February 9, 1934 to December 2, 2017
Dan was born on February 9, 1934, to parents Horace and Gertrude (Trudy) Leonard. He was raised in National City and graduated from Sweetwater High School in 1951, entering San Diego State College for the 1951 fall semester. Facing the draft, and wanting to select which service he would join, he entered Marine Corps boot camp at MCRD San Diego in May 1953. During his three years in the Corps he attended Sea School and was assigned to the USS Curtiss (AV-4). As a member of the Curtiss Marine Detachment. Dan participated in thermonuclear tests in the Marshall Islands (Operation Castle) and off the coast of California (Operation WigWam). Upon separation from active duty Dan returned to San Diego State University (SDSU) where he majored in physics. He married Dorothy McCollom in August 1958 and graduated from SDSU in 1961. Dan and Dorothy have two daughters Debi and Diane, and three grandchildren, Heather, Ryan and Daniel.
Dan worked as an electronic engineer and later as a project leader at the Naval Electronics Laboratory (NEL) on Point Loma for 28 years, retiring in September 1989. While at NEL (now known as SPAWARS) he worked on a variety of assignments, his first being equipment used in Arctic research spending time on small naval research vessels and a couple of months in Alaska including six weeks in the Eskimo village of Point Hope. While working in Satellite Communications he developed the first shipboard meteorological satellite receiving station and shared two patents for circuits developed for that station. The equipment was installed on Naval Attack Carriers and provided valuable weather information needed for successful strikes against enemy forces. Dan led a team that developed receiving stations, installing two of them on carriers deployed to Vietnam.
Dan remained in the field of technology development, leading a team that demonstrated the feasibility of communicating from a satellite to a submarine at operationally useful depths using a laser communications link. He later became a technology program manager for Navy Command Control and Communications systems at the Lab and from there was asked to become program manager for all Marine Corps Command Control, Communications and Surveillance technology. Some of the technologies that were investigated under Dan's management of Marine Corps work included low probability of intercept communications, satellite communications, seismic surveillance robotic systems, ultra violet and laser communications systems, fault tolerant computer technology, and fiber optic communications. After seven years with the Marine Corps, Dan was asked to lead a set of field experiments in the Arctic. This led to two field experiments on the Arctic ice pack in 1986 and 1988 (living in a base camp on the ice) and several related experiments on naval vessels off the coast of California during the same period.
In 1989 Dan retired from Civil Service, did some consulting work, and then accepted a position as Director of the Defense Conversion Center at SDSU where displaced defense workers were retrained for commercial work. During this work, Dan never welcomed a new group of engineers to the program without seeing at least one individual he had known during his career as a Navy engineer. Dan retired from this position in 1998.
Dan enjoyed traveling throughout the United States and other parts of the world with his wife Dorothy. He also enjoyed supporting St. Dunstan’s programs and projects, serving two, three-year terms on the Vestry and two years as Senior Warden. He traveled on his own to Uganda and South Sudan in 2003 and realized how fortunate he was to have been
born in America. Upon his return he was able to raise over $9,000 for education of South Sudanese children and to purchase medical supplies and equipment for those living in the camps. Some of Dan's favorite pastimes were spending time with his family and getting together in person and by email with marines he served with so many years ago.
Dan was diagnosed with encephalopathy in September 2017 resulting in swelling of the frontal lobes of the brain. He died peacefully, with his wife Dorothy and daughter Debi at his side, on December 2, 2017, under the care of Sharp Hospice staff at LakeView Hospice House in La Mesa, California. Dan is survived by his wife Dorothy, daughters Debi Laird and Diane Leonard, son-in-law Ron Laird, grandson Ryan Laird and his wife Kim, granddaughter Heather Laird, and grandson Daniel Leonard.