Leiter had concern for others

February 13, 2005

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Pastor Brian Lynn Leiter, who died Feb. 3 at the age of 58. His obituary appeared in the Feb. 5 edition of The Herald-Mail.

As the mother of four boys, Virginia Elizabeth "Be" Eckstine Leiter said she got used to them bringing home stray animals of all kinds.

"Brian, on the other hand, used to pick up stray people ... he did that all his life," she said.

An ordained minister, Brian Leiter was 58 when he died of leukemia Feb. 3.

Talking about her eldest son just six days after his death, Be said she always will remember his kindness, his love and his selflessness.


"Brian looked at me and apologized for putting me through this," she said as she sat with him at the hospital. "He was thinking of me, not of himself."

Sandy Leiter, Brian's wife of 30 years, said she has been reading and rereading the letters and notes she has received since the Feb. 7 funeral.

"There is no way to adequately thank everybody who came or wrote because Brian had touched their lives," Sandy said.

The most treasured notes came from grandchildren Kandice and Chuck Donivan, who wrote down their feelings about Poppy, the name they had for their grandfather.

Kandice, 17, saw him as a kind, nice and loving person who always was trying to help someone out.

Chuck, 11, wrote about going fishing with Poppy or getting a little treasure each time he visited.

As a child in the 1950s, Brian and his family lived on Lexington Avenue in the house his mother still calls home.

"Brian was a bright little boy," she said. "He could read The New York Times before he was 5 years old."

A concern for people blossomed early in Brian's life and stayed with him to the end. Be remembered several occasions when Brian would encounter children in the neighborhood who were less fortunate and he would bring them home for her to feed.

Be said Brian's leukemia was diagnosed about two years ago.

"First, he had Lyme disease and then pneumonia and he never bounced back from that," she said.

After the diagnosis, Brian was in and out of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for aggressive, and sometimes experimental, treatments.

At one point, Brian's brother, Michael, volunteered as a bone marrow donor. Hopes were high for about six months after the procedure, but the leukemia returned.

"I was happy to do it, but sorry it didn't have better results," Michael said.

The youngest brother, Dan, said he remembers Brian's love of cars, particularly a 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible.

"Brian picked me up and we were on our way to Superior Dairy for ice cream when my towel blew out of the car," Dan said.

When Brian looked back for the towel, he swerved and hit another car with his beloved Impala.

"He was mad, but he got over it ... that's the way he was," Dan said.

Always a music lover, Brian combined that love with his early careers working at radio station WYII and K&L Productions, which brought big stars to the area for concerts.

But Sandy said Brian found his calling when he turned to the ministry. Over the years, he served as an associate pastor at the Tribe of Judah Ministry, and then pastor of First Brethren Church.

Prison Ministry also held his interest for many years, Sandy said.

"So many people came up to me at the funeral to say how Brian had touched their lives," Sandy said. "Some were former inmates who told me Brian helped them find God."

Brian's den mother from Cub Scouts was at the funeral. His longtime "little brother" from Big Brothers was there, too, all grown up and married, Sandy said.

Music and religion always were intertwined in Brian's life, according to his mother. After Brian returned from several mission trips to Haiti and Mexico, he wrote a song titled "I Saw a Man Die."

"We played a tape recording of Brian singing that song at the funeral," she said.

When the end came, Be said she was sitting with her son, holding his hand.

"I saw him die," she said. "It was the first time I've ever seen anyone die, and it was my son."

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