Yates County deputy to be honored

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

A Yates County deputy who died in the line of duty will be among the deceased police officers honored in an Albany ceremony May 6.

Deputy Sheriff William R. Leach died on Nov. 8, 1957 as a result of injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident, and he will be the only county officer honored in next Tuesday’s ceremony.

According to Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, who nominated Leach for recognition, the 48-year-old officer was responding to a call for help at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital. He had been to a justice of the peace to obtain a warrant, and was traveling back toward Penn Yan when his car left the road and struck a tree after rounding a curve.

Spike says investigation into the accident indicated that Leach had swerved to avoid two cars that were parked in the highway. Witnesses said the cars left the scene, and people who assisted Leach at the scene reported that he asked about the other cars.

He died of his injuries at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital two hours after being pulled from the patrol car.

Spike’s father, George Spike, was Chief Deputy at the time of the accident, according to a report in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

At the time of his death, Leach had been a member of the Sheriff’s Department for six years. A Yates County native, Leach attended Gorham Schools and served with the U.S. Army in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II, and was a member of Johnson-Costello American Legion Post 355 and Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Association. He was survived by his wife, Aletha Newland Leach; two brothers, Henry, of Penn Yan, also a deputy, and Irvin of Naples; a sister, Mrs. Lillian Prout of Canandaigua, and several nieces and nephews. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery.

His mother, Emma Leach, 77 at the time, died the day after his accident. She had been a critically ill patient at the hospital where he died.

In January 1989, New York State enacted legislation authorizing the Commissioner of the Office of General Services (OGS) to construct “a monument, tablet, or memorial…honoring and properly reflecting the duty, dignity, and devotion of the police officers of New York State who are slain in the line of duty.”

An advisory committee comprised of leaders of major police organizations in the state guided the development of a fitting memorial. The committee agreed the memorial should embody a sense of commitment, dedication and sacrifice.

The Memorial, located at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, includes a fountain and pool bordered on the left by a curved wall faced with polished granite on which the names of police officers, their departments and their dates of death will be engraved. A wall to the right of the fountain displays the name of the memorial and the following quote from Colleen Dillon Bergman, daughter of a slain New York State Trooper, whose idea inspired the memorial’s design: “It doesn’t matter from which department they came, the feeling of loss is experienced the same.”

Leach is the only county deputy among the 20 officers memorialized.