Mary LeBlanc died July 29, 2020, at the age of 90.
Mary Kate Brice was born May 19, 1930, in Chicago, and spent most of her childhood in Elmhurst, Illinois, though during World War II the family was moved to army bases
in the South.
Her mother taught her to read before she started kindergarten, and she remained an excellent student. One of her early teaching experiences occurred during high school, when the Latin teacher was taken ill, and she was assigned to teach the freshman class until a qualified substitute Latin teacher could be hired. Just for fun, she entered the state Latin competition later that year, taking first place.
She studied nuclear physics at the University of Michigan, earning her PhD in 1957. She moved then to Idaho Falls, continuing her research at the National Reactor Testing Station. In her spare time, she volunteered to teach basic physics to the reactor technicians and technical Russian to her fellow physicists, and she played in the community symphony orchestra as well.
In 1961, she married her friend and former Michigan colleague, James M. LeBlanc, and moved to Livermore to begin their family. She played in the Livermore Symphony Orchestra and found many opportunities to volunteer in the church, in Girl Scouts and at Sonoma Avenue School, where she taught reading, math and science until the school closed in 1983.
Her largest project at the school began when the principal asked if she could create a science lab. She agreed, and almost every 4th through 6th grader went to Mrs. LeBlanc’s room once a week to participate in science classes, complete with lab reports, which, much to the pleasure of the 4th graders, did not need to be written in cursive, but only had to be legible. She was always pleased to hear later when students had enjoyed these classes and been inspired to pursue careers in science.
In 1993, she returned to school as a student, in the summer intensive Greek workshop at UC Berkeley. She continued studying classical Greek texts for the next 26 years, making regular trips to the Berkeley campus to use the library and meet with a series of tutors in the classics department.
She continued tutoring in math, grammar, French, Hebrew, Greek, and other subjects, encouraging many to further their education, and helped edit several books. She played the cello at home, enjoying regular chamber music sessions with family and friends.
She loved learning, and she loved her teachers, students, colleagues, friends and neighbors. She treasured decades-long correspondences with a number of faraway friends, being delighted when the development of email technology simplified the writing process. She also continued loving and praying for those who were not able to keep in touch.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Jim; daughter, Clare; and brother, Bill. She is survived by her children, Mary, Anne and James LeBlanc and Elizabeth Frayne; and grandchildren, Charles, Sonja and Sam Frayne.
A small, socially distanced funeral mass was celebrated Aug. 4, at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Livermore.
Here are a few ideas for ways you might choose to honor Mary’s memory:
Share your knowledge, talents or enthusiasms with someone else.
Learn something new.
Support a reputable charitable organization, such as CARE or the Alameda County Community Food Bank.
If you have memories to share with others who knew her, you can post them at mary-k-leblanc.muchloved.com.