related to BYU sports…better make that love of all sports!
Grandpa truly left a legacy of love for all of us. And now, as the last of all his siblings to pass from this life, we absolutely know there is a grand reunion above where he is being warmly embraced by waiting loved ones as he begins another life, a life eternal. Well done, Grandpa, we love you.
Leon is survived by his children: Brent Leon (Julianne Green), Reece A. (Jennifer Hansen) Clyde Lee (Jayme Robinson), Pamela (Dan Piacitelli) and Kenneth L. (Lisa Larson), numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by his wife, Clara Lee, brother, Herbert Robert Bawden, sisters, Ronelda Bawden (Edwards), Claudia Ophelia Bawden (Aubert) and Shirlene Bawden (Thomas), daughter in law Ginny Neeley Bawden (Reece) and grandchildren, Erickson Reece Bawden (Reece) Dustin Bawden (Clyde) and Kendra Elisabeth Bawden (Kenneth). A family funeral service will be held Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 10:00 am, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located at 3345 East McLellan Road, Mesa, AZ 85213. Because of Covid-19 only family members are invited to the funeral service where all who attend are asked to wear a mask and social distance. The funeral service will also be streamed live on Youtube via this link:
The family wishes to express appreciation to the staff of the Emerald Groves Central Assisted Living Center and Aegis Hospice for their love and care of Leon. In lieu of flowers, Leon would be happy if you helped someone in need.