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Leone H Benner

September 22, 1936 ~ July 24, 2022 (age 85)

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Leone H. Benner, 85, of the Town of Center, passed away at the family homestead, with several of her children at her side on July 24, 2022.  She was called to her eternal home 5 months after being diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Born September 22, 1936, Leone Helena Van Handel was the second oldest of seven children from the union of Joseph and Harriet (Hietpas) Van Handel. She was a 1954 graduate of Hortonville High School.  Coming from a large family, Leone learned the value of “family” at an early age, and always put family first.

On September 26, 1957 she married Marvin (Marv) Gerrits. Together they had five children. A second marriage to David (Dave) L. Nelson in 1972, brought six step-children to her extended family. Although they did not live with her, she always opened her door to them, as if they were her own. Leone’s final marriage to William (Bill) Benner in 1991 brought eight more step-children into her life.  She took great pride in everything she did, but she was extremely proud to bring people into her home to show them the immense Christmas Village she loved to display year round, turning it into Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving villages, with the seasons.

Born and raised a Catholic, Leone was always a woman of faith, even to the end. This faith, her love of family and the friendships she cultivated throughout her many facets of life were the most important things to her.

Leone is survived by her children, Terry and Marlene Gerrits, Beloit, and their son Craig (Andrea) DeCleene and their children Bryce and Braylon; Paula and Steve Weyers, Seymour, and their children Brooke (Kenny) VanDeHei and their children Gavin, Grayson and Kenlynn and Bryan (Annette Lisa) Nagorny and their children Angel, Jasmine and Hayden; Colleen and Richard (Dick) Poquette, DePere, and their grandchildren Ryker, Rylee and Brynn and daughter Sarah (Phoenix Daniels) Poquette and their children Ann and Christin; Jolene and Mark Waldburger, Menasha, and their children Timothy (special friend Samantha Roberts) Waldburger and Derek (fiancée Stefanie Wideman) Waldburger; Mark and Ann (Kaczkowski) Gerrits, Seymour, and their children Josie Kaczkowski, Kylie Dake and Max Dake.  She is also survived by her siblings, Sr. Jolene Van Handel, Jerome (Phyllis) Van Handel, Beverly (Gerald) Gartzke and Glenn (Mary) Van Handel, sister-in-law Millie Van Handel and many nieces, nephews, cousins and special friends and neighbors.  She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Robert (Bob) Van Handel, sister Judith (Jude) Van Handel, husband William (Bill) Benner and Grandson Richard (Rick) Poquette.

In accordance with Leone’s wishes, a private funeral mass will take place at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, with Fr. Michael Warden officiating.  A Celebration of Life will be held on August 20, 2022, starting at noon, at the Town of Center Pavillion, N3990 State Road 47, Appleton.

The family would like to thank Dr. Szabo and his staff, the staff at Green Bay Oncology at Ascension St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and the Unity Hospice team, especially Ashley, Bill and Holly for their wonderful and compassionate care.  A special thank you to our sister Colleen who unselfishly moved in and took care of Mom so she could spend her final weeks at home, as she wished, and also special thanks to our sister Jolene who was mom’s medical advocate, getting her to appointments and translating all the medical information for mom and the rest of the family.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established or donations can be made to Metavivor Research at:



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