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Longtime EGF businessman Leo Dunlevy dies at age 78

Leo "Lee" Dunlevy moved out of the East Grand Forks area after the 1997 flood, but residents today still can see signs of what he did years ago. He started the Dunamatic Carwash at University Avenue and North Washington Street a few decades ago, ...

Leo "Lee" Dunlevy moved out of the East Grand Forks area after the 1997 flood, but residents today still can see signs of what he did years ago.

He started the Dunamatic Carwash at University Avenue and North Washington Street a few decades ago, which eventually changed owners and still operates today as a Valley Dairy.

It was one of the first times area residents had access to automatic carwashes. But his wife, Mary Ann Dunlevy, admitted technology has come a long way since then.

"The first one wasn't all that efficient I don't think, but it did its job and the lines would be around the block to get in there," she said.

Dunlevy said Lee was "always trying to figure out something new," getting involved in a handful of businesses during their more than 40 years in East Grand Forks.

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"We would kind of say new and crazy, not necessarily run of the mill," she said. "He was always trying to introduce new things."

Lee died April 1 in St. Paul after a fight with bone cancer. He was 76 years old.

'Happy go lucky'

Lee was a hard worker with a "creative mind," Dunlevy said, going to work at 5:30 a.m. each day. But she was a little too busy with her own work to notice everything.

"We had five children in seven years," she said. "I probably didn't pay that much attention to what he was doing because I was trying to get them to school on time and do the laundry."

Lee graduated from East Grand Forks Sacred Heart High School and then attended UND. He came from a family of entrepreneurs, she explained -- his grandfather, Hugh Dunlevy, came to East Grand Forks from Ireland and formed Dunlevy Ice Co. in 1891, pulling ice chunks out of the Red River.

Hugh's son, Jerome, started what is now known as Concrete Inc., while his other son, Leo Sr., stuck with the ice business that branched out to include home delivery of fuel oil.

Leo Jr. took over the fuel business after his father died.

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Dunlevy said her husband went by Lee because his father was also Leo William Dunlevy, a source of confusion for friends and family.

"To separate the two of them at home, he became Lee," she said. "Everyone called him Lee."

He was president of the East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce in 1967, had a stint as district chairman of the Grand Forks Boy Scouts and served as campaign chairman for the East Grand Forks Community Chest.

And he started Dunamatic Sports on Gateway Drive, a business that sold boats and snowmobiles.

Their home in the River Heights Park area of East Grand Forks was flooded in 1997, so the Dunlevys made the move to the Twin Cities to enjoy retirement.

Dunlevy said Lee was "always very positive."

"When he found out he had cancer, there was never any negativeness or any 'Why me?'" she said.

Lee was a "very happy-go-lucky person," Dunlevy said, "and I think everyone who knew him would feel that same way."

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Lee's funeral will be held at 11 a.m. April 17 at St. Jude of the Lake Catholic Church in Mahtomedi, Minn. Dunlevy is asking memorials to be sent to Our Lady of Good Counsel Home, 2076 Saint Anthony Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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