Family and friends honored John Leehey in a private funeral ceremony Friday, Sept. 8, but also shared with the public more about the man they remembered for his positive view of the world and for always greeting and parting from people with one word: “Cowabunga.”
Leehey, 67, a landscape architect and father of three grown sons, was among three people killed in the mass shooting Aug. 23 at Cook’s Corner when authorities say a former police officer walked into the beloved roadhouse grill and shot at his estranged wife and other patrons. Six people were injured.
“John had a creative and romantic outlook on life,” his family said in a statement. “He would always greet you and say goodbye with an exclamatory ‘Cowabunga!’ He was always inquisitive, enjoying any conversation he had with you, with a spark of interest in anything he was talking about.”
One of his favorite songs, “Johnny B. Goode,” was how he chose to live his life, his family said. “Good to those around him and protective of those he held dear.”
Leehey, one of six sons of an Army officer, lived in many different locations. Through that, his family said, he quickly learned the importance of the “unbreakable bond of brotherhood,” which led to a life of unforgettable memories and love with his brothers. Leehey was raised in the Catholic faith.
He was dedicated to his family and taught his own three boys how to bat, shoot baskets, swim and how to do the right thing even when it was hard. And when his two grandchildren arrived, he devoted time to them.
Leehey was successful in his professional career and was known locally and internationally. He put his creative stamp on designed communities and neighborhoods in areas such as Ladera Ranch, Rancho Mission Viejo, Tehachapi, Fullerton, Riverside, Clovis, Temecula, Palm Desert, Escondido, Cupertino, Victorville, Sacramento and San Joaquin County, as well as in other states such as Utah, Illinois and Colorado.
He received degrees in landscape architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and at Harvard University.
Leehey’s legacy will continue through his family, they said, and he will always be remembered through the conversations and time he spent with them and for his attitude about life including a quote by Henry David Thoreau that Leehey had pinned over his desk and saw every day:
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it. Do not shun it and call it bad names. It is not so bad as you are, and may look poorest when you are richest.”
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