Leo was born on January 1, 1918 on his family farm in Bedford; he was the cherished son of the late John and Julia (Shuman) Gittzus. Leo was raised in Bedford and graduated from Lexington High School.
Leo went on to further his education at Fitchburg State College earning a Bachelors Degree and his Master’s Degree in education from Boston University.
Leo enlisted in the United States Navy on March 21, 1942 in Newport, RI during WWII and was assigned to the USS Lindsey. During one of the battles at sea the USS Lindsey was attacked by a Kamikaze pilot and the entire front end of the ship was damaged. Leo didn’t think of his own safety but that of his fellow shipmates and his beloved ship; Leo’s courage and selfless service was most important in the assistance of getting the ship to safety near Iwo Jima. Although many sailors died or were seriously injured that day and those who survived were sent home right away Leo chose to stay an extra 50 days to repair his beloved ship. Leo was honorably discharged on December 7, 1945 in Boston, MA, after more than three years of faithful and loyal service to his country and was notably decorated as a hero following his bravery during the attack on the USS Lindsey.
Upon returning home from his military service, Leo started his career teaching and education in Provincetown. Leo taught in Provincetown for a few years before taking a teaching position at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown. Leo’s dedication, kindness and compassion for his students led him to stay at Perkins for a few years. Leo eventually went on to teach Industrial Arts in the Lexington Public School System for over thirty years and retired as the Director of the Department. Leo’s enthusiasm toward his students and the changes in the education system along with his gentle nature made him not only a favorite teacher but a wonderful co-worker as well.
While teaching at Perkins, Leo met and fell in love with a fellow teacher Maurine Nilsson. Leo and Maurine were soon inseparable and the best of friends. The couple married and eventually settled on Glen Road in Wilmington where they spent more than 50 years. Leo loved his home on Glen Road and could often be found outside tending to his gardens and sending out a friendly hello to everyone who walked past; he always had that great smile and friendly disposition.
Leo and Maurine shared a passion for teaching, volunteering, and always lending a hand to those less fortunate. In their spare time they enjoyed travelling all over the world but were especially fond of their trips to the West Coast. Leo and Maurine cherished the time spent with their family and friends always eager to share stories of the places they had been and the different cultures they had learned. Leo and Maurine loved to spend time at their second home in Vermont, nicknamed “The View.” The nickname suited the home just right because of its breathtaking view. Leo and Maurine loved to host special functions at The View, including the annual Kiwanis weekend away where a great time was had by all. The house was situated on over seventy acres of land, which allowed for the growing of Christmas Trees. Leo and Maurine brought their special Christmas tree home to Wilmington each year. Leo had many fond memories with his beloved Maurine and has missed her dearly since her passing in 2004.
Leo loved his community; he was very active in many organizations and made countless friends along the way. Leo was always willing to give of his time and talents and eager to help whenever and wherever needed. Leo spent many hours volunteering for various fund raisers and loved to remain involved; whether it was attending a meeting or working one of the functions, he would be right there with a smile. Leo was instrumental in forming the Kiwanis Club of Wilmington and was a Charter Member who had almost perfect attendance at the Kiwanis meetings for more than 40 years. During the Wilmington Fourth of July celebrations, Leo could always be found under the Kiwanis tent behind the popcorn machine with a kind word to everyone. Leo also was proud to be a Mason, an involved member of the Friendship Lodge, and an active member of the Shriner’s Organization. Leo found great pleasure in doing for others and helping out worthy causes; he was truly an kind and amazing gentleman.
Leo will be remembered fondly as a beloved resident of Wilmington; his kind and gentle manner made him very well-known to all. Leo will be sorely missed by his large extended family and network of friends.
Leo was the beloved husband of the late Maurine (Nilsson) Gittzus, cherished son of the late John and Julia (Shuman) Gittzus, dear brother of the late Emma Czulada, Raymond Gittzus, Ruth Wenzlow and John Gittzus. Leo is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.
Family and friends will gather for a Funeral Service at the Wilmington Congregational Church, 220 Middlesex Ave., (Rte. 62), Wilmington on Wednesday, July 15th at 10:30 a.m. Visiting hours will be held at the Nichols Funeral Home, Inc., 187 Middlesex Ave., (Rte. 62), Wilmington on Tuesday, July 14th from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Memorial donations in Leo’s name may be made to the Friendship Lodge, Attn: Dick Searfoss, 32 Church Street, Wilmington, MA 01887; Kiwanis Club of Wilmington, P.O. Box 263, Wilmington, MA 01887; or to Fitchburg State University Foundation, Inc., 160 Pearl St., Fitchburg, MA 01420.