Life Story / Obituary
Paula Leinbach passed away peacefully on May 12, 2023 after a full and exciting life of 94 years.
Originally from Oak Park, Illinois, she attended Blackburn College, then graduated from Antioch College where she met and married her husband Gus. They moved to Ann Arbor with his fresh teaching degree, where he was a teacher and school social worker for 20 years. They also directed and then owned a summer camp, Camp Crystalaire on Crystal Lake – all while raising a family.
Their hearts then moved them north to Pyramid Point on Lake Michigan, developing Camp Innisfree, known nationally for its experimental Innisfree Project, and more locally for school ecology camps, workshops, events and trips for all ages. Paula, tapping her love of education, co-managed and hosted at both camps over the years, her influences and ideas touching tens of thousands of children, adults, teachers and other professionals.
After retiring from camping, Paula involved herself in a variety of projects and local organizations; she was a founding member of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear and of Inland Seas School Ship Program, and initiated the first college scholarship program for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa-Chippewa Indians. She served on zoning and planning boards and worked with both the Leelanau Land Conservancy and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, representing them at regional and national conferences as well as congressional hearings.
Her love of the arts shone as a patron and avid supporter of Interlochen Center for the Arts and Interlochen Public Radio. As academic adviser for the Leland high school, instructor for Inland Seas, docent for Dennos art museum, and interim director for the Leland Library, she skillfully lent her help and knowledge. She was a tireless worker for the Christian Science church, especially enjoying manning their public reading rooms.
She was a gardener, an expert birder and a passionate artist who would travel on art workshop vacations returning with watercolors and sketches from Scotland, Italy or Brazil.
In Traverse City, having the time and inclination, she became a fixture at the endless planning, vision and public input meetings regarding the future of the Open Space, the TART trails, downtown development, the building of the new library, plans for traffic calming, and many other ongoing projects. Leaders learned quickly not to underestimate the spunky little lady in the back with the business card that simply said “Environmental Gadfly”. She asked the hard questions and followed them to available answers and solutions, leaving her mark in many lasting improvements to the region; her energy and fearlessness will be missed.
She is survived by her five children - Eric, Kris, Ray, Alan and Ken, as well as 9 grandkids and one great granddaughter. A family memorial is planned for the future.
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