Original Post: By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer
(2016) Karen Leach says her brother, the late Lt.-Gen. (retired) William Leach, was always proud of being from Sarnia.
The former commander of the Canadian Army grew up in a military family that moved often, but he spent the first few years of his life in Sarnia.
Karen Leach lives in Ottawa, where William also lived when he died April 1. He was 72.
“We have lost an exemplary soldier and leader,” Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, Commander Canadian Army, said in a press release issued by the Department of National Defence.
Karen Leach said their father was born in Watford and their mother was born near Sarnia to Henry and Edna Maidment.
Henry ran a taxi business, Maidment’s Taxi, during the 1940s and 50s, and they lived in a house on Front Street.
Leach said her parents married in 1940, and her older brother, William, was born in 1942.
Their father as in the army but Leach said she understands he was in Sarnia when William was born.
“But, he then went overseas and was overseas in England and Holland, I think until 1945,” she said.
William and his mother lived in Sarnia through the rest of the Second World War.
Leach said their father remained in the military for another three decades following the war, and the family was posted to various communities across the country, including Halifax where she was born in 1947.
In 1954, while their father was posted to Indochina, Leach said the remainder of the family moved back to Sarnia for a year to live with her grandparents in the “great big old house” on Front Street.
“And then when he came back, we proceeded to move around the countryside again,” Leach said.
But, they often returned to Sarnia to visit grandparents and other relatives living in the area.
Leach said the family was living in Quebec when her brother finished high school and entered military college there, followed by time at the Royal Military College in Kingston where he graduated in 1965.
He went on to serve more than 40 years in the military, retiring in 2000 from his last post, chief of land staff and commander of land forces.
He was awarded the Canadian Order of Military Merit and the U.S. Legion of Merit.
Following his retirement from the military, Leach worked for a decade in the private sector, retiring for good in 2010.
At the time of his death, he was chairperson of the Canadian Museum of History’s board of trustees.
“It was such a pleasure to work with Bill in advancing the business of the museums,” museum CEO Mark O’Neill said in a press release.
“He was more than just a chair of our board, he was a true friend of our organization and its employees, and he will be greatly missed.”
Leach’s other volunteer activities included serving as Honorary Colonel of the Ottawa Service Battalion and as chairperson of the Defence and Security Committee of the Royal Canadian Legion.
He was also involved with the Military Families Fund and Support Our Troops initiatives sat on boards with the University of Ottawa, the Royal Ottawa Hospital and the Institute for Mental Health Research.
Leach married Mary Louise Leach, an artist who died from cancer in 2003. They have three children, including Shelley Leach, who is also an artist.
“Dad always talked about his early years in Sarnia with his grandparents,” she said in an e-mail.
“I gather his grandfather was quite the character.”