By Sally Cohen
Germantown resident Leon Bibbs, 50, didn’t set out to be a hero, but on June 8, he became one. Leon, the banquet houseman at the Radisson Plaza Warwick Hotel Philadelphia at 17th and Locust Streets was busy at work when he heard a loud commotion in the ballroom and went to investigate.
“He found a woman co
ughing very hard. Her husband said she was choking,” explained general manager Joanne Cunningham.
Soon after Leon’s arrival, the guest stopped coughing and couldn’t breathe. Leon jumped into action and performed the Heimlich Maneuver, which helped clear the woman’s airway. (We cannot report the name of the woman or where she is from because she asked that those details not be used in the story.)
Leon, whose six-week combat training course with the U.S. Army included lessons on safety in emergency situations, isn’t a stranger to crisis management. In 1989, he performed the Heimlich Maneuver on a guest at another hotel in Pennsylvania, receiving a safety award for his life-saving action. (Leon spent 21 years in the Army, six on active duty and 15 in the reserves.)
Leon has other awards, too. He’s been named employee of the month and has been recognized for “on the spot service” as a result of his life-saving effor
t. It’s no surprise that he’s also received compliments from guests–“many!” according to Joanne.
Leon joined hotel in 1999 as a supervisor in the kitchen’s stewarding department and worked his way up to his current position, where he dedicates himself to catering and banquet guests.
“The banquet guests are very important to the hotel,” said Joanne. “Leon is very aware of food allergies and is trained to know what to do in case someone has a reaction. He is unbelievably dependable and personable, and by the end of a conference our guests feel they know him very well.”
Guests and hotel colleagues all praised Leon for responding quickly to this week’s emergency and for keeping everyone calm.
“There was no doubt in my mind — and the guest’s — that without Leon’s actions, there could have been a bad outcome,” said Joanne.
Leon and his wife, Doreen, have two daughters, Latoya and Lashonda, and a son, Leon Jr. as well as two grandchildren.
Ed. Note: We tried to get additional information about where Leon went to school, his children’s ages, etc., but were unable to get it from a hotel spokesman and were unable to contact him directly.