Leness George Laliberte, 86, died Tuesday morning, March 11, 2003, at his home in Fargo.
He was born December 15, 1916 in Cut Knife, Saskatchewan, northwest of Saskatoon. He was the second of four children born to a family that went to Canada from North Dakota to farmstead, though Leness’ father eventually worked as a barber in Rosthern, about 100 miles east of Cut Knife. After the barbershop burned down, the family moved to Fargo when Leness was in third grade.
Leness attended school at St. Mary’s and graduated Sacred Heart Academy in 1934. Before entering college, he worked for a time at DeLendrecies in downtown Fargo, where his duties included helping design window displays. He enrolled at North Dakota Agricultural College and graduated in spring 1941 with a degree in architecture. He quickly landed a job with William Kurke, a well-known local architect who had done work on the state capitol. One of Leness’ first projects was designing exterior and interior detail work for the new Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck.
After war broke out, Leness also taught introductory architecture classes at NDAC. He was drafted in 1943 and eventually was posted to Yuma Army Airfield in Arizona, where he volunteered for “base engineering,” not realizing that was where miscreant troops were sent to do K.P., clean latrines and empty garbage. When he suggested building small corrals to keep garbage cans from blowing around in the desert wind, he came to the attention of officers who were dumbfounded to find a trained architect working in base engineering when they had dire need of architects to help develop the rapidly expanding base. He was quickly put to work on projects such as barracks, officers’ quarters and the waist gunnery range.
While on furlough, Leness’ sister Marjorie introduced him to her husband’s sister, Mary Rose Heimerman, of Stacyville, Iowa. The pair married on a second furlough in 1945. Despite having spent a total of about two weeks together, his beautiful letters to her cemented a relationship that lasted more than 57 years. They had seven children between 1946 and 1961.
After the war, Leness returned to work for William Kurke (and later his son, Jack) until 1962, when he took a position with the local office of Kirkham, Michael and Associates, an Omaha firm. In 1968, he began working for Foss, Engelstad & Foss, where he remained until his retirement in the late 1970s. Over the years, his projects included the original West Acres and Penny’s wing, the NDSU library and student union, Fargo National Bank (Community First), the Fargo Post Office, Sacred Heart Convent (Riverview Place) and numerous schools, churches, banks and other buildings throughout the tri-state area. A flight enthusiast and civilian pilot until his cardiovascular health prevented license renewal, he would sometimes fly himself to distant job sites.
Leness often acted as a volunteer architectural consultant to the Diocese of Fargo, and served on the post-Vatican II Subcommittee for Art and Architecture, which was charged with redesigning churches to conform to new liturgical practices. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and was involved in the Cursillo and Catholic Family movements in the 1960s, but for the most part practiced his deep and abiding faith quietly with his family and parish.
Leness was renowned among those who loved him for his quiet, gentle demeanor and thoughtful, unfaltering integrity. He conveyed deep love through his calm, untroubled satisfaction with domestic life and his fondness for children. He was heavily involved with Scouting at St. Anthony’s parish with his older boys, and was a hunter and sportsman from his youth through middle adulthood. He loved relaxing at the cabin the family owned on Cotton Lake in Minnesota from 1967 to 1991. A skilled craftsman, he lovingly restored two wooden C-scow racing sailboats, was a member of the Cotton Lake Yacht Club and skippered in several Wallwork Regattas. Though content in solitude, he relished the company of others, had a guileless laugh and enjoyed telling stories. Even while in increasingly poor health after major strokes in 1993 and 1998, he maintained quiet satisfaction in the pleasures he could enjoy and dignified acceptance of his infirmities.
Leness is survived by his wife, Mary, at home; Rev. Robert Laliberte, Fargo; Paul (Chris) Laliberte, Taipei, Taiwan; Andrea (William) Lewis, Wahpeton; George (Veronica) Laliberte, Topeka, KS.; Lisa Laliberte, Fargo; Richard (Rachelle) Laliberte, Macungie, PA; Michael Laliberte, Fargo; eight grandchildren; one great-grandchild; two sisters, Marjorie (William) Heimerman, Sioux Falls, S.D. and Helen Clapham, San Rafael, CA., and a brother, Jerome (Midge) Laliberte, Coquille, OR.
A Funeral Mass for Leness will be held Friday at 1 p.m. in Church of the Nativity, Fargo. Visitation will be held Thursday from 5-7 p.m. in Church of the Nativity, with a prayer service at 7 p.m. Visitation will also be held in the church one hour prior to services on Friday. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery.
Memorials are preferred to Fargo Catholic Schools Network, Cardinal Muench Seminary, or Presentation Sisters.
Arrangements by Boulger Funeral Home, Fargo. Online guestbook at www.boulgerfuneralhome.com.