Gene Leroy Winters had a kind heart, a determined spirit and a comedic spark. He loved bad puns and good storytelling but not as much as he loved his family. He was a teacher who believed in leading by example and taught his children the importance of compassion, perseverance, hard work, creativity and (last and most definitely least) diagramming sentences. He was known for pulling over to the side of the road to help wounded animals – and for sitting in tree stands for hours just to watch (but never shoot) the deer that wandered across his path.
He was the sort of guy who’d roll up a stranger’s car window if it was raining, or turn off their headlights if they forgot (back when windows could be “rolled” down and car doors were almost always left unlocked). He believed in taking care of himself and continued going to the gym even when his body began to fail him.
He was born in Peru, Indiana, on Feb. 4, 1944 to Henry Leroy “Roy” Winters and Alice Marie (Ensenbach) Winters. He passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 following a long battle with an illness that he fought day and night to overcome. In the years between, he graduated from Peru High School, earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Indiana University, married Diana Elaine (Sparks) Winters and had three children: Angela, Jeremy and Tiffany. They were the lights of his life.
He was among the Peru Amateur Circus’ first clowns and he could tumble well into his forties, a little-known fact that is unlikely to surprise anyone that knew him. When he retired from teaching English at North Miami, he didn’t retire from life – he went on to own two successful businesses (first a paintball field and then a tea house). A perfectionist through and through, he poured his heart and soul into all of his life’s endeavors. During his downtime, he enjoyed crossword puzzles, gardening, turning houses into homes and beating Jeopardy contestants to the punch.
He also enjoyed completing home improvement projects with Michael Swihart (son-in-law), playing Bananagrams with Edesio Sánchez-Gómez (son-in-law) and spending some time with Mary (Spencer) Winters (daughter-in-law). He loved his siblings, Diana’s siblings – and all of their spouses – as well as his nieces, nephews and every student that ever entered his classroom.
His love for his wife and children was rivaled only by his love for his grandchildren: Nathanial (17), Gabriel (12), Elijah (11), Noah (11), Jillian (9), Aubrey (9), Clementine (3) and Elliott (9 months). His parents preceded him in death far too soon, and he loved his wife’s parents, Cannus and Dorothy Maureen (Lowe) Sparks, as though they were his own. He was preceded in death by Cannus as well as two brothers (Earl Leroy and James Richard) and one sister (Walda “Annette” Shelton). He is survived by their spouses: Waunitta (“Brownie”), Mary Sue (“Susie”) and Jim Shelton. He is also survived by his siblings Vernice, John and Jan; his wife’s siblings (Deborah and Bud); and their spouses (Samuel and Lesley). He will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Diana.
His life was bigger than words. He will be missed.
A memorial service will be held from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 at the Independent Missionary Baptist Church, 331 Jackson Avenue, Peru, Indiana. Visitation will follow from 3-5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the family via Flowers-Leedy Funeral Home.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Flowers-Leedy Funeral Home. Family and friends may sign the online guestbook at www.Flowers LeedyAllen.com.