Nanaimo’s first female mayor was remembered as a trailblazer, natural leader and mother during a celebration of life on Friday.
More than 100 people, including local dignitaries, turned out to Beban Park to pay their respects to Joy Leach, who died from Alzheimer’s disease at age 72 on Aug. 25.
Leach was a longtime school trustee and Nanaimo’s first and only female mayor. She defeated Frank Ney in 1990, serving one term on Nanaimo city council. Under her leadership, the municipality introduced a new water-metering system as a source of revenue for infrastructure projects, negotiated the location of the Nanaimo Parkway and started Imagine Nanaimo, a process that would lead to the first official community plan.
Politicians and family members shared stories of Leach, whom they called a fearless crusader and natural leader.
Bill Holdom, former city councillor, said it was easy to be the tail on her coat while Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog recalled seeing her hand-in-hand with another female political contender, doing the work she could do given her diminished capacity with Alzheimer’s.
“Even at the end of the best stage of capacity that life had given her, she was still fighting the good fight, doing something in a campaign along with another woman, an early feminist in this community,” Krog said. “This community is a better place because she never gave up.”