Kristine Diane Jennifer Leopold
May 28, 1947 – September 18, 2022
Even from birth, Kristine Leopold (née Beatovic) was a burst of joy to her family. She was born to Evelyn and Christ Beatovic on May 28, 1947 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She grew up with her older brother Jack and her dog Socrates in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Kristine was taught from an early age to be proud of her Serbian heritage, celebrating throughout her life with Serbian food and celebrations. She expressed this as an extension of loving her father, who was part of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox’s congregation in Milwaukee.
Since she was young, Kristine was an active artist and sought out education. She loved reading, was the art club Vice President at Greenfield High School (1963-66) and was part of the pep club. As Kristine often reflected, her thirst for learning wasn’t recognized at home, but that didn’t stop her. One of her neighbors pulled her aside and said that she ‘should go to college because she was smart enough to make a difference in the world.’ That neighbor immediately drove her to UW-Milwaukee to enroll. Kristine would be the first in her family to have a college degree—a B.S. in elementary education with a minor in art education from UW-Milwaukee (1971-76). She was also the first person to study for a graduate degree in gifted and talented education at Cardinal Stritch College (1983-87).
Kristine met Stephen Leopold in her late 20s. She worked for the UW-Milwaukee paper and was interviewing Stephen about his time in Vietnam as a prisoner of war. Their romance was fast, and they were married within a year. They had two children, Christopher (1977) and Cassandra (1980).
While married to Stephen, Kristine ran for and won the Fifth District seat on the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) Board starting in 1981. She beat a veteran politician by having “fresh ideas and a vigorous background in the arts and education.” She ran on a platform that advocated for women’s equity and advanced roles in education, gender equity in sports, truancy issues, and reducing vandalism. She served on the MPS Board from 1981-1985, and was then reelected to a second term in 1985. Kristine stepped down in 1989 to teach at Donges Bay School in Mequon, Wisconsin.
In 1991, Kristine continued to grow as an educator and use her talent and motivational style, to serve students in Milwaukee as she wanted to give her time and skills where she could do the most good. She left Mequon and began working at Garfield Avenue School, where she taught for 15 years. Kristine had advanced training as a reading specialist and worked in creating inclusive classrooms for students of all learning capabilities long before it became standard. Fellow educators and former students alike recall Kristine as a compassionate, energetic, and empowering fifth grade teacher. Many will remember her as a life-long urban educator, going where she was needed, and dedicated to making Milwaukee’s future bright through its children. Kristine instilled this same belief and love of serving the public and investing in community into her own children (Christopher now works with MPS’s Project STAY and is a special education teacher in Milwaukee and Cassandra is a senior multimodal planner in Pittsburgh, helping plan and design equitable transportation infrastructure for cities throughout the east coast of the U.S.).
When she wasn’t teaching or raising her children, Kristine lived for being in her garden and being with friends. Her children remember her working her garden every year to grow tomatoes, basil, and rhubarb. Her crowning achievement, of course, was her butterfly garden. Kristine even started a small landscaping service called ‘Yellow Wagon Flower Company’ with two of her close teaching friends from Garfield, Kathleen Folz, Joanna McKanry-Barrett and their children- Jamie Barrett, Chris, and Cassandra. She also maintained a garden spot at the Friends’ Meeting House in Riverwest. To her very last day, Kristine loved flowers and cherished the outdoors.
Kristine will be remembered for her love of style and color. When she was younger, she would sew her own clothes and model in Chicago. She wore the best mini-skirts and always had her makeup in the latest fashion. She loved jewelry and was never without dangling earrings, bracelets, and rings. Kristine would dress in full matching colors, down to matching her nail polish color and lipstick. The staff at Hart Park and St. Anne’s Living Facilities in Wauwatosa could always spot Kristine in a crowd as she was the brightest, most colorful person and personality in the room. She was also a flirt, and loved dancing, even with her walker.
Finally, friends and family will remember Kristine as a prolific and creative maker. From quilts to jams to homemade cards with her own nature photography, Kristine constantly made art. She found inspiration everywhere, celebrating people and nature. Kristine never lost her eye for beauty and color, practicing it her whole life.
Kristine was lucky enough to spend years with her family who loved her dearly. This included her daughter-in-law Ellen and son-in-law Allain. Her greatest joy and pride were her grandchildren Noah, Annie, and Max and her great-grand child Lianiese. From the day she met each of them, she showered them with love and support. She wanted them to know she’d always be there for them and accepted them as they are.
Kristine passed away at 75 from complications of vascular dementia at St. Anne’s assisted living facility in Wauwatosa on September 18th. Her memorial visitation will take place on Saturday, September 24th, from 2pm to 4pm at the Heritage Funeral Home (6615 W Oklahoma Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53219). Kristine would want everyone to wear color as she wanted her death to be a celebration of life.
Kristine would often give a kind wink when saying goodbye. Looking out to you, wherever you are dancing, we’re winking back at you, Kristine.