Mr. Leland “Lee” C. Safford Jr., 86, of 12 North Division Street, St. Johnsville, New York died, Saturday, May 1, 2021 at home, with his family by his side.
Born on August 12, 1934 in Amsterdam, NY, he was the son of Leland Clarence Safford and Helen Wheeler Safford.
Marlene Mary DiMaggio, his only sibling, preceded his death on August 13, 2016.
All those hidden meandering creeks, streams, and fishing holes scattered throughout the Mohawk Valley will be missing that one special lone fly fisherman who so often visited them, and so will we. Our incredibly special father departed this world on Saturday, May 1st, 2021 at the age of 86, surrounded by the love and comfort of his family to his very last mortal breath. Leland C. Safford, Jr., better known as Lee, Dad, Daddy, Father, Grandpa, Gramps, Unc’s, Jr. (and let us not forget his old CB radio handle) “Flying Wrench”, was a true storyteller and loved to share his life experiences to anyone willing to offer an ear. His stories were excerpts from his internal movie theater playing back a life filled with love for his “Girls” (daughters Beth, Debbie, Wendy, and Robyn), his love of nature, fishing, canoeing, automobiles, tinkering with engines, small and large, and memories of his times as a Boy Scout Leader of Troop 72. While his stories had a wonderful animated and creative flare, (he might have added the occasional embellishment) the main topics were true as true could be. He had a treasure trove of knowledge in his amazing memory of his life experiences. If you were looking for wild horseradish, ramps, puffballs, mushrooms, he would tell you where to find them. And he would be spot on. Need to find a back seasonal road, or hidden trailhead, ask Lee. Our father could look at any tree and tell you what species it was. He could study a failing tree and tell you exactly how to take it down regardless of how precarious it may be. And in his day, without hesitation, he could do the actual climbing and cutting, and love every minute of it. One thing I loved most was that he could point out any constellation in the sparkling night sky. He was so thoughtfully intrigued by the world and all its beauty. This was true for fishing as well. His car still holds his fishing vest, tackle box, fly box, and his coveted poles. He tied his own fly’s and had secret feathers, threads and coatings that were his weapons on the water. He knew every spot to fish, at every time of year, or time of day. He knew that fishing was an art, and a way to sooth his mind and soul. I am quite sure he is somewhere on the Colorado River right now casting the most beautiful lines that can be made. I can close my eyes and see that silhouette in water up to his thighs; the vibrant neon green lead dancing in the air from his natural ability to cast; and a man with nothing but the most amazing smile on his face as he is free from the earth’s noise and weights. Go get them Dad!
Dad had a love for animals, and as far as I know, all animals approved of him as well. During his days as a Boy Scout Leader, he enjoyed raising pheasants and releasing them; studying beaver and the labor and brilliance of their dams; teaching the boy scouts every native species of waterfowl, and tree nesting beauties; reptiles and insects were on the “you should know” list as well. At home he typically had a few “four legged friends” following him around and eventually settling in his lap or warming his feet when he finally rested. His recent days were filled with visiting a location where he had a variety of wild creatures, on land and in the air, where he would treat them with a bag of popcorn. He would report to us faithfully on how many rabbits, owls, deer, pheasants, or fox he saw each day. He was so happy when left to sit, relax, and enjoy the simplicity of nature itself. Giving us a lesson about which we should all take notice. He deserved this peace after a lifetime of hard work as an automotive repairman. He traveled over 40 minutes to and from work each way, five days a week for over 45 years. He helped anyone that needed their car looked at it, and often would not charge them (as he knew they had a family to provide for as well). He loved his work. After retiring he began acquiring a collection of small engine projects. Tinkering with discarded lawnmowers, snow blowers, chain saws, you name it. He was convinced he could resurrect the disregarded, and often did, despite everyone’s disbelief.
