John experienced sudden cardiac death due to coronary artery disease and Type 1 Diabetes on September 14, 2022. He was born to Anthony (Tony) Leto and Coleen Kelleher on October 14, 1970, into a loving and a large extended family. He adored his sister Kate, he was her biggest fan and fiercest protector. He inherited the best qualities from each of his parents; strength, compassion, deep capacity for love, intelligence and gentle kindness. When his parents remarried, he gained a new family that quickly became blood, Mary, Dan and Amy. There was no step divide in the love and mischief they shared.
John was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 9. It nearly took his life more than once and impacted his time on earth in countless ways. We, his family, always believed there were a series of small miracles that kept John with us as long as he was and made it possible for him to live his life to the fullest. (Not that he would have it any other way!).
John and Crystal met as teenagers. Those early days were peppered with moments and stories that John loved to retell with a quiet fondness later in life. They married and had three daughters in quick succession; Faith Rose, Alicia Rene, and Jessica Ann. At birth, John gave them names he would use throughout their lives- Angel, Precious, and Pumpkin.
The Leto family home was filled with music and love. Many nights after dinner John and his daughters danced and sang while cleaning the kitchen to the music of B.B. King. He loved to be with his family – be it family movie nights-in or taking the girls camping. Weather permitting, they camped nearly every weekend. John encouraged his girls to be curious and take risks. They slid into ravines and followed creeks with his blessing. Anytime the girls announced a “discovery”, John would run into the woods to explore it with them. He used the discovery as an opportunity for a lesson in history. John spent his life teaching and encouraging his kids, pushing them farther and being a soft place to land when life hurt. Of all his endeavors in life, being a father was by far his greatest success.
John had a great capacity for love and expanded his universe to make room for his nieces Courtney and Megan, their mom Denise, and countless friends and family. He prayed, worried over and guided them as if they were his own.
One of his greatest joys was when he became a Pop Pop (not grandpa, he was not ready to be called a grandpa) to his best friend, John William Leto. As his daughters grew up and built their own lives, he poured all his best “dad” qualities into Johnny. John and Johnny were an inseparable team. John later became Pop Pop to three more grandchildren: Colton, Oliver, and Anthea. His capacity for love multiplied with each grandchild.
As an adult, John joined a community of people to better himself and become closer to God and his fellow man. He met people in this fellowship who walked through the hardest times of his life with him and never turned away. He became a new man in all regards. He became everything God intended him to be. He counted his new life as a gift and a responsibility. He worked tirelessly to pass on this gift that was so freely given to him. He reached his hand out to others seeking change and walked through their darkness with them. This fellowship gave him life, but also an abundance of life-long friendships with people who’ve always shown up for John and have continued to do so for his family now that he is gone.
Diabetes took John far too soon. Yet, it gave him an understanding of the clock that ticks above all our heads. He knew his time was limited. From daybreak to sunset he was constantly moving, planning, working, and doing. He seldom rested, never sat through an entire movie, never took the backseat in a conversation. He adventured. He laughed loudly. He climbed mountains. He packed more into his life than anyone thought possible. Though his passing has been a disorienting nightmare for those he loved, there is peace and gratitude in knowing that he is finally at rest. No more work, blood sugars, insulin pumps, eating spaghetti squash instead of pasta. No more being the untouchable, indestructible superhero of his family. His body found its limit, and God brought him home to rest.
Other survivors include: Sons-law, Christopher and Mike, Step father, Brian Dunker, nieces, and nephews, huge extended family and a community of friends and colleagues.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at his home on the land that he loved (11565 8th St, Monroe, IA) on Saturday, October 15, 2022 beginning at 2 p.m.
See you there!