Lealon V. Tonkinson, 93, passed away October 1st, 2023. He was born March 28th, 1930, to Verde and May (Gabehart) Tonkinson in Clinton, Oklahoma.
Lealon grew up in Anadarko, Oklahoma graduating from Anadarko High School in 1948. The Tonkinson family had claimed a farm in Hinton, Oklahoma during the Oklahoma Run and Lealon spoke often of helping out on the farm including building the first indoor bathroom to the farmhouse in the 1950’s with his grandfather, Emery.
Lealon was a proud alum of Oklahoma State University earning a bachelor of science, 2 master’s degrees and a Ph.D. all in Poultry Science and Statistics. Lealon was passionate about Oklahoma State football and held out hope every year that they would win a national championship but mostly that they would beat OU!
On September 1st, 1962, Lealon married the love of his life, Ann Hemker. The 2 met in an advanced graduate level matrix algebra class where they bonded over their shared love of mathematics. They shared 61 wonderful years together.
Lealon proudly served his country in the United States Air Force from 1951 – 1955.
Lealon moved his family from Oklahoma to Indianapolis in 1965 where he took a job with Eli Lilly as a Research Scientist. He retired from Lilly in 1992 having spent most of his career in the Animal Health Division in Greenfield, IN, working on experimental design and data analysis of field trials. During his career Lealon was an author or co-author on numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers and presented frequently at scientific conferences.
Lealon’s strong Lutheran faith was very important to him. He and his wife Ann were founding board members of the Lutheran High School of Indianapolis and one of the founding families of Carmel Lutheran Church. For the past 25 years they were active, valued members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
Bicycling was Lealon’s passion. He didn’t start riding until he was 53 years old but then he never stopped! He completed several Hilly Hundreds, most recently in 2017 when he was 87 years old. One of his favorite rides was the B&O ride in Brownsburg which he did almost every June including this year. Together with his late brother-in-law Jim Hemker he rode all over Wisconsin often on week-long rides of 500 miles or more. In 2010 to celebrate his 80th birthday, Lealon and Jim completed the SAGBRAW 300 mile ride along with Lealon’s son and grandson. His last ride was in June of this year just a few months before his passing when he had the opportunity to ride with both of his grandsons, Matthew and Jacob.
Lealon also refined talents for woodworking, hand-quilting and pie baking allowing him to creatively express himself. Becoming a grandfather was one of the biggest joys of his life, and he took his role as grandpa to his 4 grandchildren very seriously acting as babysitter, chauffer, song-whistler and Barney watcher for all of them.
Lealon was a strong, patient, compassionate gentleman, with a deep dedication to his work, his family, faith and his many friends. He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend. He will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Lealon is survived by his adoring wife Ann; his children Sara (Mike) Bowron and John Tonkinson; his grandchildren Matthew (Lilly Philbrick) Tonkinson, Taylor Tonkinson, Hannah Bowron and Jacob Bowron; and numerous nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his cousin, Anne Sturdevant, a fellow OSU alum and super-fan whom he loved like a sister.
He is preceded in death by his parents and siblings Peggy, Loren, Christine, and Wyona.
Visitation for Lealon will be Friday October 6th, from 6-9pm at Flanner Buchanan Geist. His funeral service will be Saturday October 7th, at 10am at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Following, he will be laid to rest at Oaklawn Memorial Gardens.