Aunt Justine was known for writing eulogies for family and friends, so I wasn’t too surprised that she wrote part of her own:
Hello, my name is Justine Leonard. For most of my working career, I was a ghost writer, the voice and second banana for many of Milwaukee’s movers and shakers. To drop a few names: Mitchell Fromstein, John Kelly, George Dalton, Bernie Strachota, Bill Randall, Laura Strain, and many others. So now that I really am a ghost, I may as well speak for myself. I might mention that I was known for my quick wit and dry sense of humor.
I was born October 30th, 1931. I’m a Milwaukee lifer, although I traveled a lot. My best friend, Judy, and I were known as double trouble. We traveled from coast to coast visiting factories, museums, pyramids, bakeries, and lots of other places.
For many years, I was the loving caregiver for my mother, Adeline. Every Christmas, we displayed my antique, windup toy collection. Later, my Halloween toy collection grew, and we invited guests to a spooky visit with toys that moaned, groaned, and shrieked. I loved it when little kids sent notes saying, “Thank you for scaring me.”
I hung around with a crowd that loved practical jokes. I was once pranked into believing that Deanna Durbin, once a famous Hollywood singer, had accepted my invitation to join us at our annual Academy award party. By the way, Judy and I repeatedly threw the best Academy Award party in town.
I was a show biz junkie. On stage or screen, walking, talking, singing, or dancing, I just couldn’t get enough. I loved getting calls from family and friends asking which show they should go see.
While ghost writer Justine made an incredible start to her eulogy, it appears that she became preoccupied by the “big show in the sky” before adding a closing number. I reached out to a couple other ghosts to see if they could provide a finale for Justine.
Film critic Roger Ebert said, “I was thoroughly mesmerized by the movie of Justine’s life. I especially appreciated her love for film. When her nieces and nephews came to visit, she would snuggle them into giant nests and let them watch movies all night. And when she went to the theater, she was a pro at sneaking into a second movie without paying! (Don’t worry – I know that God has already forgiven her.) My favorite scene was when she took 4-year Ciaran to the movies and explained that you can buy a ticket for a second movie at the popcorn stand. Little did she know that little Ciaran would come home and report this to their parents! Overall, I give Justine four out of four stars.”
The ghost of film critic Gene Siskel said, “In the movie of her life, Justine is over the top generous. There are so many scenes of her coming to Christmas with a trunk load of gifts for the kids. Presents their parents would never dream of buying – a Polly Pocket cruise ship, Potty Kelly and Pokeman stuff galore. In the later scenes, Justine would complain about all the greed at Christmas and vow to cut back. Then, she’d show up on a different day of the year sneaking in gifts for what she would call, ‘Just Because Day.’ I’m going to do something unheard of and give Justine’s life 5 out of 4 stars. She was one of the greats!”
2 thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert! And so many thumbs up from friends, loved ones and anyone who had the good fortune to meet Justine. She was a loving, supportive, kind and generous aunt and a beloved friend and mentor to many. We love you, Justine!
A Collaboration between Justine Leonard and Bridget Purdome
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