BOYNE CITY: all invited to celebrate Leon Vercruysse’s 90th birthday

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Leon is pictured at home with some of his many pieces of baseball memorabilia. Photo by Chris Faulknor
When you’ve lived 90 years, a lot has happened in your lifetime, especially if you are as gregarious as Leon Vercruysse.

SUBMITTED BY FAWN GLASSFORD

When you’ve lived 90 years, a lot has happened in your lifetime, especially if you are as gregarious as Leon Vercruysse.

Leon has been part of the Boyne community for 31 years and is still as active as ever.

Drop in to join us and celebrate on Oct. 9, Sunday afternoon at Boyne City Tap Room.

He has been a member of the Rotary Club of Boyne City for over 20 years, 11 years a member of the Lake Charlevoix association, and a member of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church.

He is a Veteran of WWII and has participated in numerous Boyne City parades and other activities honoring our Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He resides in the city of Boyne, and gets out daily for a hot meal at the Senior Center and his daily newspaper.

He keeps his mind active doing crossword puzzles and keeping up with the sports!

He was born the first of 5 children and grew up in Detroit.

His school days mostly consisted of parochial schools, but the family moved his senior year and he graduated from Ypsilanti Roosevelt High School just 3 days after “D” day which was June 6, 1944.

Within 3 weeks he had enlisted in the Navy and was at Great Lakes, Illinois then onto Fort Pierce, Florida in the amphibious forces.

Then turning to me with a glint in his eye, he adds, “it was a rude awakening going from parochial schools to the sailors!”

By March 12, 1945 he was aboard ship AKA-37, which was commissioned that day at Providence, Rhode Island.

The ship went through the Panama Canal and docked in Pearl Harbor. After a trip to the Philippines and 3 to Japan, he logged 52,000 nautical miles.

He quickly rattles off these facts of his life, like he is a young man!

He was in service just under 2 years when the war ended.

He participated in the decommissioning of the same ship he started on in Seattle, Wash.

From that time, he went on to pursue a lifelong dream of playing baseball.

He started by going to Joe Stripp Baseball School in Orlando, Florida.

Out of 145 students, 33 got contracts and started in the minor leagues.

He played 4 years in the minor leagues.

He was just 24 when his baseball career ended but it has many lasting memories and connections even to this day.

He has continued with 20 years, from age 63-83, at the Tiger’s Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, Florida and has many ex-Tiger baseball players as his close friends even today.

Presently he visits yearly to keep in contact with his fellow baseball players.

His later life consisted of 27 years of plant security at Chevrolet in Livonia.

He has always loved sports.

He had his private pilot’s license and loved to fly, and loved to downhill ski.

You can usually glance in his window and see him in his favorite chair watching a sporting game!

One of his real loves was running a yearly baseball camp for Camp Quality Kids at Camp Daggett, assisted by Bill Freehan and Jim Northrup.

This was about a 15 year commitment.

Although sports is a priority in his life, the love of his life, was his wife, Madeline, who passed away just a short year ago, Nov. 10, 2015.

He is quick to tell me they shared a happy 47 and a half years of marriage!

She was his greatest cheerleader.

The community is invited to join with him to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Drop in to join us and celebrate on Oct. 9, Sunday afternoon at Boyne City Tap Room.

We will have cake and a card box for you to share any stories as well as wishes for Leon on his big day, a decade before a century, age 90.

Leon is pictured at home with some of his many pieces of baseball memorabilia. Photo by Chris Faulknor
Leon is pictured at home with some of his many pieces of baseball memorabilia. Photo by Chris Faulknor