LeRoy Hankins, 94, of Morris, died peacefully at the LaSalle Veteran's Home with his family at his bedside.
Born on February 10, 1923, to Blanche and Presley Hankins, he was the oldest of five siblings.
After high school graduation, he entered welding school in Peoria. When World War II broke out, he then served aboard the destroyer escort, USS Coates as a Radioman 2nd Class. LeRoy was an undefeated Naval Fleet Boxer.
October 25, 1944, he married his sweetheart Ruth Gennell Dallas, whom he lovingly called Nell.
After the war, he began college at Olivet Nazarene College. Upon arrival, he learned that with the large number of GIs entering the College, there wasn't enough housing. He was then given $1,000 and a piece of land and told to build his own house, which he did, learning how to as he went along. The house was 20'X20' and there he lived with his wife and his firstborn baby, Julie. The house still stands today. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Olivet Nazarene University in 1950 and then completed his Master's degree at University of Illinois in 1951.
The US response to Sputnik, the Russian launch of the first Earth satellite, was to pick science teachers to help advance the US sciences. As a result, Mr. Hankins was chosen to study at University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He also attended Ohio State University to further advance his studies.
He then spent 15 years as a science chemistry and physics teacher at Morris, IL and Shelbyville, IL. While at Shelbyville, he also coached their basketball team to a state championship.
Mr. Hankins then moved his family to Mattoon, where he spent 16 years as a Mattoon public school administrator and retired at age 55. After retiring he then picked up extra work at the local funeral home where he helped with embalming bodies and came up with such helpful suggestions as how to speed up the visitation line by moving the casket away from the wall to allow viewing from both sides. The funeral home politely declined.
Mr. Hankins was a devoted and committed Christian and never feared death. He was an active, and lifelong member of the Methodist Church where he taught many Sunday School classes. He overcame his fear of public speaking by joining Toastmasters, he was an avid Cubs fan, where he attended his first professional baseball game as a young boy. He loved golfing, and loved singing and playing his guitar at home, around campfires and up until his late 80s - at local nursing homes.
He also regularly wrote editorials for the Mattoon Journal Gazette for which he was eventually given a regular column and also in the Effingham Daily News. He wrote opinion pieces and also stories about growing up during the depression.
We, his family, will miss his tremendous sense of humor, his perseverance, his wide, beaming smile and reciting the Lord's Prayer in both English and German. His legacy also includes a book he wrote, A Little Milk, A Little Meat which offers "devotional insights into the spiritual life with emphasis on how science reveals God's Nature."
Survivors include his beloved wife, Ruth Gennell Dallas Hankins; his two daughters, Julie (Bruce) Smith of Morris and Libby Hankins Fugate of Chicago. Also surviving are two grandchildren, Jennifer (Mike) Perry of Oglesby, and Brandt (Missy) Smith of Morris; seven great-grandchildren, Alexa, Ashley, Elizabeth and Samuel Shaw, Jessica Scott, Sophie and Josef Smith; and one great-great-grandson, Jace Cailey; and his sister, Lois Gilbert.
Leroy was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Ken, Gene and Lewis; his son, Phillip; and daughter, Lisa.
We are sure they are waiting to greet him in a beautiful life after life on earth.
The family invites you to attend a visitation, and celebration of life at the First United Methodist Church in Morris on Saturday, Oct. 14, with Rev. Robert Sathuri officiating. Visitation begins at 9:30 a.m. and a Memorial Service will begin at 10:30 a.m. Military honors will be provided by the Morris Color Guard and a luncheon to follow in the church. Private burial will take place at a later date. Per LeRoy's wishes, he donated his body to the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. Memorials may be given to the First United Methodist Church.
Fruland Funeral Home, 121 W. Jefferson St., in Morris is in charge of arrangements. For more information, call the funeral home at 815-942-0700 or sign the private online guestbook at www.frulandfuneralhome.com.
Published on October 9, 2017