The City of Leitchfield lost one of its most beloved and respected leaders this week.
Retired Leitchfield Chief of Police Arthur “Pete” Pence passed away Monday, Jan. 25 at age 73, leaving behind a legacy of strong leadership and opportunities for younger generations.
Pence joined the Leitchfield Police Department (LPD) in 1967 and retired as Chief of Police in 1989, at which point Pence’s Assistant Chief Elmer Langdon took over as Chief.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family,” said current Leitchfield Chief of Police Kevin Henderson in a statement. “Pete dedicated over half of his life to serving the citizens of Leitchfield and Grayson County. On Dec. 15, 2015, Pete attended a Christmas Dinner at the police department. There were many past employees who were also able to attend. Many of whom Pete had made an impact on through friendship. It was great to get to spend time with Pete. He will be missed.”
During his time as Police Chief, Pence was considered a firm and even intimidating leader, but his employees knew that, when they were doing their job right, he supported them 100 percent.
“Pete was a man, pure and simple,” said LPD Officer Tim Moutardier, whom Pence hired in 1983. “He ran the department, and if he told you something, that’s the way it was. He stood behind his men, if they were right, and corrected them if they were wrong.”
Pence brought about a number of firsts for the LPD.
He became the first Leitchfield Police Chief to send his officers to the police academy; he hired the LPD’s first ever female police officer, Margaret Fey; and the department also saw its first “motorcycle cop” under Pence.
“You couldn’t keep from admiring and respecting him,” said Moutardier.
Assistant Leitchfield Chief of Police David Riley never had the opportunity to work for Pence; however, he knew him from the time he was a boy, for Pence worked with Riley’s father on the LPD.
“Leitchfield lost a very good man,” said Riley, who called Pence a “pillar of our community.”
Riley praised Pence for the many opportunities he provided younger police officers by placing his trust in them.
One of Pence’s later hires, Clarkson Police Officer Rick Clemons started in law enforcement as a Leitchfield police officer under Pence.
“Pete hired me on June 28, 1987,” Clemons said. “I’ll never forget that day as long as I live.”
Pence sent Clemons to the police academy shortly after being hired, when it wasn’t the highest priority for police officers to do so, and, after he graduated from the academy, Clemons received a few words of wisdom from Pence that have remained with him to this day.
Pence told Clemons to never forget where he came from and the people whom he serves, and to always do the right thing.
“He was such a powerfully strong mentor,” said Clemons.
Norma Brown also got her start with the LPD as a dispatcher when she was hired by Pence in 1985 and remembers him fondly.
“He was a simple man,” Brown said. “If you did your job and did it right, he backed you…He was not only our boss but a good friend.”
Pete Pence and his late wife of more than 20 years had two children, Missy Cockriel and Joey Pence.
Cockriel said her father loved his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchild, and the friends he made at Kirby’s and Sandy’s Restaurant where he came to spend his days during retirement.
In addition to his time with the LPD, Pence also served as a Grayson County Sheriff’s deputy, a truck driver, and, following his retirement from the LPD, a security guard.
Of all her father’s endeavours and accomplishments, however, Cockriel said Pete Pence was always most proud of his time at the LPD, so when the LPD displayed their flags at half-mast this week in his honor, the gesture meant a great deal to the family.
“Pete loved Leitchfield,” Moutardier said. “Pete loved this PD.”
“He’ll be sorely missed,” said Clemons.
Funeral services for Pete Pence will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29 at the Watson & Hunt Funeral Chapel in Leitchfield with Brother Chester Shartzer officiating.
Burial will be in the New Hope Church of Christ Cemetery in Big Clifty.
Visitation will be held after 12 noon Thursday, Jan. 28 and from 9:00 a.m. until service time on Friday.
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.