Call some guys a "mama's boy" and they'll want to fight you.
But if you call Dave Leopold a mama's boy, he'll agree with you - and maybe even thank you.
His mother, Alice Leopold, of Absecon, was 85 when she died last month following a long fight with cancer.
Dave was the only child of Alice and Louie Leopold - the two had been married 55 years when Louie, an electrician, died in 2010. And the son said that as good as she was at being a mother, Alice was much more than just your basic nice, loving mom.
For one thing, she was the secretary in the business he ran for years, Travel With Dave. As owner, Dave knew very well that lots of his customers liked dealing with his mother more than they did with him in the tour company, which he closed late last year. He went out of business partly because his mom/secretary/public-relations chief had gotten too sick to help out, he added.
"She was good at answering the phones, and she liked talking," the son said. "She had a lot more patience than I ever could have, and she was marvelous at making the business work."
Alice and her son were also roommates for most of his life. He figured he lived probably 45 of his 58 years under the same roof as his mother in Absecon. And four of the years he didn't, another traveling operation - the U.S. Navy - kept him away from home.
"We were extremely close," Dave said. "I couldn't love a person more - then, now or in the future."
And honestly, he was only happy that he could be right there for her "in the last three months of her life, (when) mom couldn't even stand or get dressed or get to the bathroom ... without my help," he added. "I lifted her everywhere."
But they also traveled lots of places together in better times for Alice. She and Louie were regulars for years on the Travel With Dave trips - and the son said that when she was on his tours, Alice wasn't under the pressure of helping run the show. She was just enjoying the ride to some of her favorite places in the country and beyond.
She loved Broadway musicals, especially "Phantom of the Opera," which she saw four times. Montreal was another trip she always enjoyed, but her son and travel agent said Las Vegas was his mom's all-time favorite place to go. She loved the lights and excitement and entertainment, and any time she could see Johnny Mathis, she was in the crowd.
On one trip maybe six or eight years ago, Alice was reunited with a friend she knew from grade school at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Atlantic City, but hadn't seen in decades. Theresa LaRocca, whose maiden name was Alkazin, said she and Alice stayed in touch for a while after high school, but then LaRocca moved to Florida for years. After she came back to Atlantic City, though, LaRocca and her husband, Frank, started taking some Travel With Dave tours.
They met Alice, the mother of their tour operator, started talking, and Theresa asked Alice's maiden name. The answer was Buttery, and the two old friends became best friends all over again.
"She was the nicest person I've ever known," Theresa said Friday. "We talked to each other two or three times a day ever since."
She knew her friend had hard times near the end, but she never saw a parent-child relationship as close as Alice and Dave Leopold.
"She was a good mother, and he was a wonderful son," LaRocca added.
On his Travel With Dave tours, people often made a fuss over Dave's mother. But every now and then, he said, he'd hear whispers of other guys calling him a mama's boy.
But he swore, he didn't mind. With Alice as his mom, he even took it as a compliment.
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