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An Extraordinary Life: ‘Well-versed in almost anything’

Will County assistant public defender loved a good debate

Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014 10:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, June 22, 2014 10:39 p.m. CDT

WILMINGTON – Barbara Leinweber of Wilmington was packing up her husband’s books. Topics included horse betting, poker, religion, law and safaris.

But that was Kurt Leinweber, said his friend Keith Aeschliman of Shorewood, an attorney, who met Kurt several times a week for lunch and lively debates.

“He knew a little about everything and a lot about a number of things,” Keith said. “He could have done anything he wanted to do in life. He was well-versed in almost everything.”

In some ways, Kurt did exactly that. He certainly experienced many sides of life. For instance, Kurt grew up on a three-flat in Chicago but later bought a small farm in Braidwood and raised Angus steer, lambs, goats, chickens and read up on – and tried to practice – self-sufficiency, Barbara said.

Their children – Will Leinweber of California and Mary Grace Lane of Braidwood – did not always appreciate their father’s commitment to raising all of the family’s food, she added.

“They wanted Kraft Macaroni and Cheese,” Barbara said.

Kurt was a respiratory therapist when Barbara, now a dialysis nurse, met him. While serving in the U.S. Army, he worked as a helicopter mechanic although Kurt was afraid to fly. After flunking out of a junior college, he earned a law degree from Loyola, Barbara said.

Keith said Kurt fought for his clients. Tom Budde of Wilmington, a sergeant with the Will County Sheriff’s department, said Kurt’s defense was vigorous. Public opinion and a person’s stance in the community had little effect on him, Tom added.

Yet, Will, at age 5, missing Kurt terribly on a fishing trip, did sway Kurt.

“He never went fishing in Canada again,” Barbara said.

In 1998, Kurt beat stomach cancer. In 2000 and 2001, Kurt underwent stem cell transplants and participated in a research pilot study for multiple myeloma, she said. In April 2013, Kurt was diagnosed with lung cancer. Still, Kurt only had one thing on his mind: raising his children to adulthood, Barbara said.

Because at his core, Kurt stood for three things, Barbara said: Faith, family and freedom. His Moody Bible training may have enabled Kurt to quote scripture with ease, but he converted to Catholicism (Barbara and the kids are Catholic) so the family could attend church together.

Before his death, Kurt wrote a letter to his children that began with, “You are nothing less than a gift from God.” Barbara felt Kurt being an Eagle Scout contributed to his ideals.

“He believed in all those values of strength, loyalty and living honestly,” Barbara said.

Kurt, Barbara said, studied and compared religions, was passionate about the second amendment, had definite conservative opinions on gun control and pro-life issues, was a Will County Assistant Public Defender and was involved in Will County Drug Court.

In 2006, Pat Quinn, then the lieutenant governor, presented Kurt with an “Environmental Hero” award for his grassroots campaign again tritium leaks, Barbara said.

Tom, who lived a mile away from Kurt, said their commitment to the criminal justice system bonded them, as did their mutual hobby of fishing.

“I learned a lot from him. I miss some of our more spirited discussions,” Tom said. “He definitely had an opinion and was not afraid to share it.”

One thing Kurt was not, Keith said, was vocal about his feelings. Keith said that changed when he visited Kurt in the hospital shortly before his death on April 1 at the age of 64.

“He pulled me close and told me he loved me,” Keith said. “I was glad because he gave me a chance to say it back to him.”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com

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