Leonie's Life

Below is a brief biography of Leonie along with information on
her August 4, 2013, memorial service in Greenbelt, MD.


eonie Penney died peacefully in her home in Greenbelt, MD, on Monday, July 22, at the age of 95.

Leonie was born on March 29, 1918 during the final months of World War I in The Hague, the Netherlands. Leonie was the only child of Bernard and Olga Snatager, a working-class Jewish family. Growing up in the Netherlands Leonie earned her Master's degree in Economics in 1940 from the University of Amsterdam, the first woman in her field to do so.

Leonie survived the Holocaust of World War II by adopting an assumed identity and going underground. (Read her own gripping and inspirational account in this text of a 2012 talk she delivered about her Holocaust experiences.) In 1948, Leonie emigrated to the United States with her job as Senior Economist for the World Bank.

She met Walter Penney at the International Student House in Washington, D.C., and they married on October 11, 1952. After raising three children, she took a position as a Systems Analyst with the Department of Agriculture. Leonie further received a second Masters Degree in Computer Sciences from the University of Maryland in 1975. After retiring from the Department of Agriculture in 1983, she established her own home-based database consulting firm, Penney Associates, using a computer she built herself.

Leonie loved her American hometown of Greenbelt, MD. Throughout the 56 years she lived in Greenbelt, she served the community through her involvement with the Greenbelt Co-operative nursery, GIVES, Greenbelt Cares, the swim team, Twin Pines Savings and Loan, the Recycling Community, the Senior Citizens' Advisory Board, Greenbelt Assistance In Living, Friends of the Resource Advocate, and the News Review. After her husband's death, she became very active in the Widowed Person's Support Group, where she brought comfort to many other widowed persons. Leonie won numerous medals at Senior Olympics events. She was awarded Greenbelt's Citizen of the Year in 2008; she received the Greenbelt Outstanding Service award for her work on the Senior Advisory Board; and she received a Governor's Citation from Governor O'Malley of Maryland in 2013.

In addition to her Greenbelt activities, Leonie was instrumental in creating the body of work dedicated to her childhood friend Etty Hillesum. These works detailed the struggles Etty endured in concentration camps during the war through her diaries and letters to Leonie. She dedicated the Etty Hillesum memorial at the National Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC, and was invited back 20 years later as one of the last remaining survivors, where she met President Clinton.

Leonie was predeceased by her husband Walter in 2000 and son Walt in 2002. She is survived by her daughter Olga Garber (and Jon), of Leesburg, VA, and son Bernard (and Julie), of Pittsboro, NC, eleven grandchildren, and five great-grand-children. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.

The memorial service and reception for Leonie Penney will be held at the Greenbelt Fire House Meeting Hall, 125 Crescent Road, on August 4th at 4:00. Parking is limited at the Fire House, we request that the younger attendees park behind St. Hugh’s church.

In lieu of flowers, the Penney family requests consideration of a donation to the Leonie Penney YMCA Camp Letts Scholarship Fund. Leonie Penney attended this camp on the Chesapeake Bay with her family for 50 years and found it to be a very life-enriching experience. The Leonie Penney Scholarship Fund will enable under-privileged children to greatly benefit from this experience. To contribute, you may call the camp directly at (410) 919-1400; or mail a check payable to YMCA Camp Letts, memo “Leonie Penney Scholarship Fund” to YMCA Camp Letts, 4003 Camp Letts Rd., Edgewater, Md, 21037; or you may make a secure online payment at Leonie Penney YMCA Camp Letts Scholarship Fund. Thank you very much for your kind consideration.