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Monday October 22nd 2018

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Leon Oman retires after 28 years in Community Education at Andersen Elementary

001 oct 09 Oman Leon try threeBy Harvey Winje
Two hundred people greeted and cheered Leon Oman on his last day of 28 years as a Minneapolis Schools Community Education Coordinator at Andersen School in the Phillips Community. His years as a community educator brought together his passion for education, his seven years experience as a social worker, as well as, his involvement in citizen participation in the Rice Park neighborhood. Five presenters reminisced about years spent, experiences shared and generally agreed that there were no skeletons about which they could “roast” Leon. However, they altered a shared experience while on a car trip in order to be sure we all knew Leon had made at least one mistake in his career.

The Webster Open School Cafeteria was gaily decorated setting the mood for an upbeat celebration that included several of Leon’s family members, Phillips Community residents, community leaders from many neighborhoods, past interns, students, current and former colleagues and many, many friends. Paul Boranian attended the event. He was the founder of Community Education in Minneapolis, its director for many years and was the person who hired Leon 28 years ago. Community Education’s current Director, Jack Tamble also paid a tribute to Leon.

The program was one and a half hours long as attendees shared personal experiences and examples of Leon’s gentle demeanor whether he is handling parking or curriculum issues, interfacing with the day school, student conduct, or sustaining relationships with many community groups in South Minneapolis. One former principal said he recalled that when he first came to Andersen, he discovered that meeting new neighbors, interfacing with personnel for the first time, or bringing up new ideas were all made more credible if he just mentioned Leon’s name first. He then said that he discovered the same was true when he was reassigned years later to a North Minneapols school. Yes, indeed Leon’s name and reputation precede him and it is all good.

01_Leon and company

Leon Oman (center) and some of the AmeriCorps members who have served over the years at Andersen with him

At the end of the program of speakers, awards, a bit of roasting, and much agreement amongst all gathered, Leon spoke as only Leon can with words of gracious diffusion by praising his supportive family and colleagues. He introduced his wife, Elaine, 88-year-old mother, Charlotte, his sister Linda, and son Jeff. He also explained that their daughter Kristen Oman Lokvicic and her husband Tomy Lokvicic were unable to be in Minneapolis due to work at a Chicago restaurant being in the midst of expansion to another location. Leon was happy to report that Jeff has purchased a home in Minneapolis thus supporting Minneapolis schools with real estate tax. This was Leon’s good natured rebuff to long-time kidding that he lived in St Paul Merriam Park neighborhood while working in Minneapolis.

Leon shared several stories and memories but one that stood out from the rest was a childhood memory. He explained that after his mother would take his sister and him to the dentist in Northeast Minneapolis, they would go to Bridgeman’s Ice Cream store for a treat. Their mother would point out to them that the manager was a good manager because he was amidst the other employees and the customers and also bussing dishes. Leon said he never forgot that and kept it in mind at his own community education work all these years. Many community educators in the audience concurred that this is an important attribute to apply to one’s job, to be able to “bus the dishes” along with everyone else.

Students, parents, interns, fellow teachers, and neighborhood friends will miss Leon in the next months just as we miss large, solid trees that have shaded us, and added to the environment in so many ways. However, sometimes we take these trees for granted and don’t notice they are gone until they are uprooted by storms like this past summer on Portland Avenue, for example. Leon is like those trees in many ways.
Leon is anticipating writing something like “An Ode to Retirement” for the November issue of The Alley, one month into his retirement and no longer making the daily trek along Marshall Avenue and Lake Street. Friends, students, parents wishing to still get a note to Leon may send it in care of The Alley Newspaper, P.O. Box 7006, Mpls., MN 55407 or by e-mail. Please consider giving permission for The Alley to print your note at the Editor’s discretion.

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