On Friday, August 7, 2020, the Leary family lost their hero, James Thomas Leary when he succumbed to a lengthy illness. “Jimmy”, “Mr. J.”, “Uncle Tommie”, “Jimmy Mack”, and “The Rock Son” as he was fondly known, managed his debilitating illness with strength and grace. He was a man who truly appreciated the blessings and favor in his life, and he had a firm understanding of what was important – God, his family and loved ones. His life was a living example of his favorite Bible verse, Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ”.
Jimmy Leary came into this world on Christmas Day, December 25, 1936 in Colerain, North Carolina. After his birth, his biological parents, Debbie Clara Leary and Thellie Lee Chamblee, willingly agreed that family members Hattie Perry-Leary and Willie Leary would adopt and raise their baby boy. Jimmy was blessed with four adoring parents.
He attended schools in Bertie County excelling in all subjects involving numbers. In 1957, Jimmy came to Brooklyn, New York with his loving wife, Hattie B. Leary, whom he married in 1956. Hattie predeceased him in 1984. In 1987, Jimmy remarried, and together with his second wife, Mary Alston Leary, they raised Melanie Jeter.
Jimmy began his career in management in a neighborhood store on Tompkins Avenue. In 1970, he branched out on his own opening JIMMY’S STATIONERY STORE. Many residents knew Jimmy from the store’s entrepreneurial activities. From Thursday to Monday, the store never closed. The rear of the store had a special bell that not everyone knew about. If you were lucky enough to know about the bell, you would ring it and gain admission to a private parlor where games were hosted.
One of Jimmy Leary’s major accomplishments in life was being a father. He considered himself lucky to have five children – three daughters: Brenda Perry and Denise Leary (both of whom predeceased him) and Deborah Ann Leary-Tucker; and two sons: Thomas Ray Leary and Ricky Nelson Leary. His children adored him, as he was a perfect example of what a father should be; he was loving and devoted, and was always there for them supporting them through their ups and downs, and he taught them to enjoy every moment life has to offer. His children were always with him, and his store was where they all mastered mathematics by managing the cash register, and weighing, measuring and computing items for sale.
Jimmy was extremely proud of all his children, and he was particularly close to his only living daughter, Deborah, as she was his caregiver. She had a successful career in law enforcement, and seeing her graduate from the New York City Correction Academy and receiving her shield was one of the highlights of his life.
Jimmy Leary was also proud to be a Mason. On April 2, 1987, he joined the prolific organization as Worshipful Master of African 459 Lodge #63 – the first lodge of Blacks in America.
He leaves behind to cherish his memory, his children: Thomas (Connecticut), Ricky, and his wife Mary (Virginia), Deborah (New York) and Melanie (New York); two brothers: Johnnie (North Carolina) and Charles (Maryland); grandchildren: Mark, Shakeya, Unique, Caiya, Calvin, Jasmine, Thomas, Rayshawn, Latoya, Keona, Daisy, David, Andre, Dremel and Gavin; great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, goddaughters: Cassandra, Darlene and Keisha; a special friend, Miss Helen, who was his hangout partner in the candy store; and two very special friends: Ms. Clarice and Ms. Barbara; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, neighbors, customers and friends.
All of us who loved Jimmy Leary will miss his infectious laughter, his southern drawl, his kindness and his quick wit. Sipping Johnnie Walker Black will never be the same without him! And when he would get a little tipsy, Jimmy’s favorite saying was “I love everybody”!
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