Mary Jane Leader


Mary Jane Strickler Leader passed away March 15, 2011, at her home in Hershey.

The wife of former Pennsylvania Governor George M. Leader, she was born in Williamsport on April 7, 1918, the second child of the late Claude Edward and Mary Jane Butcher Strickler. She grew up in York and graduated from York High School, where she met and later married her husband, George, who served as Pennsylvania governor from 1955 to 1959.

She attended the University of Pennsylvania while her husband did graduate work at the university. She returned to York while her husband served in the Pacific Theater during WWII. When he returned home, Mrs. Leader helped her husband start a new poultry hatchery business and launch his political career in the State Senate in 1950.

In 1954, her husband was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, the second youngest person ever elected. The family moved into the old Executive Mansion located on North Front Street in Harrisburg, the last family to occupy that home. She enjoyed her duties as First Lady, especially hosting some of the nation’s leading political figures. Among the honors she received was being named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania.

Following her husband’s term of office, the family moved to Gladwyne and, later, King of Prussia, Montgomery County, where they resided for 23 years. It was during this time that she and her husband founded two healthcare companies, both of which grew to be the largest in the state - Leader Nursing Centers, Inc. and Country Meadows Retirement Communities, a provider of assisted living. She and her husband moved to Hershey in 1983.
Her principal interests centered on her family, her role in the family’s companies, and several favorite charities. A licensed nursing home administrator, Mrs. Leader served in management and as a director of the family enterprises until the time of her death. She also served several terms on the state Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators and on the State Council for the Blind.

Mrs. Leader had three siblings, two of whom are deceased: Edward M. Strickler and Richard S. Strickler. Her youngest brother, Byron B. Strickler, resides in York with his wife, Elaine.

She was surrounded during her final illness by a family who loved her very much. She is survived by her husband of 71 years, George, and son Michael Leader (Karen Chronister), daughter Jane Janeczek (Ted), son David Leader (Liesa Hall), and daughter-in-law Anne Leader, widow of her late son Fred, who passed away in 2003.

Mrs. Leader was devoted to and very proud of her 12 grandchildren: Jennifer, George Michael, Katelyn and Kristin Leader; Alex and Andrew Janeczek and Meredith Janeczek Mills; and Tania Leader-Hanmer (Sean), Ricardo, Catia, Xico and Grace Leader. And she loved her only great grandchild, Kyle Leader-Hanmer. Her nephew, Steve Strickler of Medford, Oregon, also held a special place in her heart.

She was a 25-year member of Derry Presbyterian Church in Hershey. Funeral services will be held at the church, located at 248 East Derry Road, Hershey, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 19. A visitation will be held at Hoover Funeral Home in Hershey on Friday evening, March 18, between 4 and 7 p.m. Interment will be private
Mrs. Leader was passionate about several charities for which she provided fundraising support: Kidney Foundation of Central PA, CARE, WITF, Inc., Planned Parenthood of Central PA, and several charities serving the blind. Her late son, Fred, had been blind from birth.

In lieu of flowers the family would appreciate contributions in her memory to Doctors Without Borders USA, PO Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741, or Planned Parenthood of Central PA, 728 S. Beaver Street, York, PA 17405.


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