Tim Leis was an original. Much like the qualities of his favorite Leinenkugel's beer, he was a classic- enduring, pleasant, and well known in the community. If you didn't know Tim, you likely know someone who does. Chippewa Falls was his home, and his life was a love letter to it. He didn't talk in those terms. He just lived it out every day.
Tim's wife, Carrie, grew up in the Chicago area. "My family was blown away by this community from the start," Carrie said, noting that Tim always wanted people to participate in area activities and youth programs. "We both think so much of Chippewa Falls and all it has to offer families, and young people, especially."
Tim's profession and the Leis family's volunteerism reflect a lifetime of service to area youth. As a college student, Tim was a staff member at the YMCA. His first job after college was program director at the YMCA in Chippewa Falls. He went on to spend 25 years as a physical education teacher for students with special needs. In retirement, he became a job coach for Project SEARCH, helping those students go on to find jobs in the community. Tim coached thousands of young athletes in football, basketball, and track and field; he was an ardent supporter of fundraisers to make certain everyone could participate. Carrie recently retired from Southview Elementary School, and the two of them spent significant time together volunteering for a variety of organizations, including Agnes' Table and The Spirit of Christmas. They have been fixtures at community events through the years, pitching in where needed while enjoying the company of friends old and new.
"Tim and Carrie are two of the most giving, loving people I've ever met," said the couple's friend, Glen Zwiefelhofer, who befriended Tim while bartending at Leinie Lodge.
"Chippewa is a special place, and many of us fed off of Tim's enthusiasm for it," said Zwiefelhofer. "Carrie continues to volunteer, and I know she always will. And their children are following in his footsteps, too."
The Leis' children, Elizabeth and Matthew, learned early that their father was a man people sought out and that he didn't hesitate to help when he could. They grew up accustomed to sharing Tim with, well, everyone. This also instilled in them the importance of being a part of and giving back to a community.
"My dad was extremely supportive of everything we did, and he involved us in the things he was doing," Elizabeth said. "I would help him with basketball camps and watch how he inspired other young girls to care about their sport and to be better people. It's who he was."
Matthew helped his parents set up the Tim Leis Family Youth Enrichment Fund in April of 2022, just days before Tim succumbed to cancer at age 61. It was something they discussed many times over the years. The family agreed that their fund would support youth and that it would be endowed from the start so it could be utilized immediately.
"My father was extremely proud of this community, and it was important to him that we were able to start this as a family," Matthew said. "He was thinking about other people in his final moments, wanting the establishment of this fund to be a perpetually growing legacy for our family in this community he loved."
Zwiefelhofer sees the fund as the epitome of their life together. "There will never be another Tim and Carrie Leis. But there are a lot of people in this community like them-genuine, kind-hearted people who want Chippewa County to remain a wonderful place to raise a family," he said.
Tim Leis was the kind of person who never forgot you. According to Matthew, former students and coworkers were delighted when he would remember them years later and call them by name. The Tim Leis Family Youth Enrichment Fund, and Tim's countless acts of kindness in the community, ensure his name won't be forgotten either.
Grants support youth enrichment activities and programs within Chippewa County.