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Obituary: Rollie Leeburg, ex-Petaluma High teacher


Rollie Leeburg, a longtime business teacher at Petaluma High School and World War II veteran, died Sept. 24 after a fight with cancer. He was 88.

Leeburg's 30-year career as a Petaluma teacher began in 1953 and spanned an era of breathtaking technological change. It was a revolution that the former Navy radioman always aimed to keep up with.

At college, after his military service, he'd become a student of typewriter use and repair. By the time of his retirement in 1983, he'd incorporated computers into his classroom and home.

"He liked all that stuff," said his wife, Shirley. "He went for everything."

An affable presence at Petaluma High, Leeburg headed up its business department for years. Courses included business administration, bookkeeping, typing and office machine and computer operation.

He often taught classes other teachers turned down and sought out students who had been passed over, relatives said.

Of those tougher students, his wife, herself a retired Petaluma elementary school teacher, said, "He'd find something that interested them."

Raised in Hutchinson, Kan., where he graduated from high school, Leeburg enlisted in the Navy just before his 19th birthday.

He was a crewman on a PBY Catalina, a float plane used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts and search and rescue missions. He was a radio operator and gunner and was stationed throughout the country, including Alameda Naval Base and Oahu, and Parry Island in the western Pacific Ocean.

He served in Japan after the country's surrender, with a final post in Sasebo, on the southernmost island, where his crew transported mail and passengers throughout eastern Asia.

While overseas, he wrote daily to his future wife, the former Shirley Junker, whom he met when they were arranged for a dinner-dance while he was stationed in Alameda. The couple were married in 1947. They lived in San Francisco while he completed college at San Francisco State and moved to Petaluma in 1953 for his high school job. The couple raised three children.

The family traveled frequently, including tours abroad and extended camping trips in the U.S. He was active in Elim Lutheran Church in Petaluma and the seniors group Sons in Retirement, Branch 58.

An avid San Francisco 49ers fan, Leeburg and his wife were season-ticket holders for 54 years and attended three Super Bowls.

Those 49er championships were years in the making, but Leeburg never had a bad word to say about his team, said his son, Rod Leeburg of Sonoma.

"He said they were going to win this year, too," his wife said. "That was on his bucket list — that he live long enough to watch them in the Super Bowl."

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by daughters Lori Leeburg of Rohnert Park and Karen Smith of Hayward; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Friday at Elim Lutheran Church, 504 Baker St., Petaluma. Donations can be made to Hospice of Petaluma, 416 Payran St., Petaluma.

—Brett Wilkison