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Leona Katherine Armstrong

12/10/1916 - 3/1/2003
Los Angeles, CA

Leona Katherine Bejenkowski was born on December 10, 1916, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her mother was Anna Wisniewski (b. April 1884, Pennsylvania; d. October 1918, Pittsburgh), and her father was John Stanislaus Bejenkowski (b. June 1881, Poland; d. October 1918, Pittsburgh).

John Bejenkowski, a pharmacist, was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He owned and operated two drug stores in Pittsburgh. His brother, Leon, managed one of them.

Leona was just 22 months old when her mother and father died in the October 1918 influenza epidemic in Pittsburgh. Her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Leon Bejenkowski, raised her. The flu epidemic of 1918 killed 18,554 people between October 1 and October 24 in the area. Several of Leona's immediate relatives died at the same time, and were buried in a common grave in the St. Stanislaus Church in Pittsburgh. It was a miracle that Leona survived.

Leona married Nelson W. Armstrong in 1939, son of Lester and Mary Atwood Armstrong. Nelson Armstrong was born on December 17, 1911 in Pittsburgh, and died on May 1978 in Pittsburgh. Nelson played the saxophone, and had an orchestra called Nelson Maples and His Band. He and Leona were involved in the musical and entertainment activities in Pittsburgh; they knew Lenny Bruce well. Nelson was also a cousin of James Dowd, who married their only child, Judith, in Pittsburgh in 1973.

When Nelson died in 1978, Leona moved to Los Angeles to be with their only child, Judith A. Dowd (nee Armstrong). Her only grandchild, Jameson Dowd, was born on June 21, 1979.

Leona had become an office manager for Guiltspur Exhibits/Pittsburgh, a company that made art and musical setups for display at sales conventions throughout the United States. She was employed for many years in Los Angeles in a similar capacity.

After retirement, she ws active in church-related activities at Hollywood Lutheran Church, because her family joined that church during John Wagner's ministry. Subsequently, Leona was active at St. Ambrose, her Catholic Church. In 2000, Cardinal Roger Mahoney presented her with a Certificate of Appreciation for her lengthy service to the community.

Leona had a lifelong blood circulatory problem. In the past decade, she had major surgery four times, including a kidney removal. She developed foot and ankle ulcers that led to a series of major operations on her legs. She never really recovered from these last operations.

In mid-2002, Leona took up residence at St. John of God Convalescent Hospital, a highly regarded Catholic Brothers facility with 24-hour skilled nursing in Los Angeles, where she made many friends among the staff and her dining partners. A recent stomach flu and subsequent embolism greatly compromised her weak heart, and led to her passing. Kaiser Sunset Hospital set up a mini-hospice, where Leona Katherine Armstrong passed away peacefully on Saturday, March 1, 2003.

Leona Armstrong is survived by her daughter, Judith A. Dowd; her son-in-law, James A. Dowd, and her grandson, Jameson Dowd.

Memorial Service:
Saturday, March 29, 2003, at 1:00pm, at the Hollywood Funeral Home Chapel, located on the grounds of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90038.

Hollywood Forever
(323) 469-1181