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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
Leigh W. Fuller (right) presides over a 2010 Village Board of Canajoharie meeting as mayor. Also pictured is former trustee Garth McFarland.

Leigh W. Fuller

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Fuller leaves behind an extensive professional and personal legacy

Friday, December 06, 2013 - Updated: 1:18 PM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE -- Former Canajoharie justice and mayor Leigh W. Fuller was the type of guy that everybody knew. And everybody that knew Leigh Fuller was well aware of his many defining attributes. He was a hard worker, an avid golfer, he loved Canajoharie and its people, and first and foremost, he was a devoted family man who'd do anything for his loved ones.

Fuller died Tuesday. He was 88.

Fuller served as a justice in Canajoharie, for the village and town, for a combined total of 27 years, also serving as village mayor from April, 2007 through March, 2011. His term as mayor -- during which he actively pursued potential buyers for the vacant Beech-Nut facility and signed a letter of intent with CG Roxane to sell village-owned watershed property, amongst other endeavors — was one of his proudest professional accomplishments, according to his daughter, Donna Kline.

"He loved this town," Kline said. "The people were the reason." 

Fuller's numerous public office positions, she said, provided him the perfect outlet, as he loved people and relished the opportunity to make his beloved home since 1958 better for its residents.

"He felt there were problems he could help with, one of which was Beech-Nut moving out," said Kline, continuing, "He had some very definite ideas about what needed to be done to save the village. He lobbied in Albany as hard as he could and contacted every person he met."

Fuller's life was full of activity, both professionally and personally.

Fuller, born in Middletown, NY in 1925, served in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the United States Air Force, from 1943 to 1945, a significant portion of which he was held as a Prisoner of War (from February to October of 1945). Fuller's plane was shot down over Austria, and he was taken prisoner, held in a prison camp until he was freed by General Patton eight months later.

Upon his return to the United States of America, Fuller worked numerous jobs -- sometimes up to three at once to support his immediate family, consisting of his wife of 65 years, Mildred, and two children, Donna and Gary. He worked as a prison guard, a post master at Middletown Post Office, in the Mental Hygiene Department of the Middletown State Hospital, he built homes, owned the Village Shoe Shop in Canajoharie, acted as proprietor of the Mohawk Valley Car Wash in Fort Plain, and as a NYS Thruway Authority serviceman for 20 years -- a job which saw him traveling from a New York stop to the Massachusetts Turnpike, and back, to collect money from the toll and service stations.

Many men would have been happy to retire at 55 and take it easy, but Fuller, said Kline "was a hard worker. He never did anything partially. He threw himself into everything 100 percent."

Fuller was involved in many sports throughout his life. He played softball into his 40's, then switched over to skiing and bowling, bowling being a sport that he participated in straight through 2013, playing in a league every Wednesday evening.

It was no secret that Fuller loved to golf. Kline said of his passion for the sport, "If you could find a term stronger than 'avid', that would be the one to use."

Fuller had at least five sets of golf clubs -- the sport tying easily into another one of his passions -- a love of shopping. 

"He always had the newest equipment," Kline said.

While Fuller has always had many activities dividing his time, Kline said that it never kept him from his family, which he was incredibly, and unwaveringly, dedicated to.

Kline explained that Fuller never missed an event. "He was there for everything," she said, including dance recitals, golf matches and baseball tournaments. She stated, "I don't remember a time that anybody asked him to do anything he didn't do."

Three of Fuller's great grandchildren, Logan, Autumn and Hailey Arduini said they will cherish the time he spent with them. He'd host sleepovers, and they'd all swim together in the summer. The kids fondly remembered how their great-grandfather would bring them fresh food from his garden, such as homegrown cucumbers, raspberries, and tomatoes.

Fuller frequently attended Hailey and Autumn's soccer games to lend support. Just this year, Fuller insisted on taking Hailey to gymnastics in a conscious effort to spend as much time with her as possible while he was able to.

A favorite memory not only for his family, but for many others, involves Fuller joyously playing Santa Claus. Kline said he started playing Santa for her kids over 40 years ago and never stopped, playing Santa Claus for the next two generations, even donning the suit and beard (which he'd meticulously groom), glueing on white eyebrows each year, for his great grandkids through Christmas of 2012.

"He always enjoyed that," Kline said, noting that the chance to play Santa provided Fuller with the opportunity to combine his interests -- family, shopping and making people happy.

Making lasting connections was always important for Fuller. In 1999, when he was on a 50th anniversary trip to Japan with Millie, the couple befriended a 13-year-old girl in a park. The couple reconnected with the girl just last year, hosting her as a guest in their home, just as they had done with many foreign exchange students over the years.

"That's the kind of man he was," said Kline, adding of her father a sentiment that was uttered and thought by people across this county and beyond when they heard of his passing -- "He will certainly be missed -- not only by his family, but a lot of friends and acquaintances as well."

"He was a pretty visible guy in a small village," she said, and there's no doubt that he, nor anybody who knew him, would've had it any other way.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 at  3 p.m. at The Chapel of Houghtaling & Smith Funeral Home, Inc., 20 Otsego Street, Canajoharie, NY 13317 with Rev. Zachary Labagh officiating.

The family will receive relatives and friends on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. at the funeral home.

Burial will take place on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at Gerald B. Soloman National Cemetery in Schuylerville, NY with Military Honors at Graveside.

Contributions in memory of Leigh W. Fuller may be made to the Canajoharie Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 28, Canajoharie, NY 13317.

Please sign the online guestbook for Fuller at www.houghtalingandsmith.com.

     

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