Leona Augustine grew up on a farm in Missouri and dreamed of being a songwriter. She spent years writing songs and sending them across the country, hoping to find an audience. While her songs never became famous, she did collaborate with some well-known musicians on her songs including “I’m Dreaming of No One But You.”
Leona’s Life, Part 1
Early Life (And Nearly Death)
The Augustin family owned a piano, violin and several brass instruments.
Music was important to Louis Augustin, who performed with the local cornet band. But Louis also enjoyed playing songs at home accompanied by his children — his daughter Leona on the piano and son Andy bowing the violin.
It was the early 1900s. The only way popular songs could reach the family’s farm was if the Augustins purchased sheet music and played it themselves. So that’s what they did.
The Augustins lived in the countryside between the Missouri towns of New Haven and Washington. Their land had fields, woods and an orchard.
Louis and Mary Augustin raised their children here in a two-story farmhouse. Their home was built from a Sears, Roebuck & Company kit. It had a gated yard and sat high on a hill overlooking the Missouri River.
The Augustins sent their children to Catholic schools in New Haven and Washington.
However, Leona’s education came to an abrupt halt as a teenager when she became severely ill with scarlet fever. At one point, it looked like she had taken a turn for the worse.
Around this time, the school learned — erroneously — that Leona had died. A funeral mass was held.
But while classmates mourned, Leona was still hanging on. She eventually recovered but never graduated.
Her school years are memorialized in an autograph book that Leona kept throughout her life. Her friends left well wishes and rhymes in the book.
Inside the front cover, there is an area to paste a photo of oneself.
Leona’s picture shows her smiling at her piano with a desk full sheet music.
Leona’s Life, Part 2
By their late teenage years, Leona and her brother Andy’s interest in music had expanded beyond their family’s sheet music collection.
The siblings began collaborating and composing their own songs. Some of their sheet music survives. A handwritten song by Andy is called “Waiting in Dreams.”
Leona was writing as well and working to find an audience for her music.
From the early 1930s through the early 1940s, Leona persistently mailed her songs across the country. She sought collaborations with experienced musicians. She inquired with publishers about distributing her music.
For the most part this resulted in rejection letters, which she saved.
But eventually she did make connections with two successful musicians: Ben Adelman and Bob Carleton.
Today, Ben Adelman is mostly remembered for his contributions to country music in the 1950s and 1960s. He operated a recording studio and record label in Washington DC which helped a number of country artists rise to national prominence, including Patsy Cline.
But earlier in Adelman’s career, Ben and his brother Sam Adelman operated a song copywriting service.
Aspiring songwriters would send in their lyrics to the Adelmans. For a fee, the brothers would compose a melody to match the words. Then they would create the sheet music and submit it for copyright protection. Since the brothers wrote the melodies, the Adelmans included themselves in the copyright. In this way, Ben Adelman accumulated roughly 1,000 copyrights during his life. Sam earned hundreds as well.
Leona, at 18 years old, wrote to the Adelmans to have her song “Living in Dreams” copyrighted. However — in contrast to hundreds of other songs that passed through the Adelmans’ hands — the national copyright records for “Living in Dreams” give full credit to Leona.
So it’s likely that Leona wrote both the lyrics and melody for her song. She then used the Adelmans’ service to format the sheet music and submit it for a copyright.
While she received her copyright, it doesn’t appear Leona’s “Living in Dreams” was ever published.
About 10 years later, Leona received another copyright for a song. This time she collaborated with composer Bob Carleton.
Working with Carleton was certainly an auspicious paring for Leona.
Carleton was an accomplished songwriter. His catchy 1918 song “Ja-Da” had been recorded by numerous groups and would remain popular for decades. Carleton wrote music with Louis Armstrong. He worked in Hollywood and composed songs for film.
It’s unclear how Leona connected with Carleton. But together they wrote the song “I’m Dreaming of No One But You.” Leona is the song’s sole copyright owner, meaning she likely wrote both the lyrics and melody. Carleton likely added the song’s jazzy chord structure.
The tune was professionally published and printed, but it appears it was never recorded.
During the time of these musical pursuits, Leona continued to live at home on the Augustin farm with her parents. It’s said that Louis and Mary enjoyed having their daughter at home and encouraged her not to rush into marriage.
Leona’s song lyrics, though, were lovelorn — yearning for romance, but never quite finding it.
But right around the time her song “I’m Dreaming of No One But You” was published, Leona would find it.
Leona’s Life, Part 3
WWII and Felix
The windows on the train were blacked out. The new soldiers could only guess their destination.
It was the spring of 1942, just months after Pearl Harbor. The nation was sending millions of young men to camps across the country to train for war.
The soldiers on this particular journey didn’t yet know how lucky they were. When the train stopped and it was time to disembark, they were amazed to find themselves in downtown Miami, Florida.
The city’s iconic hotels had been turned to barracks. Their training grounds were beaches and golf courses.
When Sgt. Felix Luecke arrived in Miami that spring, he quickly wrote to his sweetheart back in Missouri. He asked Leona to join him in Florida.
Like Leona, Felix was raised near New Haven, Missouri.
Also like Leona, Felix had not rushed to get married. He was 35 and single when he arrived in Miami, making him about a decade older than most other new soldiers.
Many of these young men were suddenly eager to settle down. Marriage rates spiked by 83 percent in 1942.
So Felix wrote to Leona.
Leona was thrilled by the idea of going to Miami. Her parents were worried.
Eventually, the Augustins consented to the plan — as long as Leona could find a friend to move with her.
Then just before Easter, Leona and Ora Mae Zeitzmann left for in Miami. Felix had found them a place to live and had jobs waiting for the women.
Leona worked at a beautiful waterfront hotel. She had a large desk and a leather chair where she did typing and shorthand for the Army Air Corps — but the work wasn’t demanding. At other times she was an elevator operator.
Each afternoon Leona and the other employees were treated to trays of shrimp and pineapple.
Leona thought life in Miami was delightful.
Two years later, Felix and Leona were married in Miami Beach. Their daughter, Mary Lee, was also born in Florida.
But the young family’s time in Miami ended when World War II came to a close.
They would need to find a new home.
Leona’s Life, Part 4
When a new road was being plotted between the Missouri towns of New Haven and Washington, Felix Luecke and his family had sensed an opportunity.
The Lueckes knew that travelers on the road would need a place to buy gas. They began making plans to build a service station between the two towns.
At the time, the Luecke family of 10 was largely supported by jobs at the local hat factory. Maybe becoming business owners would help them get ahead.
Felix, who was working at a St. Louis steel mill, purchased a plot of land along the planned road for the business. He helped build Luecke’s Station alongside his brothers.
When it was ready, Felix’s parents, Edward and Maggie Luecke, operated the business with help from their children. Much of the family moved in and lived at the station.
When war came, Felix enlisted and left for Miami.
Returning home with Leona and their daughter, the young family initially took residence in Washington, Missouri, where Felix worked as a mechanic. They would soon welcome a son, Richard.
It also offered access to Boeuf Creek, a well-known fishing hole. Some customers would set tents in the Luecke’s yard and stay for the weekend.
Felix and Leona eventually took over the business. They raised their two children there.
Luecke’s Station remains fondly remembered in the area.
Felix and Leona would continue operating the station through the mid-1970s. The station still stands along Highway 100 between New Haven and Washington.
Leona would lose Felix in 1981. He died one day after his 75th birthday. Leona died in 1984. She was 69 years old.
Through the years, Leona never lost her interest in music. She kept copies of her songs. She even kept her old rejection letters.
And she kept trying.
In her last years she was seeking a piano teacher to help her learn to play ragtime.