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Tribute to CIRC's First President, Leigh Johnstone

Janet Pippert | Published on 3/1/2021

Recollections and Musings of a Life Well Lived...

If you attended our February 2020 CIRC Presidents' Tribute, you may have thought my special bond with Leigh Johnstone was formed from all of our years together at CIRC (he since 1976 and I since 2001). But that would be wrong.

I worked with Leigh as his leasing assistant at Gilpin Allegheny Realty for a number of years starting in 1983, just as they moved into new offices at Hercules Plaza. It was a great group to get started in this business with, including Hunter Lott, Mark Undorf, Ray Fox, and Ed Swift, to name a few. Crazy good times! And I learned a lot from Leigh, a man with more energy, ideas, and drive than anyone I've known before or since.

Now, to be fair - at times - he could be a real "pain in the neck" (and I mean that literally, as he put me into a choke hold once while trying, in earnest, to fix my stiff neck, causing me to black out and collapse to the floor). But in the 34 years since, I have truly enjoyed his friendship, humor, and commitment to CIRC. Our continuing education classes and annual golf outings will never be quite the same again. 

I'll miss his continual offers to "fix my neck." Rest in peace, my friend. 
'Janet-O' (Janet Sharpless Pippert)


Just finished writing this this morning (after reading Leigh's obituary) - in song and poetry is the best way for me to remember Leigh.

We have known each other since somewhere in late high school— We remained friends thru it all— In the younger days he was able to consume the most amazing and complete list of mind altering substances and then he turned it all around and became an incredible mentor to those who had fallen into the same pit. He really was my hero as an example of how to make life altering changes and come out the other end.

Under the occasionally gruff and outspoken exterior I was fortunate as he revealed his warmth, concern and sensitivity. On top of being a close personal friend, he was also a great business sounding board and we often helped each other thru tight spots. I recognize that when we reach this level of seniority on the planet that the other side is a short hop. I will surely miss our scratching and laughing times together. What a fine friend he was.

Todd Breck

Hallelujah: Todd Breck (Leonard Cohen-music)

D Guitar +3 (+1 guitar)
3 line intro

So years ago, I can't remember when  CAm
Not yet a man, still a boy back then   Cam
Spinnin' like a tilt-a-whirl, we all loved ya     FGCG
Your actions took on higher stakes  CFG
They mostly looked like big mistakes  Am F

But somehow they all turned to hallelujah  GEAm


Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah  FAmFCGC-G

It seems as though you liked to fight

But it was just your way to seek the light
And we sparred and laughed right along with ya
Your spirit strong, we followed on                  
We all became part of your song  AmF
Together we all sang a hallelujah GEAm   


Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah   FAmFCGC-G

We knew that you weren't feeling well
And your ankle hurt like hell
Though your heart was full, it couldn't sustain ya
Your will was strong, but it went all wrong
With no goodbyes it wasn't long   AmF

Till you whispered your final hallelujah  GEAm


Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah   FAmFCGC-G

You came you played, you'd have loved to stay
You kept us highly entertained
Now Leigh we would have loved to save ya
But you're time had come, to visit kingdom come
And there's nothing more we could have done         AmF
As you kissed the outstretched hand of Hallelujah  GEAm

      F                Am          F              C  G 
Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah (C-FGC)


"In 1974, I told my friend Duncan Patterson that I’d lost my industrial park development job in Philly, and he said, “come on down to Wilmington. We’ll get you a job with the old man.” The commercial team was me, Charlie Woods, Harry Tingle (“I wouldn’t believe him if he was tattooed with Bible pictures”) and Leigh. 

This was Leigh 1.0 (see circa 1974 photo left). He loved a smoke and a party. Full of fun, adventure and advice for the newcomer, Leigh was an instant bachelor pal and a reliable and valued friend for 40 years.

I succeeded him as President of CIRC in 1983. At the end of my term, he arranged a parting gift... a copy of “DESIDERATA.” I’ve always treasured it:

'As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all people. 

Take kindly the counsel of the years. 

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. 

Whatever your labors/aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.'

Leigh kept faith with the words of his gift."

H. Hunter Lott


“Leigh was a great friend for over 40 years as he started his commercial real estate career with Patterson Schwartz.  We had great fun kidding each other on a regular basis, most recently when we ran into each other out for dinner.  He always addressed me as “Dunc” and I always called him by his last name with emphasis “Johnstone!!”  He will be missed.”

Duncan Patterson, CCIM

“In an industry as competitive as commercial real estate, Leigh was a true gem, and the Delaware commercial real estate community was certainly fortunate to have his leadership for so many years. Leigh paved the way for our current commercial brokerage industry, and his stories will be told, and his legacies will endure, for many years to come. Thank you Leigh for everything, and we will be sure to hold your torch high, as we navigate through an ever-changing commercial real estate landscape!”   


