Mary Delach Leonard

Work/Life Reporter

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined St. Louis Public Radio in December 2013 when it merged with the St. Louis Beacon. She had been a reporter for the Beacon since April 2008 -- after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by such organizations as the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat (in Illinois) after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

Ways to Connect

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

A couple of Saturdays a month, Buck Newman gets in his SUV in St. Louis and gives homeless dogs and cats a lift.

On a recent trip, Annie, a shaggy dachshund mix, got to ride up front in her crate, while Goliath, 175 pounds of mostly mastiff, filled up the back. Annie’s tail was already wagging at top speed, as Newman started the engine.

Army veteran Horace Montgomery practices in the pool at the Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Center. He says kayaking has been motivating as he recovers from open-heart surgery and a hip replacement.
Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

Veterans Day 2015 finds Jason Pilarksi among the thousands of U.S. veterans who are still battling physical and emotional wounds from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pilarksi, who served three tours of duty with the Army in Iraq, says he finds peace some days while paddling a kayak on a quiet Missouri lake.

“I just like to get out on the water and go,” he says.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

As part of the 50th anniversary festivities for the Gateway Arch, the National Park Service invited media to the top of the monument Wednesday morning to peek out the hatch.

It's really windy 630 feet above the city.

And awesome.

July 14, 1964: CORE demonstrators Percy Green (top) and Richard Daly on the Arch.
Paul Ockrassa | St. Louis Globe-Democrat | courtesy St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Updated 1:13 p.m., Oct. 28 with "St. Louis on the Air" audio - The Gateway Arch was just halfway to the sky on July 14, 1964, when two St. Louis civil rights activists climbed 125 feet up a construction ladder on the unfinished north leg to protest the project’s lack of African-American workers.

It would become an iconic moment in city history.


Vito Comporato, right, and another worker during the construction of the Gateway Arch.
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Archives

The story of the engineers and ironworkers who built Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch never gets old, and Wednesday — the 50th anniversary of "topping out" day — might be one of the last opportunities for St. Louisans to meet the men and shake their hands.

Because a standard monumental shape — an obelisk, rectangle or dome — wouldn’t do for Saarinen, the Arch remains a one-of-a-kind monument built of 630 feet of Wow! His design was modern and bold:  a sleek and outsized arch of gleaming stainless steel on the St. Louis riverfront that would celebrate America’s pioneer spirit.

The Baby Arch project

It’s headed for St. Louis, an arch to the sky;

A Gateway to the West, 630 feet high.

A hundred generations will see what you’ve made

Risin’ on the Mississippi with glory and grace.

— “An American Dream” by Ike Erdman and David Bush

Retired welder Ike Erdmann is proud of the work that he and nearly 300 Pennsylvania boilermakers did on the Gateway Arch 50 years ago, so he wrote and recorded a song about them.

Bryan Werner | Metro East Park and Recreation District

Five, four, three, two, one ... Look up!

The three 800-horsepower engines that power the Gateway Geyser are reaching warp speed, sounding strong enough to launch a rocket.

At full power, the geyser shoots 7,500 gallons of water per minute into the sky above the East St. Louis riverfront. If it’s not windy, the watery blast can reach 600 feet, nearly the height of the Gateway Arch, which is directly across the Mississippi River.

This National League Central Division series will be historic: The Cards and Cubs are facing one another for the first time ever in the postseason, and the best-of-five series opens Friday at Busch Stadium.

As rivalries go, this one is tops. But our money’s on Cardinals fans because when it comes to the proper waving of rally towels they’ve had lots of experience.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis family of Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra gathered Wednesday on the porch of his boyhood home on The Hill to mourn the passing of the 90-year-old baseball legend, who died on Tuesday.

“Last night was very sad. We had time to all talk to each other and to cry to each other and just to love and remember him before this craziness started today,’’ said Mary Frances Brown, Berra’s niece.

Courtesy Missouri History Museum

If you visit the new “Arch Perspectives” exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, take the time to read the story cards written by St. Louisans about the iconic riverfront monument. The personal thoughts range from joyful to angry:

The Goldenrod sits along an Illinois river bank.
Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The gloom of the skies over the Illinois River matched the mood aboard the historic Goldenrod Showboat Wednesday afternoon, as one of her loyal guardians ushered reporters and photographers around the creaky vessel for one last photo op.

The historic Goldenrod Showboat is currently docked near Kampsville, Ill.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Update 9 a.m. Wednesday: The historic Goldenrod Showboat has suffered serious structural damage that has sunk plans for its eventual return to the St. Louis riverfront, according to the  volunteer group that’s been working to preserve the landmark.

Ferguson Historical Society

The photo is an iconic image of post-World War II America: A bustling downtown main street lined with sturdy Chevys, Fords and Chryslers. Pedestrians strolling past a hodgepodge of storefronts with flashy light-up signs: Barbays Self-Service Market, King Drugs, Florsheim shoes, Coca Cola.

