Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “He dropped off his chair listening to the Yankees game in the backyard,” she said. “He was doing what he loved.”
Leonard never talked about the war, Kennedy said, unless he was asked about it. He downplayed his heroics in France and never sought attention for them.
“He said he was just doing his job,” she said.
There are now three Medal of Honor recipients from Lockport, Niagara County Historian Catherine Emerson said. Leonard is the only World War II-era recipient.
The first was Michael Huskey, an Irish immigrant who settled in Lockport with his family before enlisting in the Navy during the Civil War. Huskey served as a Fireman aboard the U.S.S. Carondelet. During the Steele’s Bayou/Deer Creek Expedition in March 1863, Huskey helped rescue the U.S.S. Ivy, a tugboat under enemy fire. He died in October 1864 in Memphis, Tenn.
Frank Gaffney, who served during World War I, was the second recipient. His heroism along the St. Quentin Canal Tunnel in France on Sept. 29, 1918, led to his medal, Emerson said. After the other members of his squad were killed, Gaffney proceeded alone toward enemy positions and found several German soldiers setting up a machine gun post. Gaffney killed the gun crew, captured the gun, killed four German soldiers with his pistol and bombed a number of enemy positions in the trenches nearby. He died in May 1948.
Out of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients nationwide, 15 are from Niagara County, Emerson said.
“That says something about the people living in Niagara County,” she said.
Aside from the Distinguished Service Cross, Leonard also received the Bronze Star Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Bronze Service Star, the World War II Victory Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II and a Purple Heart.
For Kennedy and McQueen, the extra attention their father is getting gives them a chance to think about the man they lost nearly 30 years ago.
“We miss him all over again,” Kennedy said.
If Leonard were alive today to receive the medal, he would “fall over,” she said. “He would not believe that this was happening to him.”Contact reporter Michael Canfield at 439-9222, ext. 6246, or follow him on Twitter @MikeCanfield36.