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Will you be my friend: Ian Leonard 010213 SPEAKINGOUT 1 Capital City Weekly Capital City Weekly

Photo By Jayme Claassen

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Story last updated at 1/2/2013 - 2:47 pm

Will you be my friend: Ian Leonard

Capital City Weekly

Ever wondered about someone you pass on the sidewalk, see in the grocery store, or heard mentioned in stories? This is our attempt to track those people down, and grill them, lightly.

Ian Leonard is large in many ways. First, as he'll tell you, he is 1.083 fathoms tall, or two meters, or six foot six. Second, he's pushing that "larger than life" button. His smile is the size of a fruit bowl, his eyes beam like sunny side up eggs on a drizzly morning and his positive, enthusiastic attitude is infectious. He makes people feel like they're an extension of him. Some of that is intentional.

"I'm very adaptable," Leonard said. "I'm good at finding common connections with people, to foster friendships. I'm comfortable meeting new people and being in different environments."

One of the most obvious traits Leonard possesses is a glass-half-full attitude, about everything. He really loves everything. The man has been skiing since he was 18 months (he's 29 now), he crochets and he is a musician. What's not to love?

After spending an hour or so with Leonard, it's not a surprise to find out he grew up with two brothers (sports, sports, sports, sports), and parents who encouraged his zest for life.

His home town is Denver, though his family had a place in the Colorado mountains, helping Leonard's passion for snow sports blossom (note: he really is one of those guys that would be OK with the use of the word "blossom" to describe him; he might even be OK if it was his nickname. Remember, he crochets).

His dad, who Leonard says always likes to have his hands wet in something, took the family to Sweden when Leonard was six to nine years old.

"My childhood was amazing," he said. "Once we lived over in Europe we utilized the opportunity to travel. I hit 21 countries before the age of 10."

His mom, he said, is like, "Mrs. Tour Book: 'Let's do everything.'"

Leonard said his formative years were fairly routine.

"Practice the piano. Eat dinner every night together. Some free time, and homework time. We weren't allowed to play video games. There was never much idle time."

These family dinners, Leonard said, were terrific. His favorites? Her beef stroganoff and chicken enchiladas.

Unsurprisingly, Leonard said that, "High school was amazing. Best thing for me," referring to an all boys' Catholic Jesuit school. He played a lot of sports, music, and was part of the nation's only youth-run search and rescue team, called the Arapahoe Rescue Team.

"It was the most exciting thing," Leonard said. "One thing that sticks out is dealing with my first dead body. A guy committed suicide in the woods; shot himself in the stomach and bled to death. When we got to him his alarm clock was still playing music and it was uber eerie."

Leonard credits his experience with the youth rescue team for his later move towards becoming an Emergency Medical Technician.

After a year and a half of college at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Leonard took a break from academia. During his break he completed both an EMT certification program and a leadership program with Outward Bound in Chile. He kayaked over 200 miles of the Chilean coast, summited several peaks in the Andes and skied over 105 consecutive days at Breckenridge.

"On the lift one day I met a dude, a snowboarder, and we struck up a conversation," Leonard said. "I asked what he did. He said 'I just got back from Alaska where I was fighting forest fires.' I got his number, and a month later I was in a tent in Delta Junction, waiting for the fire season to start." This was 2003.

"I spent my 21 birthday defending Cheenah Hot Springs," he said, with that fruit bowl grin.

Leonard reenrolled in college, this time at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He graduated in 2007 with a degree in philosophy and a concentration in religious studies.

During an EMT recertification class, Leonard met a man in the Coast Guard who was currently stationed at a location in Alaska. He then completed a 17-week Coast Guard officer candidate school program in Connecticut. He said it was tough.

"I wanted (to be stationed) in the Pacific Northwest -Alaska specifically - right out of the gate, but I got Oregon," he said. "A 3-year tour." Then he came to Juneau in August 2012.

Leonard said that one of his projects is to assist in an endeavor to chart safe nautical courses through Arctic waters, as the boat traffic has increased in that region. But, he admitted, what really attracted him here was the skiing possibilities.

"Being able to balance a career path with something that's a passion," Leonard said, is a life goal. Following the conclusion of the interview, I was sad to hear that Leonard had injured his knee, in a major way, and will be turning to other passions this winter.

"Another passion is bluegrass music," he said. "I play the mandolin and the piano, and I just bought a guitar and a banjo. Projects to keep me busy through the winter."

After finishing explaining how he was excited to get involved with the Juneau Mountain Rescue team and to volunteer ski patrol, Leonard leaned back in his chair. He has one deep dimple. I asked him what qualities he sought in friends, or, particularly, in women.

"Music, sense of humor...Both? Excellent," he said. "Ski? Sweet. Do they just want to hang out and play ping pong? Awesome. The one thing I like to talk smack about is ping pong. I fancy myself a ponger."

Amanda Compton is the staff writer at the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at Amanda.compton@capweek.com.