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In loving memory of
Denis J Leary
  • September 27, 1953
  • -
  • March 04, 2017

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Obituary

Denis James Leary, 63, of New Haven, CT, died peacefully with family by his side on March 4, 2017, after a brief illness, in Mount Dora, FL. He previously resided in Wallingford, CT and Port St. Lucie, FL. Denis was born on September 27, 1953 in Brockton, MA to Mildred McLaughlin and Edward Leary and raised by his step father Gennaro Punzo in New Haven, CT.  He is survived by his sister Molly Punzo of Mount Dora, FL, and brothers Frank Punzo of Haddam, CT, and Edward Leary of Port St. Lucie, FL.

He graduated from the University of CT in 1975 with a BA degree in Political Science. His expertise was in English as a Second Language, Business, Management and Education Leadership. He was a graduate student in education and worked as assistant to the University of Connecticut Vice-President, administering scholarship programs and teaching business. During his life Denis taught U.S. History and held licenses in the areas of real estate, finance, education and transportation. He was also a licensed automotive dealer, general manager and building contractor.

Denis spent the last 7 years living in Beijing, China working as an English teacher and mentor for Chinese students and businesses. He was very proud of his work over these years. He did his utmost to not only teach English to professionals and young people in China, but also mentored them in American history and “all ways American.” He often said he acted as an American Ambassador to China. He was immensely patriotic and treasured American values. He felt dutybound to represent America in a superlative manner. His students cherished his mentoring, evidenced by the many accolades received. It gave him much joy having placed many Chinese students in schools and businesses here and around the world. He will be dearly missed by all those whose lives he touched.

A memorial service will be held in Wallingford, CT on May 5th, 2017 at the Holy Trinity Church with a reception to follow at Leon’s Restaurant at 344 Washington Ave, North Haven CT. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Denis Leary’s life. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Cornerstone Hospice at 2445 Lane Park Rd, Tavares, FL  32778. The family would like to thank Cornerstone Hospice for the exceptional care and compassion.


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  1. 04 May 2017
    elizabeth culligan says:
    I am so fortunate to be a part of the Leary/Punzo family and have many happy memories of Tom and I visiting Grieb Road spending Sundays with the family and laughing and joking with Denis. I'm sorry to have lost touch over the years but fortunate that we have now reconnected as family and can share in all the memories we had together. My love and condolences to you all. I know Denis and Tom have reconnected in heaven.

  2. 04 May 2017
    Len Francesconi says:
    Denis and I were great friends in Saint John’s. After we graduated in ’67 we lost touch, I was fortunate to have many phone conversations with him before he left for China and continued to exchange emails while he was there. We were able to rekindle the friendship as if the time had not passed by. He was the best of us in Saint John’s and I will miss him, our conversations, and our friendship. God bless you Denis.

  3. 30 Apr 2017
    DAVID ERBA says:
    denis was a childhood friend of mine from st john the baptist school in new haven. i remember him as a good, sweet person. i have thought of him many times since 1967 and unfortunately this is my first contact. my thoughts are with those who loved him.

  4. 14 Apr 2017
    Abdou posted an image:
    Denis with Lisa and Ethan in front of Tomato cafe in Beijing.
    Denis with Lisa and Ethan in front of Tomato cafe in Beijing.

  5. 11 Apr 2017
    Abdou says:
    To Molly,
    Im Abdou, Denis' Friend, I'm sure denis told you about me.
    Please accept my deepest condolences for your family's loss.
    Words cannot even begin to express my sorrow.
    I used to always call him" My Uncle" and " the Boss of the neighborhood", Denis was a very close friend to me during his stay in china, and we shared beautiful moments in China .
    He was inspiring me by his wisdom, kindness and generosity with everyone. Everyone loved him so much.
    A beautiful soul, full of love and faith, ascended to heaven, away from us, but closer to God, leaving loneliness and sadness.
    We all gonna miss him.

  6. 19 Mar 2017
    Annemarie and Howard Mitchell says:
    Molly-we are so sorry for your loss. We never got to meet Denis in person, but I think we knew him a little through you. You and Denis are in out thoughts and prayers. Love to you both.

  7. 19 Mar 2017
    Annemarie and Howard Mitchell lit a candle:
    Lit since March 19, 2017 at 3:56:54 AM

  8. 16 Mar 2017
    Frank Punzo says:
    To my dear brother Denis "Denbo". I will miss you. I have been spending the time since you passed remembering the good times. You were one of the smartest and funniest people I've ever known. You left us all with so many memories. You always kept us all incredibly informed about world events and laughing like crazy at the same time. You also had the knack for coming up with the most perfect nick names for people that have stuck to this day. I will forever remember the times when I was a little kid and we would re-enact the scenes of The Amazing Sluggo and Mr. Bill from SNL. I still laugh about that. And I can still see you teasing Apollo and letting Caesar take up your entire bed. You kept us laughing right up until the very end. Amazing! You were loved and you will be missed. Save a spot up there for me. Say hi to Dad and Milbo for me. Love you.

