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Published: Thursday, 1/6/2011

Joseph J. Legree, 1931-2010: Retired detective talked to public about city police

Joseph J. LeGree, a retired Toledo police officer who advanced from patrolman to detective in a 25-year career, died in his Fort Pierce, Fla., home Dec. 30 of pulmonary disease.

He was 79 and enjoyed a long retirement until two years ago, when his lung affliction began seriously affecting his breathing, his wife Susan, who is known as “Sam” to friends and family, said.

Mr. LeGree retired from the police department in 1983. For the next three years, he and Mrs. LeGree divided their time between Toledo and Fort Pierce, where they owned a home, before moving full time to Florida.

He began his career as a patrol officer, worked his way up to detective, and was assigned to an office known as the human relations division.

There, his job involved making public appearances on behalf of the police department, listening to citizens, answering questions, and making the case for the way officers did their job.

In 1971, for instance, he and a colleague, Detective Ronald Jackson, spoke to a group of students from Start, Scott, and Rogers high schools about crime and the relationship between police and the community.

When students asked about “bad cops,” Mr. LeGree acknowledged that they existed, but noted they were not representative of the police department.

“Any organization of 700 men is going to have a certain amount of bad apples,” he said, adding that discipline and punishment should be left to the police department and not involve a civilian review board.

Mr. LeGree's memorable experiences as a police officer included being assigned to show a visiting London bobby around Toledo. They became fast friends, and Mr. LeGree later made a private trip to London to visit him.

Mr. LeGree and his wife met at a garage sale in Point Place. She was the widow of Jules Vinnedge, a well-known department store executive who was killed during a robbery in 1977. They began dating in 1979 and married the following year. They lived on Aldringham Road in West Toledo.

The fact that they met at a garage sale provided him with a joke for their marriage.

“He always told me I was the best bargain he ever got,” she said.

Mr. LeGree was born in Toledo, the younger of Margaret and Joseph LeGree's two children. He grew up with his family on Dorr Street. He attended Central Catholic High School, but didn't graduate and later qualified for a general equivalency degree. He also took business courses at the University of Toledo.

He enjoyed golf, bowling, and softball, and loved dogs and cats.

His memberships included St. Anastasia Catholic Church, the Retired Toledo Police Officers Association, the Police and Fire Retirees of Ohio, and the Golden Ponds Homeowners Association. He was an Army veteran. A 23-year-old son, Joseph, predeceased him.

“He was an all-around well-liked guy, very much a gentleman,” Mrs. LeGree said.

Surviving are his wife, Susan; daughters, Cynthia Vahle, Natalie LeGree, and Donna Rohlff; sons, Tony and Jason; sister, Mary Pemberton, and seven grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Interment is to be at Toledo Memorial Park in the spring. A memorial Mass was celebrated Thursday in Fort Pierce.

Tributes are suggested to the St. Lucie County Humane Society, 100 Savannah Rd., Fort Pierce, Fla., 34982.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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