Leon D. Carr, 29, a chef at the Village Inn restaurant on Grand Island, passed away Tuesday (February 19, 2008) after a snowboarding accident in Ellicottville. He was much beloved by family, his many friends and the staff at the restaurant on Ferry Road, where he worked with his uncle, Michael Carr, the owner.

Leon was born on July 28, 1978, in Arlington, Texas, at home. He is the son of Gary J. Carr (and Mary W.) of South Wales and Susan VanRooy of British Columbia, Canada.

He was known by customers and staff not only for his creative and delicious soups and his beautiful preparation and presentation of entrees, but also for his gentle and upbeat disposition. “He never held a grudge,” said co-worker Sherri Robinson-Cooney. “He was very easy going. He was the best. He's really going to be missed.” Carr had worked full time at the restaurant for about five years. Before that, he had done landscaping and had worked as a union tile setter.

He graduated from Grand Island High School and earned an associate's degree with honors at Erie Community College. Starting Monday morning, when word of the accident reached family and friends, the ICU waiting room was crowded with more than 50 people at a time, waiting to hear word on his condition and keeping vigil with his family. Carr's friends - many in their 20s and many who had worked with him at the restaurant - shared stories and said prayers.

His father, Gary Carr of South Wales, said many people came up to the family and said they were his oldest and best friends, a testament to his ability to touch people's lives in a powerful way. Leon's friend Chaz Bulera, also of Grand Island, agreed that Carr's character drew people to him. “I just think that the things we'll remember the most about Leon is about how much he cared for people and what he taught us about really being ourselves... really understanding what people have to offer. He just innately understood something like that,” “He was very lovable big, huge teddy bear, Bulera said. “He would do anything for you.” He said Carr had a remarkable positive quality. “It changed cynicism in people...it made people who were happy even happier.”

Leon loved spending time, year round, at his grandparents' cabin in the Southern Tier. He loved the outdoors and was a fine woodsman. He was an expert skier and snowboarder, often organizing groups of friends to go to Holiday Valley. He also could often be seen biking or jogging on the Island.

He loved the Sabres and the Bills, and recently enjoyed the Ice Bowl with his girlfriend, Sarah Gurbacki, also a Grand Island High School graduate. While there, she said he made a friend of a Penguins fan who was ready to fight for his team - literally. “Within seconds, he talked to him and they were hugging each other,” Gurbacki said. Carr had recently moved in to help his grandparents, Bob and Joanne Carr, of Grand Island, with their health problems. Growing up close to them, he had learned a lot of cooking tips from his grandmother, an excellent cook who was the original baker for the Village Inn, and a knowledge of the woods and of hunting from his “Grandpa Bob.” He also enjoyed his grandfather's pancakes and would stop almost every morning to share breakfast with the two of them. His family said that in keeping with his generous spirit, his organs have been donated.

Besides his parents, his stepmother, Mary W. Carr; his paternal grandparents; and his dear friend, Sarah; he is survived his brother, Erin F. (Amanda) Carr of the U.S. Marine Corps in California; a sister, Emily R. Carr of South Wales; his maternal grandparents, John and Ann VanRooy; his niece, Cheyenne; and nephew, Brett Carr, both of California; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Burial will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Steamburg Cemetery, where graveside services will include prayers said in the Baha'i faith. For information and directions to Steamburg, visit the Web site myspace.com/inmemoryofleoncarr or inmemoryof leoncarr@gmail.com, or call 909-1728. A Talking Circle and a Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2100 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island. Family and friends are welcome to attend.

Recommended for you