  9. 16 Mar 2017
    Josiane Richter says:
    Dear Denis:
    I had the privilege of booking you flights home in January and prayed that you would get well once back in the States. I know Molly and Martin did everything in their power to make you well and were there with you every step of the way. I wish I had personally met you
    My prayers are with you and your loved ones. May you rest in peace

  10. 15 Mar 2017
    Jeffrey Hayden says:
    Dennis you've been my best friend for thirty five years. I met you a week after my mother passed and you were like the big brother I needed at that point in my life. We've been there for each other through good and bad times alike. You had my back I had yours. I am so glad that I was able to speak with you a few weeks ago, still full of optimism and your great sense of humor. My wife and children will miss you dearly. Love your best friend and brother, Jeff.

  11. 15 Mar 2017
    Josiane Richter lit a candle:
    Lit since March 15, 2017 at 3:56:42 PM

  12. 15 Mar 2017
    Andrea Horton lit a candle:
    Lit since March 15, 2017 at 3:53:50 AM

  13. 15 Mar 2017
    Cynthia says:
    Thank you Denis for everything. Friend, neighbor, son, brother, teacher, caregiver, storyteller . Kind , smart, funny, dutiful, sincere, caring, searcher.. thank you for your love . Keep in touch , always , Cyn-Cyn

  14. 15 Mar 2017
    Cyn Cyn lit a candle:
    Lit since March 15, 2017 at 3:24:06 AM

  15. 15 Mar 2017
    Pam says:
    I will never forget your kind and genuine smile. You can see it in all of these photos. A closed mouth smirk and gentle eyes, representing the goodness in your heart. Your relationship with Apollo and Caesar I recall fondly. You loved those guys and they loved you more! I remember when you would take Sharon and I out in your crazy cool cars and we even went to a drive in movie theater one, which I thought was just the neatest thing ever! I pray that you are at peace, in happiness and health, with Nana and Pop pop and all those precious animals you cared for. I love you, Uncle Denis! I hope to have some Modern Pizza in your honor :)

  16. 15 Mar 2017
    Pam posted an image:
    A great photo from my baptism with my godparents. I love how Denis is looking lovingly at me.
    A great photo from my baptism with my godparents. I love how Denis is looking lovingly at me.

  17. 15 Mar 2017
    Carmen and Family lit a candle:
    Lit since March 15, 2017 at 3:36:03 AM

  18. 15 Mar 2017
    Carmen lit a candle:
    Lit since March 15, 2017 at 3:33:53 AM

  19. 14 Mar 2017
    Lily Liu posted an image:
    I miss you Mr. Rocky. You  ask me to call you Rocky, but I always call you big bendan. You are good man as you told me that your mom said when you are sleeping you are good boy.
    I miss you Mr. Rocky. You ask me to call you Rocky, but I always call you big bendan. You are good man as you told me that your mom said when you are sleeping you are good boy.

  20. 14 Mar 2017
    Lori lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:45:05 PM

  21. 14 Mar 2017
    Patti Forresy says:
    I'm so sorry I never met him. Sounds like he was an amazing guy. I hope your fond memories of him bring you comfort and peace. Love you so much... sending hugs and strength. Xo

  22. 14 Mar 2017
    Donna Cherry says:
    Denis - We did not have the chance to meet but heard of your adventures through Molly. You contributed to the world and were loved - a life well lived.

    Deepak and Donna

  23. 14 Mar 2017
    Donna Cherry lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:22:50 PM

  24. 14 Mar 2017
    Debra and Butch Melillo says:
    I am so sorry for the loss of your dear brother. My memories of Denis from the time that I was little girl are Denis's great smile, hugs, and how I always knew he loved me. He also loved my husband Butch. He is another kind, lovein person taken way too soon. I am sure he is having a great time with Tuck in Heaven. ❤

  25. 14 Mar 2017
    Martha Clark lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:43:30 PM

  26. 14 Mar 2017
    Patti Forrest says:
    Dearest Molly, Words cannot express my sorrow knowing that your dear brother passed away. My heart aches for you and your family. I hope you can hold memories of happier times in your heart and keep Denis close in spirit. Wishing you comfort and peace. Love you always.

