<font color="#808080">LEBLANC, Lee</font>

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1913 - 1988)

Powers is a small community in Michigan's upper peninsula which is supported by logging and railroading. It also happens to be the birthplace (on October 5, 1913) of a very fine wildlife artist, Lee LeBlanc.

Beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout his entire life, art has been Lee's major interest. In spite of the hardships heaped on them by the depression, Lee's parents, Vincent and Alice, never discouraged his desire to draw.

In 1931 after graduating from high school in Iron River, Michigan, he went to Los Angeles and spent a year studying art at Frank Wiggins Trade School. He left Los Angeles and headed for New York hoping to find work as a commercial artist. In three short weeks he decided that New York wasn't for him.

He wound up in Philadelphia where he tended bar for three years to pay for more art lessons. During that time he attended LaFrance Art Institute. Then, back to New York again. But this time it wasn't for bartending; he landed a job as a staff illustrator for the New York journal. In his off hours he attended the Art Students League and studied under Will Foster.

In 1937 Lee returned to Los Angeles where he found employment with Western Lithography as a commercial artist. Although the skill was there, his heart wasn't in his work and six months later he joined Walt Disney's staff at the staggering salary of $10.00 per week.

An offer of higher pay took him to the cartoon firm of Merry Melodies and Looney Tunes. Can you remember when you were a child, how everyone cheered when Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig flashed on the screen at the local moviehouse? Well, Lee's paintbrush helped create those happy times for us.

Although he helped make millions of children happy, times were not always as happy for Lee. In 1955 his wife, Helene, lost the fight against a long-term illness, leaving him with a fourteen year old daughter, Dierdre. The role of both mother and father is a difficult one at best and the added pressures of a large city and demanding schedule of the motion picture industry sometimes made it nearly impossible. Whenever he felt that he needed a break, he would pack some fishing gear and he and Dierdre would head back to the Michigan wilderness he loved so much. On one such excursion he met Lucille Hayworth and in 1958 they were married.

By this time, Lee had worked his way up to administrator of the special effects photographic department for MGM Studios. He remained as head of the department for six years in spite of the constant pressures of tight budgets, impossible schedules, and television competition.

Then, in 1962, he leaned back and took a good look at the direction his life was taking. As he puts it, "There just had to be a better wav to make a living." There was and he found it. He left his good paving job at MGM and, with Lucille, headed back to the only place he could really call home-Iron River.

Lee literally started life a second time. He and Lucille built their own home on the shores of Brule Lake, guided only by literature on the construction of single family dwellings published by the Government Printing Office. It was here that Patricia, their daughter, was born.

Understandably, Lee had more than his share of doubts. He had poured twenty-five years of his life into the motion picture industry and had worked his way up to a position of high pay and considerable security only to abandon it for a completely different way of life. Each time his doubts would surface, Lucille would minimize them and dismiss them as unfounded fears. Her moral support kept Lee going and within a few years his income began to match that of his best years with MGM.

Lee was a member of Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, The Audubon Society, National Geographic Society, the Ornithologist's Union, and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

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