Leo Kayser Jr. of Birmingham, Ala., Chilmark and Naples, Fla., died Oct. 26. He was 95.
Leo graduated Phi Beta Kappa in economics from the University of Michigan. As a member of the Greatest Generation, he served his country during World War II as an officer in the Army Air Corps, in radar control of flight missions over France and other parts of Europe. For 60 years he headed investment banking at Kayser & Company. Always interested in exploration of other lands and cultures, Leo and his wife Simmie traveled extensively throughout the world. They first summered in Chilmark in 1955, sharing a State Road cottage with Simmie’s sister, Ann G. Haas from Kansas City, Mo., and her husband Emil Haas, and their two daughters, Sandy and Emmy. It was through Ann’s friendship in Kansas City with the Thomas Hart Bentons that Simmie and Leo subsequently came to know Rita and Tom Benton and to rent Jessie’s cottage with Tom’s oils hung all around. Another summer they enjoyed a different grouping of his work in Eleanor Piacenza’s house.
As a sports enthusiast, Leo especially enjoyed the sport and camaraderie of his regular tennis game on the Gil Harrison court, organized and perpetuated by Michael Straight, with other such Island notables as Stan Hart, Dick Craven and Don Davis. Their game lasted for more than three decades, and Leo is the last of these racquet warriors to exit the court.
Leo was the consummate gentleman, understated, easy-going, naturally courteous and thoroughly genuine. Unfailingly kind and considerate to his wife and family, he was also a true friend to a friend in need. He was comfortable in his own skin, incisive, optimistic, possessed of an uncommon generosity of spirit, and a pleasure to be around. He loved and was well loved, and will be well remembered by all who knew him.
He was predeceased by his wife of 68 years, Simmie G. Kayser. He is survived by his son, Leo Kayser 3rd, of New York; his daughter, Deborah K. Strauss, of Birmingham, Ala.; his grandson, G. Kayser Strauss and wife Keiko F. Strauss of New York; and two great-grandchildren, Ayleen Kayser Strauss and Oren Simmie Strauss of New York. Also surviving Leo and Simmie are their nieces, Sandy H. Berler and husband David of Chevy Chase, Md.; and Emmy H. Davidson and husband Bruce of New York, who are also longtime summer residents of Chilmark.