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A Tribute to Fritz Leighty

July 06, 2021

Fritz Made It to the Final End Zone

Francis Xavier Leighty left the field on June 21, 2021 with Judy, his childhood sweetheart and wife of 60 years by his side; they met in kindergarten.  He was born in 1941 in a Mississippi River town – Alton, Illinois – not far from St. Louis.  He and Judy graduated from Marquette High, he as an outstanding student athlete.  Fritz went on to Illinois State University, married Judy, played football and received the RG Brown Award as a varsity athlete with the highest GPA in their entire conference.  He received a scholarship from Washington University in St. Louis earning a master’s degree in Economics.

His 50 years of Urban Planning and Development began at HUD in Chicago, untangling the top down regulations of the Urban Renewal Program.  Fritz left HUD to become the Assistant Director of Development for the City of Columbus.  Most of the Ohio Community Development community became aware Fritz’s planning implementation in the 1970s when he worked with Woolpert Engineering in Dayton and lived in Yellow Springs.  This was at the time of closure of Urban Renewal grants and undertaking the less regulated CDBG Program.  He was essential in setting up HUD’s Community Development function in the Columbus FHA Office. This is when many of us became aware of the many assets of this wonderful person.  He was a deep thinker who was able to explain the difficulties of local governments to weave these federal funds and rules in the local political and legal environments.

As Fritz looked and acted more and more like Mark Twain, some of us became aware of his long-standing commitment to small towns, poor people, the folks bypassed by the highway of economic progress.  For 35 years he was an unpaid coach of Yellow Springs High School football teams.  He and Judy demonstrated the need for personal health and fitness by bicycling to many parts of North America, even to New Zealand.

It is almost fitting that Fritz left the Game of Life on Father’s Day, for there never was a more boastful parent of his children, grand and great grandkids than Fritz. 

Judy and their family have planned for a memorial on July 31 from 4 to 8 pm at John Bryan Community Center, 100 Dayton Street, Yellow Springs, Ohio.    

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