Donald Benjamin Leach, Commander, U.S. Navy (Ret.) and a 33-year resident of Mount Vernon District, died March 5 at Inova Alexandria Hospital after a brief illness surrounded by family members including his wife of 51 years, Vivian Donnette Leach. Other survivors include his sons Donald B. Leach, Jr. and wife Cathy of Glen Allen, Va; Douglas of Alexandria; daughter Mary Heather Leach-Rupp and husband Ron of Clifton; and grandchildren Allison, Caroline, Sarah and Benjamin.
Born Sept. 3, 1927 in Fall River, Mass., Commander Leach grew up in Somerset, Mass. Following graduation from high school he attended Brown University until he received an appointment to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He graduated from the Academy with a Bachelor of Science in 1949 and received his U.S. Navy Reserve Commission as Ensign and a licensed third officer, Merchant Marine.
Following employment in the Maritime industry he was called to active duty in the U.S. Navy which became his chosen career. He retired in 1974.
During that career, Commander Leach's sea duty included service on an escort aircraft carrier, ice breaker, fleet tug, destroyer and cable laying ship. His shore assignments included serving as a professor of Naval Science at the Maine Maritime Academy; Commanding Officer, U.S. Navy Facility, Cape Hatteras, N.C.; Administrative Officer and Chief Staff Officer, Oceanographic System, Atlantic; and finally with the Office of Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.
During his tour in Underseas Surveillance, Commander Leach served in Japan, the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, as well as in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. He was the recipient of the U.S. Navy's Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Occupational Service Medal, and United Nations Service Medal.
Following his retirement from active duty, Commander Leach continued his activities with the Undersea Surveillance Program at TRW, retiring again in 1988. Not willing to just relax, he became the Wharf Master at Mount Vernon Estate.
After eight years and a third retirement, he undertook a research project on George Washington's fisheries and boats. He also became a frequent lecturer at Mount Vernon, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Alexandria Seaport Foundation, and Gunston Hall Plantation.
Funeral services with Full Military Honors will be held June 25, 2008 at 1 p.m. at Fort Meyer Chapel followed by interment at Arlington National Cemetery. Donations in his name can be made to the Navy Memorial Fund.