Emile C. Leone, 93, a former longtime resident of New Paltz and Poughkeepsie, passed away September 21 at the Mountainside Senior Living, in Crozet, Virginia. Born in Poughkeepsie on June 18, 1925, Emile was one of seven children born to Emilio and Carmela (née DeCarlo) Leone, who both immigrated to America from Italy around the turn of the 20th century.
Emile grew up in Poughkeepsie and attended Poughkeepsie High School, where he graduated in 1943. After a few gap years, which included a trip to Finland as Community Ambassador for Poughkeepsie, Emile enrolled at State University College of Education (now SUNY-New Paltz), where he studied elementary education and graduated in 1953. He earned his master’s degree in audio-visual education from Syracuse University in 1954. He was the first in his family to attend and graduate from a four-year college and go on to receive a master’s degree.
As a young man, Emile worked for the Experiment for International Living, a high school summer abroad program established in 1932 in Putney, Vermont. It was there that he met his future wife, the former Mary Ellen Amato, who worked in the office as an executive secretary. Emile and Mary were married on June 13,1959 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Brattleboro, Vermont.
A resident of Crozet, Virginia since 2013, Emile spent most of his life in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York. In 1960 he and Mary moved to New Paltz, where they raised their three children in a sprawling historic farmhouse on Butterville Road. There, they were also landlords/fairy godparents to countless young people during the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s.
Emile began his teaching career in the Red Hook Central School District as an audio-visual director before taking on that role at SUNY-New Paltz. From 1963 to 1981, he taught English to 7th and 8th graders in the Poughkeepsie City School District. It was impossible to travel to Poughkeepsie with him and not run into one of his former students, who invariably would say, “You were the best teacher I ever had. You were strict, but that was good!”
He also contributed outside the classroom and loved performing in school productions. His tour-de-force portrayal of “Dead-Eye Dick,” the salty sailor in the comic opera “H.M.S. Pinafore,” was a particular highlight.
After he retired, he went into the antique business with Mary as his partner. He was the buyer; she was the arbiter of style.
A strong believer in high quality public education, Emile helped form the New York State Union of Teachers in 1972. He was most proud of working hard to secure a living wage pension for former teachers. He was also very civic-minded and volunteered regularly at voting centers. An active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in New Paltz, he sang in the choir and often led the congregation in prayers as a cantor.
Emile could light up a room with his positive energy. He was fun and loved family and friends unconditionally. He enjoyed travelling and made many trips to Europe over his lifetime. He welcomed friends from around the world into his home in the spirit of international peace and understanding.
Survivors include his children, Renata Leone and her husband, Matt Howe, of Carmel, New York; Peter-John Leone and his wife, Camilyn Kuhns Leone, of Crozet, Virginia; and Elisa Leone and her husband, Scott Smith, of Cameron Mills, New York.
He is also survived by four grandchildren, Angus and Kiera Leone, Wesley and Maria Smith, and his niece, Patricia Nocket, and nephew, John Mascolino, of Poughkeepsie.
He was predeceased by Mary, his beloved wife of 29 years, as well as his grandson, Shane Howe. His siblings, Carmela (Millie) Anselo, Mary Mascolino, Peter Leone, Philomena (Minnie) Pugnali, John Leone, a decorated war hero, and Antoinette Leone, also predeceased him.
His memory will live on in our hearts forever. Services will take place at 10:30 a.m. on November 3 at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Gardiner. Please join us afterward for a reception and celebration of his life at Deyo Hall, 6 Broadhead Avenue, New Paltz.
Donations can be made in his name to the Jefferson Area Board on Aging (the non-profit organization that runs Mountainside Senior Living), The St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Hospice of Virginia, or your local hospice organization.