Leonard Daniel Isban, 93, passed away on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, Indiana. The son of Alex and Elizabeth (Robakowski) Isban, of South Bend, Indiana, Leonard graduated from Washington High School and enlisted afterwards in the United States Navy, serving in the Pacific aboard the USS Vammen. It was on that ship that he won several prizefights, a fact he only recently revealed, to his family’s surprise. He went on to receive an honorable discharge from the US Navy and return to South Bend where he met JoAnn Zell, who charted the course of his future happiness.
They were married in September of 1948, at Holy Cross parish, and were blessed with three children who survive. Jessica (Paul) Maich, Michael (Debi) Isban, and Susan (Greg) Payne, and nine grandchildren including Emily (Chris) Killilea, Katherine Maich, Hilary Maich, Cole (Veronica) Isban, Connor Isban, Kelly (Tom) Rybicki, Brittany (Stephon) Tuitt, Davis (Mikayla) Payne, and Lily Payne. In addition, Leonard ‘s family expanded to include seven great-grandchildren: Fiona and Stella Robertson; Noah Rybicki; Payne, Solomon, and Gwendolyn Tuitt; and Leonard Isban. It was in this family that he felt most blessed.
After working for several packaging companies as a traveling salesman early in his career, Leonard recognized a need in the interior door industry. With the support of JoAnn, Leonard began producing small batches of corrugated honeycomb prototypes in their basement. When satisfied, they took the leap forward and formed Mid-American Container in a small building in Plymouth, Indiana in 1965. This business, renamed American Containers, ultimately expanded over the years, and currently includes facilities in Plymouth, Indiana, Carrollton, Georgia and Stockton, California. Perhaps Leonard was most proud that he and JoAnn could accomplish all of this by including in the company his son Michael, and his sons-in-law, Paul Maich and Greg Payne. His was a true family business.
But business was not all that occupied Leonard. He was a voracious reader all his life and could talk to anyone about anything. Countless times he stunned his grandchildren by the breadth of his knowledge about the world around him, wealth of his historical references, and impressive vocabulary, just one of the many reasons they were all so proud of him.
As a successful business owner, Leonard immersed himself in giving back to the community he felt had been very good to him. He was a lifelong enthusiast for the United Way of Marshall County and a supporter of St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School. With other business leaders, he was instrumental in raising money to build the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Plymouth. For that work, and for his continued involvement and support, he and JoAnn received the Community Service Award in 1999 and 2016.
As avid and loyal supporters of the University of Notre Dame, the couple were consistent donors to the University’s Scholarship Program, Golf and Football Programs, and proud of their donation of the Isban Auditorium, located in the Guglielmino Athletic Complex.
But perhaps their single greatest gift to the community was the Boys & Girls Club of Marshall County. Both Leonard and JoAnn recognized the increasing need for a safe place for children to go after school before parents returned home from work. And so, in 1995 they began working with the national organization to create a local Boys & Girls Club. They bought and donated a vacant building that Leonard and his family and friends worked on for many hours to update and bring up to code. When the doors opened many months later, 35 excited young children signed up. Both Leonard and JoAnn continued to be involved personally as the club grew, serving on the board and offering classes, and in 1998 they provided the financial support for the construction of a gymnasium. In 2009, demand in the neighboring community of Bremen, Indiana made clear the need for an additional facility. Over the past few years, the Boys and Girls Club of Marshall County has averaged about 800 school-aged members a year, with thousands of children served since its inception. Both Leonard and JoAnn received the “Sagamore of the Wabash” award from the state of Indiana in recognition of their community service and involvement.
An obituary never really captures the person. How can you say how hilariously funny Leonard could be, how he was always the calmest person in a crisis, how generous and kind and loving he was and how caring? He could command a room in a business meeting and demand much, yet easily take a back seat when spending time with his grandchildren or great grandchildren at a family gathering.
And how can you quantify his love of golf, developing his earliest connections as a caddy at the South Bend Country Club. He shared his love of the game with his family and was most at home on the course.
And when he played double bid euchre, as the captain of the “Silver Foxes,” his long-time opponents, the “Golden Girls” and other family members, all delighted in setting him, which they often did. However, he remained undaunted by these set- backs and continued to bid every chance he got.
It is hard to summarize a person’s life, but this young boy, part of a Polish family growing up after the Great Depression in the West End of South Bend, went on to do great things for his family and friends and many who never knew him.
We are missing him already. He was a sweet man, and his loss is deep and undeniable.
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, from 3 to 6 pm, there will be a celebration of life for Leonard Isban, on the front lawn of American Containers, located at 2526 Western Avenue, Plymouth, Indiana. Leonard passed away August 10 of this year, and because of the resurgence of Covid cases, a private funeral Mass for the immediate family only was held on August 28th.
Wednesday afternoon will provide a chance for friends and family to gather safely outdoors under the shelter of a tent. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be served with plenty of opportunity for stories to be shared. We, his family, look forward to gathering with you to celebrate a life well lived.
