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IRA W. LEIGHTON Jr. Obituary
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February 10, 2016

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February 10, 2016

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May 26, 2014
Environmental Business Council of New England, EBEE Awards Dinner, Renaissance Waterfront Hotel, Boston MA, May 21 2104
The Ira W Leighton Jr. Outstanding Environmental Energy Technology Achievement Award
Remarks in Tribute by Robert V Bibbo

When Ira W. Leighton Jr., my friend of 56 years, passed away last July it was an unexpected jolt. He was missed at our 50th high school reunion. His frequently mentioned plans for retirement on the Cape were never realized. Our spontaneous exchanges about the joys and obligations of grand fathering were abruptly cut short. My earliest memories are from those visits to his parent's house as an early teen. I am reminded that his core values of honesty, humility, empathy, commitment and loyalty were embedded in the family blueprint. That he would live a purposeful and nurturing life was predictable. My final remembrances are connected to that blueprint. I will always remember him as congenial but determined; measured but assertive; a virtuous man reared “Watertown Strong”. I will always see him as the compassionate brother to Marilyn, the loving husband to his departed Maureen, the dedicated father to Ira the 3rd and Jason and the committed grandfather to Blake.

As teens Ira and I drifted into a common group of school chums. We graduated Watertown High School, class of 1963. After high school Ira enrolled at UMASS Amherst where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1968. Although he would immediately start working, he would add an MS in environmental engineering from Northeastern in the early 1970s and an MBA from Suffolk in the early 1980s. With a completed education, several years of quality experience and acquired savvy he was prepared to make his move and that he did. He would continuously advance through Federal GS classifications before being promoted into the federal Senior Executive Service (SES). As an EPA senior executive with at least 20 years of remaining shelf life, Ira would become the X factor at EPA Region I.

Having chosen a private sector environmental career my professional life would eventually intersect Ira's professional life. Our paths would converge here at the Environmental Business Council through the complicity of Dan Moon, Watertown High School class of 1965. Ira was a frequent participant at this annual awards dinner and other EBC events. He was an award recipient and an award presenter. During these EBC years we engaged each other mostly on Saturday mornings by telephone. Whether such calls were initiated to confirm a dinner date or for some other reason, we never had a short conversation. Ira instinctively gravitated to shop talk, mostly what he coined “good stuff”. Of his many EBC speaking appearances, he always focused on the “good stuff”. Improving air quality, preserving water resources, protecting fish and wild life, remediating contaminated waste sites were among the stuff he extolled as good.

Ira thrived as a senior executive. He served as the EPA Region 1 Deputy Regional Administrator under four Regional Administrators: John DeVillars, Mindy Luber, Bob Varney and Curt Spaulding. He stood beside each of them with equal fervor and effectiveness. He also served as Acting Regional Administrator three times during the political transition of Administrators. Each transition was seamless. His relationship with EPA lawyers was special. He saw them as smart, unselfish and relentless; a formidable match for the able lawyers on the other side of the table. On a Saturday morning last spring we discussed the reinstatement of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule which was before the Supreme Court on appeal. There was reason to be concerned given the lower court opinion but he was prescient. He had no doubts that EPA would prevail and they did. For this varsity hockey player and Bruins season ticket holder this was a “hat trick”. As Ira would tell me last spring-- the Administrator had boldly promulgated a precedent setting rule; no one at EPA flinched at the lower court's rebuke and then his EPA lawyers would score for the win in “Supreme” overtime.
We honor Ira tonight, through an Award in his name, because we should; because he made a difference. His prodigious career in government spanned more than 44 years. He started at the City of Newton, moved on to the MADEP before joining the EPA in 1972. He was the consummate civil servant. He served meritoriously as staff, as a member of the SES and at all levels in between. His 24-7 countenance suggested that his work and the work of the Agency could never be completed. There was always more guidance to offer and more progress to be made for a cleaner environment. His accumulated approbations, as detected and summed by the cosmos, greatly exceeded any expectations he might have had or any self assessments he may have conducted. He set a high standard for living one's life through indisputable core values.

My final thought is that Ira was not the “Real McCoy”; he was the “Real Ira”. He was innately content with simplicity and motivated by ideals. A solid 60 hours for the office, a Bruins Thursday Night at the Garden and a family weekend was blissful existence. The possibilities emerging from his embraced ideals were points of origination not destinations. He did not “tilt at wind mills”; although it's fair to say that he would intervene on behalf of a wind turbine if it were properly sited. He wanted to talk about positive outcomes and he did. It was the “good stuff” he reveled in.

Rest in peace my friend and thank you for being unapologetically genuine.
January 7, 2014
Ira and I worked together in Superfund and in Water...when I worked in EPA Headquarters. He is truly a man who had the most creative ideas in the country and whom I very much respected. He would ask me, "what do you I crazy....I would say, no just amazing and you should go for it. Peace be with you Ira. Linda Boornazian
August 7, 2013
Ira will be missed in the Environmental Justice Community. We in Connecticut mourn his passing, and send our deepest condolences to his family, and to all of our friends at EPA. He was a WONDERFUL person, and he will be missed in Connecticut, and throughout the country, but I am sure that he will be missed by his EPA family in Boston as well. My condolences to Ira's loving family, and all of those who loved him throughout the country. Sincerely,
Cynthia R. Jennings, Councilwoman
City of Hartford Court of Common Council and
Former Board Member of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice
August 7, 2013
I worked for Ira in the 80s when we were in the Superfund enforcement program together. He was a fabulous boss, he always put people first. He had a kind and generous spirit, and his curiosity was infectious. I can still hear his laugh and feel blessed that my path crossed his.
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