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Roland James Leveille, 92, of Turners Falls, MA died peacefully on October 27, 2020 at Buckley Health Care Center in Greenfield, MA. His was a life lived to the fullest filled with love for his family, the natural world and natural talents that are within each of the people who touched his life. Beyond doubt the most important and influential person in his life was his wife, Palma Theresa (Totaro) Leveille. A chance meeting at the old rolling skating rink, RIVERVU Rollerway, on Millers Falls Rd in Turners Falls brought the Turners Falls athlete together with the Greenfield High School cheerleader. Sparks flew and despite the objections of Palma’s strict Italian father one thing led to another and they married on November 8, 1947 at Holy Trinity Church in Greenfield MA (with her fathers blessing!) Palma and Rollie had 3 children, Karen Ann Douglas now of Conway, South Carolina, Cynthia RL Webster of Grafton, MA, and James M Leveille of Turners Falls and they created Rollie’s extended family with their spouses, Michael, Kim and Michele and children, Brandon, Ashley, Matthew, Krista, Corey and Eric. He encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue their natural talents always filled with enthusiasm and optimism that they could overcome any challenges and always ready to share their successes.
Rollie was born in Turners Falls, MA on March 25, 1928 the son of Noel and Rose (Sazama) Leveille. He grew up on “rabbit hill” (Turnpike Rd) in Turners with his 5 brothers, Robert, Harold, Raymond, Noel Jr, and Gerald all of whom predeceased him. He graduated from Turners Falls High School in 1945. Rollie was a star catcher on the TFHS baseball team and after graduation spent 7 years (1946 to 1954) playing professional baseball in the Appalachian League and then for the Pittsburgh Pirate organization including time with the Albany Senators and the New Orleans Pelicans. His career was briefly but memorably interrupted when he played for the Baseball Service League in the Army during the Korean War. In 1954, Palma and he had their first child and decided to settle down. So he built a home for them at 7 Walnut St just down the hill from his parents and adjacent to his brother Robert’s house. He worked for a short time on the Boston and Maine railroad with his father and brother. Here he cultivated a lifelong love of the railroad, respecting its connection to his family, its tradition of honest hard work and its vital connection to the community. In his later years he would spend many hours at the South Deerfield train station watching the locomotives move in and out of the station.
Rollie was an avid outdoorsman and longed for a job “working in the woods” He studied to pass the civil service examinations to quality for a job with the Department of Natural Resources in MA and landed his dream job as the park supervisor of Wendell State Forest. It was a labor of love as he worked to make the park a pearl in the MA state park system and won a statewide award for the improvements he did to the park including opening up new trials and campsites and building a new office and garage.
Rollie had a true love of the outdoors. He would sit for hours in his deer stand in the woods in Ashfield enamored by the natural world around him or fish on the banks of the Deerfield river for brook trout in the early morning hours. He was also a skilled carpenter. He worked on weekends for many years as a handyman fixing up old country houses. His children’s homes attest to his woodworking ability as they are filled with tables, hutches, benches, cabinets, bookcases, coffee tables, and night stands that he built for them.
Rollie also enjoyed his games particularly Scrabble, pitch, cribbage, canasta and Bingo. It wasn’t until his daughter learned that “Qi” was a word that she was finally able to beat him in Scrabble.
Never one to sit out a polka, Rollie loved to trip the light fantastic. He had an appreciation of many types of music…Polish, country, romantic crooners. One of the disappointments in his life was that he had to discontinue piano lessons as child due to financial constraints. But he lived vicariously through others and was always front and center for his children’s and grandchildren’s band, chorus and theatrical performances.
Rollie retired in 1990 and he and Palma enjoyed their time traveling around the country to visit old baseball friends and family members. They witnessed the beauty of the Pacific Coast, the desert southwest, the sandy beaches of Hawaii and Florida, the Alaskan coastline and shared pasta and wine with Palma’s ancestors in Italy. Later in retirement they settled into a routine of RV camping around New England finally deciding on a permanent site at West River Camperama in Townshend, VT. At the campground Palma and he met a truly amazing community of friends who have continued to support them over the years.
But Rollie showed his true grit in the last 7 months of his life as he and his wife were sheltered away from the world in order to protect them from the pandemic that is raging throughout our country. Together they sat in their small room with the door closed. The only contact with their loved one through the video from the Internet. Rollie usually a vibrant socialite spent his days watching election coverage (he and my Mom are avid Democrats and have been involved in politics their whole adult lives), talking to his family and friends on the phone and through the internet and trying to figure out the joke of the day (e.g.: What do you call a pony with a cough? A little horse; and What animal is always at a baseball game? A bat). But most importantly he spent his days with the love of his life, Palma, at his side and learned of the challenges and rewards of being a caretaker.
He will be missed dearly, but “batter up” in heaven.
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