Donations in memory of Leonard may be made to The Boys & Girls Club of Marshall County 314 E Jefferson Street, Plymouth, IN 46563, or St. Michael’s School 610 N. Center Street, Plymouth, IN 46563.
Eyvonne Aker says
Sue, Greg and family,
Our heartfelt sympathies in Leonard’s passing. He will be missed by many. God Bless,
Gary and Eyvonne
Lisa Shangreaux says
Sending my deepest sympathy to all the family and friends. Leonard was an amazing person, and he will be sadly missed by many!
Fred and Kathy Funk says
So sorry to hear that Lenard passed away. God bless your family.
Kathryn Girres says
Sue & Greg & family,
As you know, your dad was an amazing man with a will of his own. I was fortunate to “work” with him during a major project at St. Michael and I’ll always remember his generosity and friendship. May God welcome him into His heavenly home and give you peace knowing Leonard had a life well lived.
Tracey Simpson Croteau says
Sue and family – sending condolences to you in the loss of your dad. He was such a generous, kind person. Thinking of you at this time.
Ren and Beverly Van Gilder says
Your Dad, was a gentle and kind man. His generosity, came from his heart.
Kim Johnson says
Mike, Susie & Jessica,I am so sorry to hear about Leonard’s passing!
I was so happy to be a part of the American Container family for a total of 9 years!
Leonard was always so kind to me! The whole family was!
Leonard will be very missed but at least he’s with Jo Ann now! R.I.P. Leonard!
DOUG Kucera says
He will be missed so very much..love and prayers..DOUG and Linda
James Clevenger says
Jess and Paul, Mike and Debbie, Sue and Greg:
My sympathies to you for the loss of your father. He had a life full of accomplishment and has left the Plymouth community a much better place to live. We were all blessed to have known him.
Doug Badell says
I was saddened to hear of Lens passing, we were friends
for many years. We will be miss him as will many others
where ever he was known.
Praveena Basant says
My heart goes out to you all in this time of sorrow. I was blessed to have met Leonard and reading about a drop of his life makes me realize what a blessing he provided for many. His kindness will forever live on. May you find comfort and peace during this difficult time.
Greg and Diana Nielsen says
To the Isban family, May you smile as you reflect on all of your family memories. A life well lived. Keeping your entire family in our thoughts.
Greg and Diana Nielsen
Jack and Mary Kay Davis says
What an example of family, faith, and community JoAnn and Leonard were for us. May perpetual light shine upon the two of them once again.
Pam, Patrick & Ashlynn Sessler says
Mike, Susie, Jess & families, sorry to hear of the passing of Uncle Lenny. I have fond memories of him and Auntie visiting with us at our grandparents home. May the Lord bring you all Peace and Comfort! Thinking of you all!
Brenda Payne says
I’ll always remember Leonard’s words at my late husband’s Celebration of Life,”There should be more Kenny Paynes.”Today I say,”There should be more Leonard Isbans.”May he Rest In Peace.
Diane McSweeney-Allen says
My sincere condolences Paul. I will be praying for you and your family.
Sondra Brantley says
I am so sad to hear about the passing of my dear friend Leonard! I got to know Leonard a couple of years ago when I started cutting his hair! I always enjoyed our talks! We would talk about anything and everything! He was such a sweet man and he will be greatly missed! So thankful I got to see him and cut his hair a couple of weeks ago! Prayers for comfort for all of his family and friends!
Ken Finkbiner says
Leonard will be dearly missed. He was a special man. Leonard did many kind things for me as an employee of American Container and many things for my family. May he rest in eternal peace. Both Carol and I are remembering all of you in our prayers.
Dixie Lawrence says
Sending heartfelt condolences to the entire Isban family. Having met Leonard and Jo on the inception of the B& G Club, I was struck by their dedication to our community and kids. Always kind, generous and thoughtful. His presence will be missed. Dixie Lawrence
Dixie Lawrence says
Sending heartfelt condolences to the entire Isban family. Having met Leonard and Jo on the inception of the B& G Club, I was struck by their dedication to our community and kids. Always kind, generous and thoughtful. His presence will be missed.
Sarah Young says
This obituary of his life could not have been better written. I will always think of your parents’ generous gift of creating the Boys and Girls Club. Everyone in Plymouth will. All of his children and their families continue his legacy of giving to others with humility and a positive attitude. I will always remember Leonard and JoAnn and their family with great gratitude.
Tom Finkbiner says
Leonard was someone that was always in my life through my dad and later directly as a summer employee. He cared for the people that he employed. The huge garden plots behind the factory I remember well, the paper donated for the PHS band variety shows, and countless more unheralded acts that benefitted the community. He had a huge influence on my life and success because of his care, compassion, and love for his employees and their families.
Dennis and Valerie Sabo says
Sending our love and deepest condolences to the entire Isban family. Leonard was truly an amazing human being! So glad to be included in his circle of friends!
