To say that Leo literally lit up the room would be an understatement and a misuse of the term “literally”, as he would be quick to point out. His larger than life persona was impossible to miss. His instinct to entertain and bring mirth to those around him was irrepressible. No matter the time or place -- a classroom, a stadium, a comedy club, a radio station, a church, a living room, a bus stop, a subway station, an elevator, or a median strip, if there was an audience, Leo made them laugh.
Leo Thomas Baldwin, Jr., a longtime resident of Conway, died on June 13 in Westfield from complications related to early onset dementia. For the last 2 years of his life, Leo was in the care of the incredibly skilled and loving staff at Western Massachusetts Hospital. In his time there he made new connections and spent time with family and friends, who visited often. Leo’s wife, Sally, was by his side through his long and complex illness up until the moment he died. In his final days, Leo was attended by his closest family and friends who lovingly shared songs, memories, and words of reflection in his presence.
Leo was born in Boston on September 9, 1953 to Leo T. Baldwin, Sr., and Anne E. (Condon) Baldwin. He spent his early years in Charlestown, until his father’s job took the family to Hawaii, Kwajalein Island, and back and forth to Massachusetts. He graduated from Belmont High School in 1971, and received an Associate’s Degree in Public Communications at Mount Wachusett Community College in 1973. He went on to further his studies in communications at UMass, Amherst, and began a career in radio at WMUA-FM, the campus station. That career spanned more than 20 years, during which he worked at a number of western New England stations, and mastered nearly every aspect of radio broadcasting. Some old timers in the Valley may recall Leo’s voice on WRSI-FM in Greenfield as the famous “Fernando, from the Bedroom Factory”.
Leo’s insatiable quest for new knowledge, new experiences, and new ways to entertain led him to explore several other fields and turn them into professions. He spent 10 years as a highly successful stand-up comedian, with his family-friendly humor delighting crowds from Shelburne Falls to Las Vegas and beyond. In his early 40’s he went back to UMass to earn a BA in Education and Communications from the University Without Walls. He began teaching at Uplook School in Greenfield, while also in the process of earning a Master’s Degree in History at UMass. He then taught social studies and coached sports at Mohawk Trail Regional High School in Buckland, until early onset dementia intervened in 2011.
Leo played as hard as he worked, and enjoyed strumming his guitar and singing most of all. In 2006 he recorded an album of original music, and performed his songs at several local venues. He loved gardening, and cooking extravagant Italian dinners complete with fine wine and opera.
Leo is survived by his wife, Sally Boutiette, daughter Carey Baldwin and her husband Brent Visser, daughter Emily Baldwin, grandsons Quinn and Sam, all of Northampton;
four sisters: Anne Driscoll and her husband James of Medford, Linda Davison and her husband John of Spotsylvania, VA, Marylee Owens and her husband, Thomas of West Roxbury, and Ruth Baldwin of Port Townsend, WA; 24 nieces and nephews, and 28 grand- nieces and nephews. Leo was predeceased by his parents, and younger sister, Christine Baldwin.
A Celebration of Leo’s life will take place on September 15th at the 121 Club in Easthampton.
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