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Bill Leu's Early Years
Leu's Early Years
father, Don Leu, and his older brother Bill grew up in the 1920s in a
middle-class household in Ballard, Washington, just north of Seattle. As youngsters, they were
best friends, a bond they shared throughout their lives. Throughout the
1920s, their father, George Leu, ran a successful grocery store in Seattle.
George's wife, Minnie May Leu, was a devoted mother to her six children
including her two youngest, Bill and Don.
many other families in America, the
Leus suffered hard times when the Great Depression hit in the early
1930s. Many of George's customers had bought their groceries on credit
and couldn't pay their debts, and although George worked extremely hard to
feed his family, he was eventually forced out of business. In desperation,
and now nearly impoverished, the Leus moved to the logging town of Skykomish,
Washington, in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle where George opened a
small grocery store. George struggled mightily but somehow he managed to put food
on the table each night, and he was a good father and husband.
teenagers, Don and Bill enjoyed the rural atmosphere of Skykomish, spending
their summers working in the woods and on the Great Northern railroad, while spending their winters playing basketball. In the late
1930s, they both starred on Skykomish High School's basketball team, the
Skyrockets, one of the best small-town basketball teams in the state of
Washington. Bill graduated from high school in 1940, a year ahead of his
brother Don, and enlisted with the U.S. Navy in May of 1941. In July, he
signed aboard a new tanker, the U.S.S. Neosho. Although
World War II had started two years earlier with Germany's invasion of Poland, the U.S. was still neutral when Bill
began serving on the Neosho. That would soon change, however.
Above left: That's Bill on the far left in 1924, being held
by his father, George Leu, in Ballard, Washington. Bill's grandfather,
also named George Leu, is in the middle. The elder George grew up in
Switzerland and reputedly stole $400 from his father when he was a young man and
stowed away on a ship bound for America (don't I come from good stock?). On the left is Bill's uncle,
Cliff Lee. Why Lee instead of Leu? That's a whole 'nother story!
Above center: My father, Don Leu (right) and his older brother
Bill, around 1927.
Above right: The Leus took their first plane ride in
1931. Bill and Don, dressed alike as they often did, are in the
front. This was before George Leu (left) lost his grocery store in the
Above left: Bill in downtown Seattle during the summer of
1938, when he was 16.
Above center: Best buddies: Bill and Don in Skykomish,
Washington in 1939.
Above right: Bill's high school graduation photo in 1940.
Above left: A mug shot?
Above center: Fireman, 3rd Class, Bill Leu, just before he
embarked on the Neosho in July 1941.
Above right: Bill with his parents, Minnie May and George
Leu, in Skykomish, Washington.
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