LAWRENCE MILLER says
My prayers are with the family during this time. I enjoyed knowing both LEONARD AND JOANNE and the good times we had at the PLYMOUTH COUNTRY CLUB. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
The Feck/Angelini family says
Dearest Isban family,
Our family is heartbroken at your loss as well as the community’s loss of such a singular giant. He was everything the obituary portrays and so, so much more. I adored him for 52 years, and have never known anyone like him. It is cruel to be unable to gather all of you up in our embrace at this moment, but we will bide our time. Until then, we share in your sorrow and we offer prayers of gratitude for such a brilliant life, well-lived.
Pat (Klodzinski) Correll says
Jessica, Michael and Susan, I have you in my thoughts and prayers with the loss of your father. It has been many years since I have been in the family, or seen all of you, but there are many happy memories of time spent together, especially at Busha and Dziadziu Isban’s house.
Norma Young says
Please accept my sincere sympathy, Your parents were loved by many and will always be remembered for their many acts of kindness. Love to all of you.
Linda Ward says
What a beautiful obituary for such an incredible man! His legacy endures. Prayers for Michael and the family.
Don Messaglia says
Jess, Mike and Sue
My most heartful sympathies to you and your families. In my 45 year association with Leonard, I found him to be a very professional and ethical. He was a strong and decisive leader. The hours and what he did in restoring the building for the Boys and Girls Club showed his character. He has now gone to join JoAnn, He will be remembered.
Bill Hileman says
Mike Paul and Greg.
So sorry to hear about the passing of Leonard. He was a great guy and golfer. Enjoyed all of our times playing for the LEDCAN CUP! My sincerest condolences.
Patricia (Finkbiner) Anderson says
Our prayers are with Joanne and the Rest of the Family. I have great memories of Mr. Isban and My Dad (Ken Finkbiner) talking together.
Roswitha Loew says
Sue, Greg, and family
Our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your dad. May God bless you all and bring you comfort. I remember how generous your Dad & Mom were to St. Michael Church and School, with a special kindness for the teachers and staff.
Roswitha & Joachim Loew
David and Gwen Scheetz says
Our sincere condolances and prayers to the family. Leonard was one of the niciest human beings I had the privilege of know ing my lifetime Dave and Gwen Scheetz
Kevin and Donna Chaney says
To the Isban family,
Offering our heartfelt condolences in Leonard’s passing. Hopefully the memories of fun and adventure he created help you navigate this difficult time.
Suzanne M Gibson says
WE THE MEMBERS OF THE VFW AUXILIARY 1162 IN PLYMOUTH INDIANA
ARE SADDEN TO HEAR OF LEONARDS PASSING WE WANT HIS FAMILY AND MANY FRIENDS TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE ALL IN OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS AT THIS TIME OF GREAT SORROW AND LOSS
GOD SPEED LEONARD AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO THIS COUNTRY
VFW AUXILIARY 1162 CHAPLAIN -SECRETARY
William Hunt says
The Hunts in Texas are also saddened by the news of Leonard’s passing. Deepest condolences to the entire Isban and American Containers family. The Plymouth community has lost but not to be forgotten a great business man, family man, and anchor of the community. Our families go back to the early days of PIDCO. No matter how many years passed, from my Young Door days through Jeld-Wen career it was always how you doing “Billy” and how’s the family? So yes we’re saddened at this moment, but I rejoice having known and being influenced by such a great man and family. R.I.P. Leonard. Job well done. 🙏
Tiffany hardy says
I am so sorry for your loss I didn’t know him long, but he was special. Im so glad I was fortunate enough to meet him and joke with him. My prayers are with all of you at this time.
Tracy Huff Casey says
My sincere sympathy in the passing of this wonderful man! He was truly a light for many! My prayers are with the entire family! My Father worked and retired from American Containers! They were always good to him!
Beth Graf says
We were so sorry to read about your father’s passing, and and send our deepest condolences to you and all your family. What an amazing life he had and what an amazing man he clearly was! (Apples don’t fall far from trees, do they?) We think about you and Debi often, and hope you are doing well – other than dealing with these difficult days. We send our love to you both.
Beth & Robert Graf
Barb Lowry says
Mr Isban is an Icon in the Plymouth Community for all his accomplishments! I will remember his generosity to the community and to St. Michael’s Church and School. He leaves a Christian example for all of us to follow.
Sympathy and prayers to the Isban family for your loss of a gentle giant. May you be comforted by all the good memories of a life well lived.
Kevin and Vanessa Kearney says
Our deepest condolences to the Isban family on the passing of Leonard. He was a wonderful person whose deep and abiding commitment to his family, his company and his community were an inspiration to us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the Isbans as they mourn the loss of a special man.
James Cook says
I was so sorry to hear of Leonard passing. You have my deepest sympathy. Leonard was a good person and always treated everyone well. Working at his company was like working for family.
Bryan Gerard says
Greg and Sue,
I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds as if your Mom and Dad had a life full of joy. I am sure you take rest in those memories