Posted on: October 31, 2023
Dr. Leo J. Yoder, age 89, went to be with the Lord on October 12, 2023.
He was born on July 27, 1934 in an Amish community in Nowata, Oklahoma, to Tobe and Saloma Yoder and was the first of six siblings. His family moved to Kansas and then to Virginia. As was common practice among the Amish, he stopped going to school after completing 7th grade and then began working on the farm. In 1952, Leo began working in the kitchen at a mental hospital in Maryland. While there, he finished high school through correspondence, and he later became an attendant at another mental hospital in Virginia.
Leo and Mary Schrock grew up in the same Amish church and were married on April 24, 1958. In the spring of 1958, he began attending Eastern Mennonite College followed by medical school at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. While in medical school, Leo and Mary went to Tanzania for two months to work in a mission hospital in 1964. It was a life-changing experience. Leo graduated from medical school in 1965 and began his internship in Springfield, Ohio. Their son Stuart was born in 1966. After completing his internship, he took over a solo practice in the mountains of Virginia. In 1967, they accepted a missionary appointment to a hospital in Tanzania for a four-year term. Their daughter Treva was born in 1969. After completing the missionary term in 1971, they returned to Virginia to complete a residency in family medicine. Their daughter Sharon was born in 1972. In 1974, the family returned to Africa and Leo began working as a missionary doctor in Ethiopia. During that time, an abandoned infant was brought to the hospital where Leo worked. Leo and Mary nursed him back to health, named him John Sidney, and eventually adopted him. In 1976, Leo began working with the All Africa Leprosy Center in Addis Ababa.
After completing their missionary term the family returned to the US. Leo began his ministry of working with leprosy patients at the Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, Louisiana in 1982. Leo became an expert in the field of leprosy and was promoted to the position of Chief of Medicine.
After 15 years of service in Carville, Leo retired in 1997. During his retirement, Leo became the president of Medical Centers of West Africa and served on the boards American Leprosy Missions (ALM) and Choice Books. He traveled with ALM to many places around the world as a leprosy consultant. He also spent a great deal of time going into Mexico with various mission organizations setting up medical clinics, providing care for other missionaries, and spreading the good news about Jesus Christ.
Leo is survived by Mary Yoder, his beloved wife of 65 years, and his children, Stuart Yoder and wife, Kori; Treva Copeland and husband, Russell; Sharon Hedges and husband, Thor; John “Sidney” Yoder and wife, Kristin; and his grandchildren, Katherine Yoder, Jonathan Yoder, Mark Leo Yoder, Tobias Yoder, Elizabeth Copeland, Rachel Copeland, Hannah Lukachick and husband, Daniel; Mary Ruth Copeland, John Copeland, Torsten Hedges, Torrie Hedges, Kamilla Hedges, Sophie Hedges, John “Ashly” Yoder, Justin “Brock” Yoder, and Tashi Hope Yoder. He is also survived by his siblings Nora Schrock, Barbara Hershberger, Sylvia Miller, John Henry Yoder, and Irene Nisly.
Leo lived a faithful life of service to God and blessed thousands of people through his diligent leadership and devoted care for others. He was a world traveler with a keen mind that never stopped learning. He was a truly beloved husband, father, and grandfather, and his legacy and purposeful care will live on for generations in the hearts and minds of those whose lives he touched. The family wishes to thank Cheryl Ruffin and Audubon Hospice for their kind care during this time.