  27. 14 Mar 2017
    Patti Forrest lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:13:01 PM

  28. 14 Mar 2017
    Molly posted an image:


  29. 14 Mar 2017
    martin Forrest says:
    Glad we had some time together when you got back from China and you stayed with Molly and I. Sorry the time was so short. Glad we had lots of family around you at the end. I was happy we got to know each other better. Your brother (in law), Marty

  30. 14 Mar 2017
    Adele Falco says:
    Dear Cousin;
    To the very end, you were witty and positive. You made me feel good when you yourself felt miserable. You made us all laugh. And most of all, you taught us how to face the end of life with bravery and calm. I thank you for all that you shared and will remember you as such a key part of growing up in the bevy of cousins in that old New Haven house. Moving on but not away. Keep us laughing...please.

  31. 14 Mar 2017
    Iole says:
    To a warm amazing soul . To our "dahlink" my dear brother in law Denis. Always a cheerful smile always an impressionable way about you . We loved you and will always carry you in our heart and soul. A dear uncle a true brother and friend . Love you and will miss you always ...Until we see you again , you're now with your Apollo and Caesar mom dad and my dad . A site we all wish to someday experience . Let your wings guide you to the peace we Live wholeheartedly to see one day . Always and forever ...."dahlink".

  32. 14 Mar 2017
    Butch and Debra Melillo says:
    Butch and I are very sorry for the loss of your dear brother. All my memories of Denis from the time I was little a little girl was his kind smile and great hugs. I always felt that he loved me and He loved my husband Butch. We now have a another beautiful loved one in Heaven taken way too soon. I am pretty sure that Denis is having a good time with Tuck. ❤

  33. 14 Mar 2017
    Butch and Debra Melillo lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:57:15 PM

  34. 14 Mar 2017
    Molly posted an image:
    Denis at the Great Wall
    Denis at the Great Wall

  35. 14 Mar 2017
    Bernice Staudinger says:
    We also, never had the opportunity to get to know you Denis. But our love for your sister Molly is boundless, and we would like to offer our sincerest condolences to her and your family on the loss of a beloved brother and son.

    The Staudinger Family

  36. 14 Mar 2017
    Tom Shea says:
    Hey my old friend... I was sad to hear of your passing
    Do let Molly know how things are going up there because you would scare the beJesus out of Eddie with your message. She will share with the rest of us..
    Remember this? (PaulMudiachi)?
    Never meant a thing at all but you and I got a big kick of how it confused others!!
    Love you my little brother,
    Tom Shea

  37. 14 Mar 2017
    Tyler Staudinger lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:32:38 PM

  38. 14 Mar 2017
    Connor Staudinger lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:30:44 PM

  39. 14 Mar 2017
    Bernice Staudinger lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:28:32 PM

  40. 14 Mar 2017
    Rhoda Vicari says:
    Dearest Denis, I miss you terribly and the times we spent together.I am crying now because I lost a very good friend and I looked so forward to spending time with you when you got back from China. No more pain Denis and you have PEACE NOW. I will always have you in my heart.

  41. 14 Mar 2017
    Rhoda and Mike Vicari lit a candle:
    Lit since March 14, 2017 at 3:27:57 AM

  42. 13 Mar 2017
    Bernice Forrest lit a candle:
    Lit since March 13, 2017 at 3:00:16 PM

  43. 13 Mar 2017
    Bernice Forrest says:
    Dear Denis,
    I am sorry I never got to know you but I followed your time in China through Molly. She loved you so much and was always talking about the things you were doing in China. You were much loved and I am glad that Martin and Molly were there for you during those difficult 6 weeks. They showed their love for you through their tender care.
    Love from Martin's mom.

  44. 13 Mar 2017
    molly posted an image:
    Denis as a child
    Denis as a child

  45. 11 Mar 2017
    Molly Punzo lit a candle:
    Lit since March 11, 2017 at 3:05:39 PM

  46. 11 Mar 2017
    Molly Punzo lit a candle:
    Lit since March 11, 2017 at 3:04:57 PM

  47. 11 Mar 2017
    Molly Punzo says:
    Denis. You have no idea how many people love and will miss you. You were SO very brave to travel to a completely foreign country with so few resources and start an entirely new life. I am getting so many texts and messages from your Chinese students and foreign friends. They are telling me story after story of what a good and kind and loving person you were to them and how much you helped them. I even hear you shared your apartment with people if they could not afford their own. I'm so angry and sad that you weren't able to enjoy your life more, Den. I wanted to spend time with you here in Florida, eating American and Italian food, watching movies and just catching up on the last 7 years. How I now wish we talked more while you were away. I wish I knew about WeChat years earlier! Marty and I are just grateful that you were able to get home from China in your so weakened state and be with us these past 6 weeks. I hope we kept you comfortable till the end. Thank God Gerry and Karen and Adele and Fred were here to be with you during your last days. I know how much your family meant to you and you kept saying how much you wanted to "stay up" with your family there. You will be forever missed and loved, Den. Rest in Peace. Send me signs every chance you get, ok? XOXOXOXOXOXOXO

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