One of the oldest residents of the Capital District and longtime Delmar resident Agnes Leonard, known to her family and friends as Nimmie, died Monday, Sept. 25, at 108 years old.
"She was a fairly unique person," said her granddaughter Lonna Hitchcock. "She had a passion for learning and reading, and she inspired me as a teacher."
Leonard was born in 1898, the same year famous composer George Gershwin was born and the year Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders led the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. She was an accomplished musician who played cello for the Albany Symphony Orchestra for many years. She was also an accomplished pianist who took lessons well into her 90's. Hitchcock believes Leonard's passion for music is what sustained her health for well over a century.
"I honestly think it was the music," said Hitchcock. "She would play Beethoven pieces, and her task was to transpose them and memorize them."
Leonard's last recital was at the Bethlehem Public Library when she was 96.
"She always had her piano music with her when she traveled," Hitchcock said.
Leonard was known throughout the community for baking her homemade bread and rolls daily until entering the nursing home three years ago.
"Everyone was a beneficiary of her rolls and baked bread," said Hitchcock.
Leonard was active in the Bethlehem school community, serving as a substitute teacher for more than 30 years. She was recently acknowledged as the oldest surviving graduate of Syracuse University.
Leonard was married for 67 years to Alfred H. Leonard, and Hitchcock said the two enjoyed taking trips in their Volkswagen camper to Paradox Lake.
"My grandmother loved going to Tanglewood, and my sister and I would picnic on the lawn," said Hitchcock.
One childhood memory Hitchcock has of her grandmother resonates more than any other.