by Austin DuVall
The Institute has installed a bench by Lake Abby in honor of Leo York, our longtime director of maintenance who passed away earlier this year.
Institute administrators and staff joined members of Leo’s family in a moment of silence, celebration, and remembrance during the unveiling of the bench in October. He had just celebrated 39 years working on Winthrop Rockefeller’s former cattle ranch in March, and it cannot be overstated how acutely we miss Leo, a one-of-a-kind colleague.
The bench was installed under a large maple tree located on the northwest side of Lake Abby — a man-made lake named by Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller after his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and a place beloved by Leo as it allowed him to fish once he had clocked out for the day.
During the unveiling, everyone enjoyed a song recorded by Leo’s family band, Jake Getty. They had played together every Saturday night for over 35 years. Members of his maintenance crew and other employees took turns telling stories of Leo’s warmth and good nature. Leo was an adept trickster, a running theme in many of our memories of him. The ceremony ended with a toast in his honor.
Leo loved the Institute and our people. He was a foundational part of our Institute family and built unique relationships with every guest and staff member who worked with him. In a profile we wrote about Leo celebrating his acceptance of the 2020 Joel Smith Leadership Award, he said “I try to take care of my people. They take care of me. I take pride in it — in my work, in my job, the Institute. It’s a joy to be here — I’ve always enjoyed being here. I enjoy the people I’m around.”
We hope this bench will become a new favorite place of respite for guests and staff alike. It allows one to take in the grand, pastoral beauty of this historic spot atop Petit Jean Mountain while also being close enough to the water to sit back with a fishing pole in hand, just as Leo would have preferred.