It is with both sorrow and gratitude that we inform you of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Jean Marcel Jules Leblon. Jean touched the lives of many during his long and storied time here, and, among his innumerable accomplishments, he played a pivotal role in the establishment of NOTIS in 1988. We thank him for his service, to NOTIS and to the broader translation and interpreting community. While we mourn his departure, we choose today to celebrate the life he lived and the lasting impact he made.
Please find Jean's obituary below, and feel welcome to leave any comments or memories of him in the comments section below.
Jean Marcel Jules Leblon
June 7, 1928 - November 16, 2023
Jean Leblon of Seattle, Washington, a French professor and translator who worked vigorously and professionally for 62 years for multiple universities and organizations, passed away peacefully in his sleep on November 16, 2023, following a brief hospitalization and stay in a loving adult family care home.
Jean was the devoted husband to Mary, his wife of 55 years, who passed away in 2007, as well as the devoted father of two daughters, Mitzi and Simone. His storybook life began in the village of St.-Remy near the French-speaking medieval town of Chimay in southern Belgium, where he was born to Marcelle and Alfred Leblon. He came into the world 10 years after the end of the Great War and only 11 years before the start of WWII, resulting in a very grim wartime adolescence. Jean befriended young GIs serving in the fields near his home, and at 18 was invited to visit the US, where in one of the men’s hometowns of Emporia, Kansas, he was offered the opportunity to attend college at the Kansas State Teachers’ College, earning his bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish. Having met his wife Mary there, he then moved to Connecticut and earned his Ph.D. in French Philology and Literature at Yale in 1960. He then began a tireless, energetic teaching career with posts at Connecticut College, CCNY, Hollins College, and Vanderbilt University as French and Italian Department Chair, including the chairmanship of its French program in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1967 and 1968. He retired from this first career in 1987 when he and Mary moved to Seattle, Washington, where he began a second career at Microsoft as Translator, French Terminologist, Copy editor, and Localizer until his second retirement in 1995. After this date, Jean started his own translation business, working with the French Consulate General in San Francisco, teaching in the Bellevue College Translation and Interpretation Institute, and translating documents for the general public referred to him well into his 90’s.
In addition to all these activities, Jean was involved in research and publication as well as a myriad amount of extra-curricular activities: such as 20 years as examiner at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) for the College Board, 10 years as trainer of African teachers in the Peace Corps, as a member of the board of the American Translation Association, co-creating in 1988 the Northwest Interpreters and Translators Society, serving as president of the Alliance Française of Seattle and board member of the American Association of Teachers of French as well as of the Seattle Nantes Sister City Association. In 2003, Jean became “Chevalier dans l’Order des Palmes Académiques”, presented by the Consul General of France at the Alliance Française of Seattle.
And throughout it all, Jean was passionate about the many pleasures in life: travel, the joys of the table, new places and new experiences. He loved participating in community theater productions throughout his adult life. He was considered a “walking encyclopedia” by his many associates, with his extensive teaching expertise and erudition. He was a man committed to his connections with his Belgian family and to deep, lasting friendships that nourished and replenished him at every turn. His friends and colleagues most often cited his kindness, his extensive knowledge, his generosity of spirit, his vigor: as his Seattle-Nantes colleague shared, “I was always in awe of Jean’s adventurous spirit: taking driving trips all over Belgium and France at an advanced age — really being a role model for those of us in our eighties”. Another colleague from Seattle-Nantes shared, that Jean was “one of his most cherished friends, with a 35-year friendship that I would have loved to continue”. And, as his former student at Vanderbilt-in-France who became his lifelong friend, shared: “he was that splendid combination of such a good heart, an incredibly sound mind and deep soul”. His bonhomie and joie de vivre will be sorely missed by all.
Survivors include his daughters Mitzi Leblon-Ledingham (Gordon) of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Simone Leblon of Seattle, Washington; grandchildren Cameron Ledingham of Seattle and Sophie Ledingham of Portland, Oregon; brother Claude Leblon of Chimay, Belgium, and six nieces and nephews and their families.
Jean will be laid to rest in Emporia, Kansas next to his wife Mary. Another memorial for Jean will be held in Chimay at a later date to be determined, in order for his beloved Belgian family and friends to celebrate him.