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His smile was engaging and sincere. His laughter was like that of a small child; genuine and infectious and coming from the heart. His piercing eyes betrayed a superior intellect that he was not able to hide behind the empathy and respect that exuded from his kind eyes. His voice was reassuring with kindness and a lot of playfulness. He was humble beyond what is expected as normal.

He conducted himself with boyish simplicity and a lot of sense of humor. He did not take himself seriously despite the fact that he took his job’s responsibilities very seriously and took his commitment to his family, church, community and country very seriously. He was one of the very few people who are blessed with a magnetic personality that draws you into their hemisphere in less than a second.

Everyone who was lucky enough to know him felt that magnetism that made it very easy to connect with him on many levels. But the most attractive part of his persona was his voice. A warm seductive voice that was wrapped in a velvety surface that radiated warmth, respect and knowledge. Lots of knowledge.

He was a ferocious reader. He read everything he could get his hands on. That made him a walking encyclopedia. There was not a discipline or a subject that he did not have deep knowledge about. That even made him a very attractive speaker. He knew many things about many things. From philosophy, to science, to astronomy to geography to economics to politics to comparative religions.

He always had an aura of light, of goodness, of optimism, of respect and of love. He was the perfect gentleman. To be in his presence was like being with an exceptional and extraordinary human being who would project love, wisdom, laughter, humility and optimism

That soft, unassuming, soothing and knowledgeable voice has been silenced. Our very dear friend and confident, Leon Holschbach, departed our world a couple of evenings ago. That wise, reassuring, playful, and beautiful voice has been silenced forever. And all of us – his family, his friends and acquaintances – are heart broken. There is a big void in our hearts that longs to be seeing and talking to Leon.

Leon came to Effingham in 2007 as the President and CEO of Effingham’s largest bank, Midland States Bank. He took that bank from a $400 million bank to a $6 billion bank in a little over a decade. He retired in 2018. His accomplishment as a businessman were simply amazing. But his humility made him a very exceptional person. In a social function several years ago, my niece, Nardeen, who was then a University of Illinois student, met Leon for the first time. She talked to him about her University and how she was proud of it. Then she asked him: What do you do? He simply said: I work at the bank. She thought he was a repairman or a custodian at the bank. She had no clue that she was talking to the president and CEO of the largest bank in Effingham. That is the way Leon conducted himself. A perfect, beautiful and humble gentleman.

Leon faced a tremendous challenge after being diagnosed with ALS, or “Lou Gehrig’s” disease, named after the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS on his 36th birthday in 1939. ALS is a rare but cruel disease that paralyses the muscles of the body one by one while the brain functions remain intact. So the patients notice and see how their bodies are crumbling area by area.

Again, his ferocious reading ability allowed him to know everything about the disease. He was aware of what will happen. Amazingly, he faced this dreadful disease with courage, faith and again with sense of humor. Elene and our niece, Nermine, visited Leon and Deb less than 48 hours before he passed. He looked good and he was joking with them. So, till the end Leon never lost his sense of humor. That was the mark of a great man facing the challenge of his life with faith, courage and a beautiful sense of humor.

Leon was an amazing person in every way. Elene and I had the privilege of being with him and Deb in our book club, and lately in our Bible Book Club. He was always the star of the discussion with his superior intellect and his elegant prose and his vast knowledge in almost every sphere of knowledge. It was very enriching to just listen to him. Frequently he would adopt a different point of view just to make us think that every issue has more than one facet.

As much as we are saddened by Leon’s passing, we still cherish the wonderful memories that we have made with him through the years. Oh, what a privilege and an honor to know such a man who was full of goodness, of courage, of light and of love. We are all grateful that God has placed our paths in life to cross with Leon and Deb. Leon exemplified how a person becomes a great man, a wonderful friend, a dedicated husband to the love of his life, Deb, and an amazing father to his children, Justin, Evan and Lauren, and grandfather to Olsen, Lenny, Odin and Greyson.

We will keep these memories alive in our minds. Leon will stay in our hearts and our souls till the end of our lives. We thank God for allowing us to know such a man; a man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of wisdom, a man of faith, a man of courage and a man of love.

Leon; we will never forget you …

Rest in peace, our precious friend ...

Rest in peace!

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