 

This was Ferguson, Mo., in the late 1950s, just past the midpoint of its 120-year history.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

Ten years after Army Private LaVena Lynn Johnson died in Iraq, her father keeps family photographs of her tucked away in his basement office in his Florissant home, so that his wife doesn’t see them.

John Johnson says she finds the images too painful to look at: A smiling LaVena in gold cap and gown, Class of 2004, Hazelwood Central High. LaVena posing in a powder blue formal gown.

The Army says the 19-year-old soldier killed herself in Iraq -- a finding that her family has never believed.

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates and National Park Service

What’s it like to perch atop the Gateway Arch, 630 feet above the city of St. Louis?

The National Park Service has been releasing stunning videos of technicians from the Wiss, Janney, Elstner  engineering firm roping down the north leg to collect samples of the discoloration on the monument’s stainless steel exterior.

For St. Louisans, who watched in awe as the workers hung onto the shiny icon last October, the videos are must-see: The footage was captured with GoPro cameras mounted on the helmets of the Arch-walkers, and it’s … dizzying.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The elm and oak trees have grown tall with age in Section 57 of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County. It’s a quiet place, where songbirds rule the peace from the branches above.

Amid the white marble tombstones, row on row, stands one stone obelisk from another era. It marks the final resting place of African-American Civil War soldiers from Missouri who died from cholera in August 1866, as they made their way home from the war.

Harry S. Truman
Frank Gatteri | United States Army Signal Corps

It’s the 70th anniversary of V-E Day — and a good day to thank a World War II veteran.

We’ll begin with a classic newsreel, “The War Ends in Europe,” which includes footage of President Harry S. Truman on May 8, 1945, announcing the Nazi surrender. The Missourian had been president for just about a month, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

It’s 1865 once more in the Land of Lincoln.

On Sunday, an army of uniformed re-enactors, about 1,000 strong, will take to the streets of Springfield, Ill., in a somber spectacle recreating the grand funeral procession for President Abraham Lincoln who was buried in the city’s cemetery 150 years ago.

Traci Haines
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

The importance of community can’t be stressed enough, according to mothers of students at North Side Community School who attended a recent session of The Listening Project. Susan Spann and Traci Haines also shared insights about the lasting impact of the foreclosure crisis. They agree that the large numbers of vacant homes in North St. Louis continue to tear at the fabric of their neighborhoods.

Courtesy St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals will be seeing Red tonight, as they honor their beloved No. 2.

A tribute to Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst will be held at 7 p.m. before the game — the 70th anniversary of his first major league appearance — and will continue throughout the season with a social media campaign.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

The concession stands at Busch Stadium will be stocked with the classics — peanuts, hot dogs and burgers — for Opening Day, but Cardinals fans will also find “walking tacos," chicken and waffle sandwiches and deep-fried Oreos.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The Redbirds are back, and it’s about time.

Because it just isn’t spring in St. Louis until Cardinals and Clydesdales are sighted at Busch Stadium.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

With the home opener one week away, Cardinals fans should be prepared for ramped-up security at Busch Stadium and allow extra time to walk through new metal detectors at all gates.

Unlike at the airport, fans won’t have to take off their shoes and belts. But they will have to put their keys, cell phones and metal objects on tables when they pass through the detectors, says Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The expert Easter egg fillers at Canterbury Enterprises in Shrewsbury packed 5.5 million plastic eggs with candy and toys this year — a new record for the nonprofit sheltered workshop that employs about 100 people with disabilities.

Maren Leonard | For St. Louis Public Radio

The door swings open to the production floor of Bissinger’s new candy factory on the St. Louis riverfront, and . . . oh, my . . .

CHOCOLATE.

Photo courtesy Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

After word spread that the cash-strapped Cahokia Mounds Museum Society was crowdfunding to raise $7,500 to print brochures for the storied Illinois landmark -- the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico -- donations poured in from down the road, around the globe and from a mysterious alternate reality.

Photo courtesy Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Faced with declining revenue, the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society has turned to crowdfunding to raise $7,500 to print the informational brochures that are currently handed out at the world-renowned landmark, which is the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico. The goal for the brochures was reached shortly after noon on Feb. 25 but has been fluctuating.

The historic Goldenrod Showboat is currently docked near Kampsville, Ill.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

A volunteer group says it’s making slow but steady progress in its effort to restore the historic Goldenrod Showboat for an eventual return to the St. Louis riverfront.

Photograph courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / St. Louis District

Two years after the Great Flood of 1927 devastated the lower Mississippi River Valley, blues singers Kansas Joe McCoy and Lizzie “Memphis Minnie” Douglas shared the pain in their classic “When The Levee Breaks:”

If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break

If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break

And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay ...

Michael "Sonny" Trimble directs the archives and artifacts collection of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

These days, Marine veteran Ryan Schatz works a quiet job, painstakingly photographing Native American arrowheads and shards of ceramic pottery unearthed decades ago during construction projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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