Obituary: Johannes Albert van Leeuwen 1932-2017

“Joey” van Leeuwen  and Katie Lee

“Joey” van Leeuwen and Katie Lee

“Joey” van Leeuwen, 85, of Jerome, passed away on November 2, 2017. He was born in Holland and immigrated to Australia in the early 1950s, where he served an apprenticeship as a carpenter and worked on a sheep station. He and his first wife, Minnie, started the Western Australia Aboriginal Movement.

While in Australia, he met his longtime partner, Katie Lee. He moved permanently to Jerome, Arizona in 1980 to live his life with her. He worked as a carpenter, cared for the town’s parks, served on Jerome’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Design Review Board, and on the board of the Jerome Historical Society.

He planted more than 150 trees around town, 86 of which are in his back yard to provide habitat for wildlife. Joey loved birds, drew portraits of them, carved them, and wrote and illustrated a little gem of a book called The Birds of Jerome. 

Anyone who walked into Joey and Katie’s home immediately saw a virtual aviary: hawks, eagles, and ravens that Joey had carved, hanging from the ceiling; doves, ducks, hummingbirds, owls, swallows, and finches, perched on window sills and bookcases. He was a master carver, a humble, kind and gracious man.

He is survived by three children, Stephen van Leeuwen, Elizabeth Embry and Joanne Downey, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all in Australia. He is also survived by two brothers, Albert and Tom of Australia, and two sisters, Annie and Resi of Holland.

A celebration of Joey and Katie’s lives will occur March 24th, 2018, at Spook Hall, in Jerome, Arizona at 2 p.m.

Information provided by survivors.

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