Cover photo for Leonard W. Huck's Obituary
1922 Leonard 2024

Leonard W. Huck

December 4, 1922 — July 7, 2024

Phoenix

Leonard Huck, Former Phoenix Man of the Year, 1922-2024

Leonard W. Huck, the former President of Arizona’s largest bank and a long-time civic leader in Metropolitan Phoenix, died peacefully in his Phoenix home on July 7, 2024, at age 101. During his 31-year career at the Valley National Bank, Huck rose from his starting position as an employee in the commercial loan department to President of the largest bank in the Southwest. Throughout those years he and Suzanne Lesher Huck, his wife of nearly 77-years, were leaders of many civic and community organizations while raising their family in the city’s Arcadia neighborhood. By all who knew him, Len Huck was recognized as a warm, kind, generous gentleman who lived a life of service to others during the decades of remarkable growth in Phoenix. 

Huck was born on December 4, 1922, in Sioux City, Iowa because his family’s town of Salix was too small (population 360) to have a hospital. As a youngster, the family moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where young Len served on the Student Council, played first string guard on the basketball team and was elected Homecoming King-- accomplishments that showed early evidence of his commitment to service and future leadership in business and community engagement. It was also in Sioux Falls that Huck developed a life-long affection for the YMCA where he swam, played basketball and, according to an unpublished autobiography, ate lunch of “wieners, sauerkraut and a boiled potato for 25 cents.”

Huck attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana where he received a four-year scholarship with a value his autobiography pegs at $1,000. “DePauw was great from the fall of 1940 to Pearl Harbor Day. The girls were rich and beautiful with most of them coming from the north shore suburbs of Chicago. The University had strict rules which included no automobiles and no drinking, so the fact that I didn’t have a car and had come from a Methodist family that frowned on drinking, didn’t put me at a disadvantage.” But the Navy needed officers to serve in World War II, so Huck’s graduation from DePauw was accelerated to 3 years after which he undertook advanced studies at Harvard and was commissioned in the Supply Corps. He served on the USS Bunch (DE 694) in combat in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres of the War. 

Following his Naval service, Huck came to the Valley where he was hired by Jack Stewart, the owner of the Camelback Inn. Now in the middle of prestigious Paradise Valley, Huck recalled his approach to the Inn in 1946: “We drove north on 24th Street to Camelback Road and headed east on what was then a gravel road. At 44th Street, the gravel road ended and from there to the Inn was an unimproved dirt road.” It was at Camelback Inn, where Huck met, dated and married Suzanne Lesher, the Social Director. In July of last year, the Hucks celebrated their 76th anniversary. 

From 1950 to 1957, Huck managed the Arizona Country Club where his leadership and service skills were recognized by senior officers at the Valley National Bank who hired him as a loan officer, then tasked him with creating a dining room for bank officers and clients. So, Huck began to do double duty. “I hired the chef, ordered the food and bought stemware and china. I made commercial loans from 8 to 11 a.m., then rushed up to the 12th floor to see that the food service was in order and the tables set. I served as the maitre d’ until 2:30 or 3:00. Then, went back to making loans.”

Over the next 30 years, Huck was given positions of consistently increasing responsibility including managing the Bank’s Scottsdale region, its Trust Department and in 1982, the entire Bank as President of an organization with more than 8,000 employees. Of his career at Valley National Bank, Huck said he wanted to be remembered as a leader “who had respect for every one of our employees. Everyone has a vital job to do.”

Huck’s service to his community included Big Chief of the Thunderbirds (sponsors of the Phoenix Open golf tournament), and President or Chair of many civic organizations including the Phoenix and Scottsdale Chambers of Commerce, St. Luke’s Hospital Board, Arizona State University Foundation, the National Bank Marketing Association, Southwestern Graduate School of Banking, Valley of the Sun United Way and Scottsdale Boys Club. Huck was named Phoenix Man of the Year in 1978. In a 2002 interview, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a longtime friend of Len and Sue Huck, shared, “He represents the best of citizen leaders whom I knew in my years in the Phoenix area. It didn’t matter how much work was needed, he was there. It was a time when we had very constructive leadership on the issues we faced, and Len and Sue were an integral part of that core.”

During Huck’s tenure as bank president and civic leader, he had the opportunity to meet many Arizona and National leaders including President George W Bush at Justice O’Connor’s farewell dinner at The White House. However, Huck’s favorite days were those spent in Arizona or on many international travels with his wife, family and friends who cherished him for his warmth, kindness and humor. Among many stories, Huck enjoyed telling of the Christmas party he and Sue co- hosted with the O’Connors at the Huck’s Arcadia home in the late ‘90’s. One of the guests invited by Justice O’Connor was former Vice President, Dan Quayle. Ever the gracious host, Huck introduced Quayle to other guests including Huck’s neighbors: “Jim, I’m very pleased to introduce the Vice President”. After a view cordial words, Quayle departed to meet others and with a puzzled look, Jim asked: “Vice President of what?”

Huck is survived by his wife, Suzanne, three adult children, Bill (Joanie), Bob (Julie) and Wendy Godfrey (William), seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. The family has enjoyed multi-generational travel throughout the world, but their love for Arizona always brought them back to their homes in the Phoenix area and in the Flagstaff community of Forest Highlands where Huck served as President of the Home Owners Association during construction of a second 18-hole golf course. In honor of Huck’s years of service to that community, the clubhouse for the Meadow Course is located on “Len Huck Drive”. A celebration of Leonard Huck’s life is planned for late August. In lieu of flowers, donations to one of the following is suggested: Thunderbird Charities, Forest Highlands Foundation or Valley of the Sun YMCA. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Leonard W. Huck, please visit our flower store.

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