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Leo Richard Segalla

NORTH CANAAN — Leo Richard Segalla, 86, passed away peacefully in his hometown of North Canaan on Feb. 5, 2011.

He was the son of the late Teresa (Coppiello) and Elio Segalla. Leo was born Aug. 1, 1924, on the family homestead in North Canaan, and was a lifelong resident. Leo was one of 10 siblings.

He was a quiet and reserved youth, who grew up to be a kind, compassionate and gentle man. He graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School in 1942. Then he signed up as a U.S. Marine, where he served in the South Pacific during World War II. He achieved the rank of staff sergeant, and was very proud to be a Marine. Semper fi.

In July 1948, he married Matilda Valinaggi from East Canaan. Between 1950 and 1960, Leo and Tillie had four daughters.

In 1963, after the death of his brother Stanley, Leo took ownership of Segalla’s Service Center, which was located on his parents’ land on Route 7, across from the state police barracks in North Canaan. Leo always loved North Canaan and the daily interaction with the townsfolk, while pumping their gas or fixing their cars, endeared him to them and them to him.

Leo was a lifelong Democrat and he epitomized the party’s ideals of hard work, love of God and country. His generosity and compassion were well noted.

Leo cared so much about his town that in 1969 he was elected to the Board of Selectmen and in 1971 he became North Canaan’s first selectman. He served in that capacity for six years. He accomplished much in that time.

One of the first things Leo did in office was to create the North Canaan Housing Authority. By doing that, he was able to apply to the state for grant money and had Wangum Village built, which provided low income housing for seniors. He also acquired the old Lawrence Field from the state and created a recreational park for North Canaan residents. He expanded and improved the sidewalks around the town that are still being enjoyed by the townspeople today. He was proud to be able to do all that without raising taxes. He was also in very good standing with state officials such as Gov. Ella Grasso, Sen. Abe Ribicoff and Rep. Toby Moffett, to name a few, and they were always willing to help Leo with the vision he had for his town.

After stepping down as first selectman in 1977, Leo continued serving as a member of the Housing Authority. He was also a member of the executive committee of the Canaan Fire District and chairman of the North Canaan Board of Finance. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Knights of Columbus, the Canaan Lions Club, the Canaan Men’s Club and the Canaan Country Club. He was also part owner of the Canaan Valley Sporting Club, and always worked the many music festivals held there for years.

Leo retired from the gas station in 1982, and then spent a number of years working at the Litchfield County Courthouse as a special deputy sheriff. After that, he went to work for his cousin John at Amenia Sand and Gravel. Later, he went to help his brother Fred at Segalla’s Sand and Gravel.

Those were very physically demanding jobs, so he switched gears and spent a number of years helping cousin Liz at her East Canaan Package Store. He also delivered Meals on Wheels to area residents and on weekends he worked for the Canaan post office, moving mail. But he wasn’t done yet: He took a job delivering auto parts for Canaan Auto Supply. He loved that job and would brag about how many miles he drove in a day. He loved all his customers and driving on all the back roads enjoying the local scenery. He finally retired in 2006.

Leo was a devout Catholic and lifelong communicant of St. Joseph’s Church in North Canaan. He served the church for many years and took great comfort in his faith.

Leo had many other interests. He was proud to be a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Class, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He was an avid reader and he loved sports. He also loved playing golf and was in a bowling league for many years. He was a lifelong Yankees fan and N.Y. Giants fan.

Leo was a family man and loyal friend to many. He was always up on current events. He always kept himself in great shape by eating right and exercising. He was a sharp dresser.

Leo was never afraid to work hard and stand up for what he believed in. He was a man who knew what had to be done and had the know-how to accomplish it.

Leo is survived by all of his daughters, Patty McKee of Crosby, Texas, Donna and her fiancé, Dave Dempsey, of Great Barrington, Holly and her husband, Mark Barca, of Canton, Lisa and her husband, Brian Faedi, of Southfield; his granddaughter, Jessica McKee and her fiancé, Rene Trujillo, of Houston, Texas; and many, many cousins, nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by Tillie, his wife of 61 years and his nine brothers and sisters.

Calling hours will be held at the Newkirk-Palmer Funeral Home in North Canaan on Friday, Feb. 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 10 a.m. A Mass of Christian burial will follow at 11 a.m. in St. Joseph’s Church in North Canaan.

Due to the weather conditions, burial services with full military honors will be held in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in the spring. Memorial donations may be sent to either the Canaan Northwest Lions Club, PO Box 57, North Canaan, CT 06018 or the VFW Couch Pipa Post NO. 6851, PO Box 913, North Canaan, CT 06018.

Arrangements are under the care of the Newkirk-Palmer Funeral Home in North Canaan.