Water Cooler Wednesday: Remembering Mayor Weekes

Leon Weekes 1926-2014

Leon Weekes 1926-2014

Former Delray Beach Mayor and longtime South County civic and business leader Leon Weekes passed away Monday. He was 88 years old.

Most long time Delray Beach  and Boca Raton residents know the highlights:

  • Mayor
  • City Commissioner
  • Founder of Weekes & Callaway Insurance
  • Namesake of the Leon Weekes Environmental Preserve
  • Board member of countless organizations ranging from the Mae Volen Senior Center and local Boy Scouts District Council to the Drug Abuse Foundation, United Way and Economic Council of Palm Beach County.
  • Past President of the Delray Beach Chamber.

    I knew Mayor Weekes as a friend, fellow Mae Volen Board member and as someone who was very active in local and state issues, especially insurance always a hot button in Florida.

    We were also members of a small alumni circle of ex-Delray mayors and I had the privilege and pleasure of doing a “Mingle With the Mayors” night at the Crest Theatre 7 years ago, in which all the living former mayors gathered on stage in kind of an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” format as emcee Joe Gillie peppered us with questions. Mayor Weekes stole the show with his humor, stories and anecdotes about Delray in the, 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s.

    One story was that Mr. Weekes was approached by three local business leaders Bruce Wenzel who owned Mercer Wenzel department store downtown, John Adams and longtime Chamber Director Ken Ellingsworth to run for office because they saw Leon’s leadership abilities, especially his skill at getting people to compromise. He served three terms on the City Commission, took a breather and ran for Mayor in 1978. He served two terms as mayor.

  • He served during a time of western expansion with new neighborhoods springing up west of the Interstate.
  • Those who ran for office in later years would always have Mr. Weekes’ name at the top of their list and many of us made the pilgrimage to his insurance office to seek his advice, counsel and endorsement.

    He was a regular fixture at the Chamber of Commerce, especially the state and local government affairs committee where he weighed in on the topics of the day and helped the chamber craft a legislative agenda.

    Mayor Weekes was also a fixture at The Green Owl for years and years, meeting daily  as part of a regular group that included community giants such as Mr. Ellingsworth (himself a former vice mayor), former City Commissioner Bob Costin, Charlie Gwynn, Ernie Simon, Lonnie Cook and many other civic leaders.

    During my tenure in office, I made sure to pop in occasionally, careful not to disturb the conversation, but wanting to show my face, wave and take the temperature on the issues of the day.

    More often than not, you were waved over and questioned, always good-naturedly on the topic du jour. It was a different time, a great time really. Delray felt very much like Mayberry in those days. But Mr. Weekes and many of his friends didn’t lament change, they liked some things, disliked others but seemed to understood the inevitability of change.

    Later, I had the chance to serve alongside Mr. Weekes, Mr. Simon and others on the board of their beloved Mae Volen Center.

    Mayor Weekes was passionate about making sure that senior citizens had activities, a hot meal, transportation and companionship. He was equally passionate about scouting and felt young men needed the skills and adventure that scouting provided. He got me and many others involved in a few projects along those lines as well.

    In recent years, Leon devoted himself to the care of his beloved wife. Close friends always remarked about how close the Weekes family was and how devoted they were to each other.

    I didn’t see much of Mr. Weekes in the past few years. Coincidentally, we were out to dinner with the Costin’s the night before he passed. And Bob and I spoke about Leon and his last visit to The Green Owl.

    Bob arranged to pick up both Mr. Weekes and Mr. Gwynn and they had a wonderful time visiting in a place that allowed them to laugh, share and converse for so many years.

    I’m sure Bob didn’t realize it would be the last time, or maybe he did.

    Regardless, life is a gift, time passes.

    Leon Weekes will long be remembered for his kind smile, his commitment to community and his love of family. He was a true gentleman and he will be missed. A whole lot.