Longtime community volunteer John Leggate has been chosen as marquis for the 50th anniversary of Coon Rapids Snowflake Days Jan. 23 through Feb. 16.
This will be the first time in many years that there has been a marquis for Snowflake Days, but the title was an integral part of the celebration for many years.
The marquis makes appearances at almost all the Snowflake Days activities, and as Coon Rapids Snowflake Association President Diane Bustza puts it “acts as the grand poobah.”
In recent years, the Snowflake Days celebration was downsized somewhat because of lack of volunteers and a marquis was not chosen, according to Buszta said.
“I believe that this 50th anniversary celebration is a great time to try and revive some of the things we’ve done in the past – revisit history if you will – and bring back the marquis, if only for this awesome celebration, is a great way to revisit our history,” Buszta said.
“I can’t think of anyone better suited to represent our city and our 50th anniversary celebration than John Leggate.”
Leggate, who serves on the association’s planning committee, was approached some time ago about being the 2014 marquis, but declined, he said.
“That’s not me,” Leggate said.
But at a more recent meeting of the committee, when his wife, Sue, was present, Leggate was asked again and “reluctantly accepted,” he said. “I’ll try anything once,” Leggate said.
In the past, the marquis has worn a special hat and a cloak and Bustza is rounding up a uniform for him as marquis, according to Leggate.
In addition, Buszta is hoping to contact all those who have served as Snowflake Days marquis in the past for a reunion at one of the events, Leggate said.
Leggate’s volunteer work stretches back many years, notably for some 14 years in the Lions community service organization, first with the Coon Rapids Lions Club, where he served as president, and now with the Coon Rapids North Star Lions Club, for whom he is treasurer.
He works at the club’s many waffle breakfasts that raise funds for community organizations and he is also one of the club’s volunteers that man the concession stand at Sand Creek Park at the annual Coon Rapids Fourth of July celebration as well as on evenings and weekends during the spring, summer and fall for softball and other sports activities that take place in the park.
In addition, Leggate has been a volunteer with the Miss Coon Rapids Scholarship Pageant Association for some 30 years and is currently its treasurer; Sue Leggate has volunteered for over 40 years and his daughter, Theresa, is the current director of the pageant.
Born, raised and educated in Superior, Wis., Leggate and his wife moved to Coon Rapids in 1971.
At that time, he was employed by AT&T in Minneapolis, where he first started work as a craftsman in 1968 and then worked in marketing management before retiring after 20 years at the age of 55.
Leggate then went into business for himself, purchasing a convenience store, named By The Way, in the TCF Tower skyway in downtown Minneapolis.
He ran the store for five years, but when he was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer, he sold the business to his brother-in-law, according to Leggate.
“I was given six months to live,” Leggate said.
That was almost 10 years ago and Leggate is a cancer survivor.
In that time, Leggate has had 10 operations, including three liver resections, in which a piece of his liver has been removed each time; his colon has been taken out; he has had stomach surgery; and lymph node surgery, he said.
“The cancer has moved around,” Leggate said.
But the cancer has been dormant for more than a year and he has not had to undergo chemotherapy for two years, according to Leggate.
However, he is checked out by his doctor every month, Leggate said.
“I feel very fortunate,” he said. “I am one of the very few with liver cancer who have lived this long.”
While he had volunteered in the community before he had cancer, once he received the diagnosis, he increased his volunteer work.
And he has also continued to work full time. He has been transportation coordinator for Rise, Inc. since 2006, Leggate said.
Leggate did not want go home and feel sorry for himself after his cancer diagnosis and, in effect, wait to die, he said.
“I wanted to keep very active, and I have been very active and kept a positive attitude,” Leggate said.
In addition, Leggate’s doctors have helped a great deal, too, while he believes in the power of prayer himself and also has a lot of people praying for him, he said.
Indeed, Leggate said with his volunteer work, he will be pulling double duty at some of the 2014 Coon Rapids Snowflake Days events in his role as marquis.
According to Buszta, she considers Leggate a hero and “someone who has truly inspired me to be a better person and fostered my desire to serve others.”
“John’s great attitude, amazing spirit and will to live should be a prime example for us all to follow,” Buszta said.
Besides his work with the Coon Rapids North Star Lions Club, the Miss Coon Rapids Scholarship Pageant and the Snowflake Association, Leggate also serves on the Coon Rapids Community Strength Foundation and has given many hours of service to Epiphany Catholic Church, she said.
“John has always been the consummate volunteer,” Buszta said.
For more information on Snowflake Days contact Buszta at [email protected]
Buszta would also like to hear from those who have been a Snowflake Days marquis in the past on their interest in attending a reunion event, Leggate said.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]