Rob Stenta

(Photo Left: 1st President (1976) with 22nd President (2020)


"Leigh was a good person and a good friend. In addition to doing commercial office work together we had a business relationship with his Service Disabled Veteran company where we performed architectural and signage design services for VA projects that were set aside for SDVOSB veterans. He had a great sense of humor and we always greeted each other with “Leigh Baby and Lou Baby” whether it was on the phone, in person or in an email. The photo is from our 2016 Halloween Party where he posed with a contestant who came as a birdhouse. He was one of a kind and he will be missed."

Lou Rosenberg


“Leigh was one of my favorite curmudgeons. It's hard to believe he won't be around at CIRC meetings and especially at continuing education. He was the best at heckling the instructors. He was also the first to help someone if they needed direction. Hard to believe that I've known him almost 45 years. In many ways he was bigger than life.  He will be sorely missed.”

Alan Perry


Many new students are not aware that Leigh, Duncan Patterson, Dan Lesher, Greg Ellis, and myself created the Commercial modules some years ago. We met at Leigh’s office and, convinced after a few meetings, the Commission agreed. What I loved was every class that I taught, Leigh would 'scratch the blackboard' and off he and I would begin to try to set one of us to laughing. We always hugged after class and each saying 'See you next month.' I certainly will miss this good friend.”

Colin McGowan, CDEI

Leigh and Pete

“Leigh was one of the ‘good guys’ and one of the leaders in our industry 35 years ago. He was the one that got me to raise my hand in 1984 – 1985 to get involved in the CIRC. He and Hunter Lott got me involved in CIRC. I did it and enjoyed doing it. It was a closer group then, smaller in size and more of a base of brokers, developers, and lawyers. It wasn’t until after my tour of duty that we opened up the membership to associated businesses and individuals.

“When I got settled in my office at 1001 Jefferson Plaza in 1984, I reached out to Leigh and Phil Hansen (Stoltz Realty) as the two leaders in the Wilmington brokerage community. Those two guys became friends and helped me get started in Delaware. Several years ago, Phil moved to Kansas City where he passed away at an early age. I have enjoyed being part of the organization for the past 35 years or so.”

Pete Davisson, CCIM, SIOR


"Leigh Johnstone was very dear to my heart. I've known him since 1980 when I got active in the Delaware business community. He was like an adopted son to my mentor, Ed Golin. We all enjoyed working together through the years on a variety of projects. Always positive, hilarious and someone you can count on no matter the circumstances. 
He will be missed by many. Rest easy gentle man."
Pat Forester

- likable
- energetic
 I - intelligent
G- gregarious TH “green”ie
- honest & helpful



"He was such a special man.  I met Leigh when I was 18. He worked at 1001 Jefferson Plaza for Gilpin and our Jackson Cross Company offices were in the back of the building. He would stop in to say hi to everyone all the time. Of course, being in the real estate world I ran into him all the time. I was always happy to speak with him and hear his wonderful stories about the business and life in general.  He will surely be missed!"

Cindy Fleming


"One of the greatest guys I have ever met. True class and a gentleman. He was the first commercial broker I ever did a deal with as a young 29 year old attorney. Was a mentor to me in so many ways. Years later he would always come up to me and was genuine with his thoughts and concern for me and my family. I will truly miss seeing his smiling face."

Chris Locke


"I first met Leigh in 1973 when he knocked on our front door and announced “I grew up in this house.” And 15 years later we were now in the same business and did our first co-broke office lease. 

One of Leigh’s stories that brings a chuckle every time:
In 1976 at the Patterson Schwartz 913 Delaware Avenue office, the commercial real estate brokers of the day gathered to discuss forming what became CIRC. As logistics were being aired, Leigh took a restroom break. Upon his return to the gathering he was congratulated, as in Leigh’s brief absence the assembled luminaries had voted him CIRC’s first President. With a smile, an important lesson learned!"


Bart Mackey


"I remember many years ago calling Leigh on a few of his office listings. I was primarily a retail broker. He took the time to educate me and provide me with all the information I needed. I still remenber he was different in a good way!"

Michael DePetris


"Leigh and I developed a friendship both personally and professionally back in the 70’s. We trekked together on vacations, golfed together for many years, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. He was a true and honest professional, and I will miss him greatly. 
My best to Kitty, his children and grandchildren."

Andy Lubin
"'LAY A'  as Leigh was called when he started with Gilpin Realty back in the early 70's. He was to develop a Commercial Division along with the White brothers. Any commercial transaction was accidental since they were primarily a residential office with built-in financing. Obviously he wanted more sizeable transactions. He left for much more varied transactions as most of us do. There was mixed reactions to his first sale."

Anonymous (from extremely reliable source)

This "Tribute" to Leigh can be seen on our News feed at the bottom of our Home page, along with his obituary, or on our News web page.

To have your recollections and comments added, please send them to Janet at