One of his proudest endeavors was taking part in the General Clinton Canoe Regatta. This is a 70-mile canoe race, and the longest single day canoe race in North America. He had an eggplant-purple fiberglass canoe that was his “other girl”. How he adored that vessel. I remember watching him prep it and care for it with such pride and reverence. He would take me out with my tiny wooden paddle and teach me the ways of the water. The currents, the hidden under currents, the dangerous strainers from fallen trees, or low head dams. He made sure I had a life preserver on, and that if things got a little out of hand, I knew to be smart, but never scared. A life lesson I still try to live by today. More importantly he showed us the love of gently floating across the water and being one with the river, or the lake you were on. My three sisters and I each have our own memories and lessons from Dad. As adults I can see my father’s silent influences that came out in each of us. He always boasted he loved his four girls more than anything, and he did. We never lacked for love from him. Nor acceptance. His love was unconditional, and even in his last days, we knew he did not want to leave us. Still worrying and wanting to take care of us in any way he could. We will surely miss his physical presence, but his love is embedded in us, and so many others that he adored.
Not having any sons, Dad adopted three in spirit. Raymond Nellis, Michael Countryman, and Bud Hazzard were loved dearly by our father. He cherished any time he could get to share coffee, donuts, and stories with them. Or take them out in search for horseradish, or whatever plant was in season he could harvest. We are so very thankful for their presence in our father’s life. More than words can ever express. His nephew, Alan DiMaggio also held an incredibly special place in Dad’s heart. He enjoyed the fact that Alan had chosen the mechanic’s life and would go to Alan’s workplace to sit and watch, and I am sure give free advice to the task on hand. The owner of the garage, Christman’s Auto, was a dear friend to Dad as well. He too won my father’s respect and admiration by being “honest and damn good at what he does” in dad’s words. We are thankful for time they shared with my father. It was something he looked forward to.
And then there is his circle of life: Daughter Beth Ann Schwasnick, and husband Gary, with Grandson Adam Schwasnick, his wife Amanda and three Great Grandchildren Kenton, Danica, and Cassidy; Daughter Deborah Lee Forgette, and husband Kevin Daughter Wendy Kay Hazzard, and husband Bud, and Grandson Alan John, and Granddaughter Jessica Smith, her husband Jayson, and Great Grandchild baby Zayne, as well as sweet Great Granddaughter Annalyse who was waiting to welcome her Grandpa’s arrival to heaven. Also, Daughter Robyn Lynn Safford, and Bart Carrig; and Grandsons Alec Brown, and his wife Ioana, and Grandson Colden Carrig. His “other half”, his lady, our mother, Thelma Jane Streed Safford, resides in their home of 55 years in St. Johnsville. He loved his wife, life partner, with all that he had. There are no words to describe the loss our mother is experiencing. They celebrated a wedding anniversary in January and Dad told me they “could not figure out who kept who all these years”. We laughed and he had a smile on his face that was from ear to ear. Earnest Hemmingway stated “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” Leland Safford lived a life of pride, dignity, and joy. Nothing in life could defeat him. He took life by the reigns and found pleasure in most beautiful and simplest forms man can; enjoying mother nature and her abundance, and the humans around him who nurtured the same. Dad has not gone away: he is there with the cardinal singing, the blue jay squawking, the rabbit hopping, the deer grazing in the field, the bee buzzing for nectar, the beaver swimming with a stick, the buds on the fruit trees, the ripple in the water when the fly is cast. And these are all moments we are with him. Just close your eyes and he will forever be there if you let him. Dear Dad, know your children will return your ashes throughout the seasons this year. We will lovingly honor your request and find our special individual spots that we know you loved. You will be by the Mohawk River, and I will get you to the Colorado River. Wendy will get you to the Ocean, Beth to some magical place in the woods, and Deb, well I am certain she knows exactly where, somewhere close to her every day. We honor your request to celebrate life and not go through traditional services of a funeral. You are with us always and forever. Rest in peace Dad. We will miss you. We love you.
Arrangements are under the caring guidance of the Vincent A. Enea Funeral Service, (next to the Masonic Lodge), 20 Bridge St., St. Johnsville, NY 518-568-7040.
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