Leah Manning Stetzner

Leah Manning Stetzner passed away on Oct. 26, 2013 in Centennial, Colo. at the age of 65 after a long illness.Posted November 14, 2013


Leah was born to Joe and Hazel Manning on Aug. 11, 1948 in Hettinger, N.D. She grew up on a farm three miles outside of Hettinger that her family farmed. Aided by her seven sisters and a brother, the family subsequently converted a portion of the farm into a 9-hole golf course and private clubhouse when Leah was in her early teens. Leah always felt her roots in North Dakota and her work on the farm and operating the family golf course laid the groundwork for any success she had the rest of her life.
After graduating Valedictorian of her high school class in 1966, Leah and her twin sister Loah went to the University of North Dakota where she participated in an Honors program and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1970 with a three discipline focus on History, German and Philosophy.

It was there that she fell in love and married Larry Charles Stetzner.

They were married for 18 years and had two children together.

After getting married and having her first daughter, Leah worked towards a Masters in German Literature and became fluent in German and taught graduate level courses while at UND. Leah was highly involved on campus and was editor of the Campus Magazine. During her time at UND she wrote and published many short stories and poems. She was a Max Kade Fellow and a Chester Fritz Graduate Scholar. She relished her time in Grand Forks at the University and later in life served as the President of the Alumni Association.
Leah went on to pursue a Law Degree at the University of Minnesota and receive her Juris Doctorate in 1977. This began the start of her career at the Burlington Northern Railroad in St. Paul, Minn. where she was their General Counsel from 1977-1989. She loved the railroad and enjoyed her work in litigation and contract law. In 1983 she had her second daughter Prairie Lee.

Burlington Northern relocated Leah and the family to Overland Park, Kan. in 1984. During these years Leah was an avid reader and writer, loved to sing and golf and she spent many of her summers making the trek back to North Dakota for family gatherings which she cherished and gave her the energy to resume her busy life.
In 1989 Leah was offered a position at Illinois Power Company where she became Vice President and General Counsel. Leah relocated to Decatur, Ill. to take on this new role. She served on the Board of Directors for a few organizations and did volunteer work for the local public radio station.

She mentored women within her company and was a role model to women wanting to become leaders. It is here that she met and married Jon Klingenberg. They were married for 14 years and Leah adored her four stepchildren – Pam, Lisa, Jeff and Alix and her grandchildren. Leah was very generous and loved to cook and bake and put together fun family events.
Leah’s vibrant life was hindered with the onset of a rare type of dementia at age 54. This disease did not define her and the memories of Leah prior to the impacts of the illness are what her family cherishes and will remember most.
Leah is survived by two daughters; Autumn Lorraine French and Prairie Lee Stetzner, her son in law; Tim French and her two grandchildren Makena Lee French and Durham Stephen French. Leah is survived by many of her siblings; Joan George (Howard), Jackie Flick (Arend), Judy Cabrera (Dan); Karin Talbot (Billy); twin sister Loah Clement (Jim); Gail Manning-Richards (David) and her only brother Dean Manning (Katie) and a brother in law Neal Buechler (Janet). Additionally, she is survived by numerous nieces and nephews that she loved dearly. Leah is preceded in death by her parents, Joe and Hazel Manning, her sister Janet Buechler, her brother in law Larry Markegard, twin sisters Cathleen and Corrine Manning and her nephew Tom Clement.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Leah’s honor to Sensory Outings Center, 11785 Nob Way, Golden, CO 80403 or www.sensoryoutings.org.