The life and passing of Ed Leitner

Sara Konu


Retired psychology instructor Ed Leitner died April 28, after a nine-month battle with esophagus cancer. He is survived by his wife Pilla and children Neal and Deanna. He’s remembered by countless friends, colleagues and students.

Leitner began working at Pierce Puyallup in September of 1994. During his time at Pierce, he was a psychology professor as well as a faculty union president who negotiated contracts on behalf of his colleagues.

Those who worked with him described Leitner as a people person. He was someone who cared about individuals and he could find something to bond over and talk about with them.

Outside of Pierce, Leitner was an avid coin collector and a baseball fan.

“For a time he had his own store with baseball cards and coins. People would come from far and wide to ask for his expertise,” said Leitner’s longtime friend and colleague, Leon Khalsa-Maulen. “He would literally spend days at coin conferences talking to the experts and sharing his expertise.”

But that isn’t all. He was also a well-liked, respected and a valuable member of the faculty at the college. He was passionate about psychology and passionate about the people he worked with.

“Ed and I served on a couple tenure committees and he was always a pleasure to work with,” Earth science teacher Tom Bush said. “He was thoughtful, dedicated and displayed a level of integrity I always appreciated.”

When Leitner retired in 2008, he and his wife moved to Norway and from there they traveled throughout Europe. His wife chronicled their adventures in her blog

Leitner discovered he had esophagus cancer in August 2010 and fought it with several cycles of radiation and chemotherapy. He was left in a weakened state that put him in a wheelchair, but his condition appeared to be improving.

In mid-April, Leitner and his wife traveled back to the United States to reconnect with friends and family.

When they came to Tacoma, Khalsa hosted them.

“His No. 1 goal was to meet with the people he hadn’t seen for a while and reconnect with the people he had close connections with,” Khalsa said. “Several colleagues and friends came to visit and he made sure everyone who had a meeting with him left with a smile.”

Leitner’s condition took a turn for the worse when he and his wife traveled to Phoenix, Ariz., to visit family. After briefly being hospitalized upon arrival, Leitner’s health seemed to improve, but on April 28, Leitner passed away.

A memorial service was held in Phoenix May 7.

“When I went to the service and met friends of his from when he was a teenager, they told stories about him and it was remarkable how consistent he was across the years. It was the same Ed that I had met in his later years,” Khalsa said. “One of his high school friends said that the theme of Ed’s life was creating and maintaining strong relationships.”



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The life and passing of Ed Leitner

by Sara Konu time to read: 2 min