John Leo Hayden, 78, died Friday, March 3, 2023 in the presence of his loving family and friends. Leo was born on February 3, 1945 in Goodland, Kansas to Leo Bailey Hayden and Mary (Ellison) Hayden. He demonstrated both strength and a fighting spirit from the very beginning. As a young man of just 100 pounds “soaking wet,” his dad taught him how to box. He was so proficient at boxing, that it was also his dad who made him quit! Effort was also something Leo didn’t lack. At a very early age, he demonstrated outstanding, natural athletic ability and strove to “outwork the competition.” He excelled in all sports and helped to lead his teams at Goodland High School to championships. He was a natural leader and all that played with him became lifelong friends.
While setting several records playing football at Fort Hays State University, Leo found the love of his life in Judy Marcotte Hayden. He pursued his wife with the same determination that he approached all areas of his life. Leo would say, “Judy, I’m watching you walk!” Upon graduation from college, she finally succumbed to his efforts and they got married on August 31,1968 and the rest reads like a fairytale. He loved her with all he was and the two of them shared that love with their 3 children and 8 grandchildren. His faith grew each year and in times of great tragedy, he was their rock. He helped his family weather the losses of his nephews, his parents, his brother-in-law, and several close friends.
Leo was always coaching. He coached his own kids and everyone else’s too. He certainly wasn’t shy, always demanding their best; helping them build the character, friendship, and bonds that would last a lifetime. Whether it was winning the State Championship in baseball with a team that “didn’t even know they were good,” to mentoring young men and women in their real estate careers, he was always able to help people to be their best and to achieve more than they might have dreamed. After all, that was who he was and he wanted others to approach life the same way. His life was both simple and complex, but always approached with an easiness that made others marvel. He excelled at making time for his family, hard work, and having fun!
Leo loved hunting, playing golf at Sugar Hills, and watching sports. From sharing the Hayden family recipe for pheasant and quail to playing “Pig and Wolf” at the course he loved so much, Leo’s passion for people and life was the center of his universe.
Building a real estate company with his family also gave Leo great pleasure. Mostly, he liked people and found his work “easy” as he was good at his craft and he loved what he did. Still coaching, he helped many people and their families understand that “work is work, but family is what is most important.” His company, Hayden Outdoors, is a family within itself with deep roots and traditions that will surely continue to cherish their founder and build upon his legacy.
Leo’s relationship with God grew daily. Alongside his wife, who was his best teacher, he lead his family down the “right path.” The prayers he lead at hunting camps, work functions, and family occasions will no doubt be famous for a long time and will never be duplicated! He was proof that faith can and does make life better.
Five years ago, Leo was hit hard with the news that he “had 3 months to live.” True to his nature, he attacked the news and the diagnosis head on. He leaned on his wife and family and rarely complained. One of his favorite sayings was “Never Give Up…Never Give Up.” He certainly didn’t and, even while dying, taught his family even more about determination, strength, and faith.
Together, we celebrate our husband, dad, grandpa, papa, friend, mentor, coach, and just one hell of a good man. His legacy will live on in all of us and we will be better for knowing and loving him. John Leo Hayden truly made the world a better place. “If you see me getting smaller…….”
Leo is survived by his wife, Judy (Marcotte) Hayden; 3 children, Dax (Michelle) Hayden, Arin Thomas, and Seth (Renata) Hayden; 8 grandchildren, Brin and Madeline Hayden, Olivia, Avalyn, and Vivian Thomas, and Sophia, Paige, and Kayne Hayden; his sister Patty (Hayden) Thompson; and many nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, Leo Bailey Hayden and Mary (Ellison) Hayden, his nephews Mathew and Marsh Thompson, and his brother-in-law, Mac Thompson.