Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 2, 2012 at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in St. Cloud, for Al Leighton, 86, of St. Cloud, who died Thursday, June 28 at his home surrounded by his loving family. Rev. Anthony Oelrich will officiate and private family interment will be in the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery. Relatives and friends may call on Sunday, July 1, 2012 from 4:00-8:00pm at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church; and after 8:30 a.m. on Monday at church. Arrangements have been entrusted to Williams Dingmann Family Funeral Home, St. Cloud.
Al was born on his family farm in Otsego, MN on April 29, 1926 to Harry and Lucie (Joyer) Leighton. Al’s family including siblings; Josephine (Jo), Russell, and Mary Lou, moved to Elk River when Al was a young boy which is why Al has always referred to Elk River as his hometown.
Al attended Elk River Junior and Senior High, where he graduated in June 1943. While a senior in high school, Al was intrigued by what he heard on the radio about the Pearl Harbor attack and the start of World War II, he asked his parents if he could enlist in the Army and did so at 17 years old. Al proudly served his country as a member of the US Army in World War II until his honorable discharge in May 1946, having served in the Pacific Theatre. Following his discharge, Al attended the University of Minnesota, studying business and marketing, until June 1949.
On April 7, 1951, Al married Jean Mesenburg at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in St. Cloud. Al credits his wife Jean for nearly every single accomplishment they shared. Jean went with Al to every interview he had throughout his career. Al always called Jean his “help-mate.” Al was an amazing father to their nine children: Michael (Patty) of Grafton, ND, Michele (Ken) Rosha of St. Cloud, Patty (Doug) Kress of Eau Claire, WI, Kathleen (Andy Vinson) Carton of St. Cloud, Lynn (Bill) Schnettler of Cold Spring, Bob (Lydia) of St. Cloud, Mary Jo (Todd Abdella) Leighton, Judith (Roger) Kading of Detroit Lakes and Jeffrey (Beth) of Detroit Lakes.
In November 1951, Al got his first big break in the broadcast industry when he did play-by-play reporting for a football game as his interview for a job at KLIZ Radio in Brainerd. Al was offered a job with them, and began his career as their News and Sports Announcer. Al’s radio journey eventually took him to Detroit Lakes where he became General Manager of KDLM Radio from 1958-1975. In September 1975, Al and Jean had the opportunity to move back to St. Cloud, when they purchased KFAM AM and FM, now KCLD FM and KNSI AM. Al incorporated Leighton Enterprises in 1978 and it now operates numerous radio stations and other affiliated businesses in both Minnesota and North Dakota. People would often ask Al, “Are you going to stop and smell the roses?” Al would respond with, “I’m smelling the roses every day; I love what I am doing.”
In addition to being a leader in the broadcasting industry, Al was an unbelievable steward of each he made his home. He served on many boards and community organizations too numerous to mention. Some of his favorites included: Co-Founder and President of the Detroit Lakes Industrial Development Board, St. John’s Preparatory School Board of Regents, Founder of St Cloud All City Marching Band and past-President of the MN Broadcasters Association. He was especially proud of his affiliation with St. Cloud Whitney Senior Center, of which he was a board member and major fundraiser.
In 1995, Al was recognized by the MN Broadcasters Association as a Pioneer Broadcaster for his entrepreneurial spirit and lifetime accomplishment in the radio broadcasting industry.
In addition to his loving wife and children, Al is survived by his siblings, Russell of Minneapolis, Mary Lou Ford of Cincinnati, OH; 25 grandchildren; and 8 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Josephine Frank; and grandsons, James Michael and Jonathan James.
The family had this to say about Al -“Our dad was truly one from the greatest generation. From a small farm in Elk River, to enlisting in WW II, to raising a family of nine, to building a broadcasting business from nothing but a dream and desire to be on the radio, our dad lived the American Dream.”
Memorials are preferred to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, St. John’s Preparatory School and Quiet Oaks Hospice House.