Kenneth Neil Leitch, 91, of Normal, Illinois, passed away peacefully on October 7, 2023 at Agrace Hospice Care in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. A private service will be held in Otsego, Michigan.
Ken started life in Otsego, Michigan as the first child of Mary Rice and Albert Leitch. After graduating from Otsego High School, Ken joined the U.S. Navy and spent the next two years during the Korean War as a radioman aboard ships stationed in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, including extended time on the USS Vesole. He shared many memories from his military service.
After his service, Ken enrolled at Western Michigan University where he met, and later married, Jean Ruess of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Together, they had five daughters. Jean passed away in 2002.
Ken began his lifelong career working for State Farm Insurance Company in 1957, first at the Michigan Regional Office in Marshall, then at the Corporate Headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois. While in Bloomington-Normal, Ken graduated from Illinois State University. He retired from State Farm in 1996. While at State Farm, Ken pioneered the early use of artificial intelligence to guide underwriting activity.
Growing up in Michigan amidst the Great Lakes and many interior lakes, Ken loved to be on or near the water. Travel was also one of Ken’s joys, and his time in the military amplified his post-service interest in travel in the United States and abroad. Bolstered by his remarkable memory, playful wit, and ever-present sense of humor, Ken was a master storyteller, telling tales of these travels and his childhood, military service, and career. Ken also appreciated being at home and talked fondly of the visits of his children and other family and friends to “the homestead” in Normal.
During his time in Marshall and then in Bloomington-Normal, Ken was highly engaged in the community and served in a wide variety of volunteer and leadership roles in the schools and community organizations. These roles included service on the board of the Bloomington-Normal Symphony, which later became the Illinois Symphony. Ken played the saxophone as a youth in a swing band and sang in choirs. He had a lifelong appreciation for expert musicianship, especially admiring virtuoso classical and jazz performers.
In 1993, Ken married Alice McCloud of East Peoria, Illinois. They were together until her death in 2021. Ken was also preceded in death by his parents, his brother, John Leitch (Jennie), and his infant daughter Margaret Rose Leitch.
Survivors include daughters Catherine Mahon (Steven), Hillsboro, Ore.; Carol Leitch Miller Dotson (R. Scott), Lake Forest, Ill.; Laura Leitch (John Coleman), Madison, Wis.; and Angela Budzius (Christopher), Woodbury, Minn.; siblings Carol Leitch, Barbara Leitch LePoer (Kendall), and Alan Leitch (Carol); grandchildren Mark Miller (Arianna), Carolyn Mahon, Scott Mahon (Tracie), and George Budzius; and great-grandchildren Myles and Elias Snodgrass.