John V. Laggy Sr., 92, a police officer in Oaklyn, Camden County, for 36 years, 15 of them as chief, died Monday, June 15, of complications from lung cancer at his home in Pennsauken.
Born in Camden County, Mr. Laggy grew up in Oaklyn and attended Collingswood High School before joining the Navy. He trained as a Seabee, or member of a construction battalion.
Mr. Laggy was in the South Pacific when the war against Japan ended in August 1945. After V-J Day, he was posted to Qingdao, China, which served as the home port for the Western Pacific Fleet from the end of the war until 1949.
Once he returned home, he told his family of the hunger and deprivation he had seen in war-ravaged China.
Mr. Laggy, known as “Jack,” joined the Oaklyn Police Department as a patrolman in 1952 and became the borough’s first police sergeant and its first lieutenant in the 1960s, before taking the title of police chief in 1973. He retired in 1988.
But he didn’t confine his efforts to enforcing the law. He also gave safety tips to citizens, participated in bike training sessions for children, and kept reporters informed about his decisions as chief.
In December 1978, when the Oaklyn council voted to join the Camden County central police and ambulance dispatching unit, Mr. Laggy made no bones about his reluctance to give up local dispatching.
“Everyone hates to lose local autonomy,” he was quoted as saying in the Camden Courier-Post. “But we just couldn’t afford to operate with eight police officers, four dispatchers, and three crossing guards.”
He was looked upon as a no-nonsense and even-handed leader.
“Jack Laggy gave us trust, strength, and a genuine concern for others,” said a tribute posted online. “He lived a good life ‘by the book’ and took a tremendous amount of pride in his work, his family, and his golf game.”
He was a member of the New Jersey State Association of Police Chiefs.
In 1994, Mr. Laggy retired to Sunrise, Fla., so he could be closer to his son and daughter-in-law. In 2004, he moved to The Villages, a golf retirement community in central Florida. He returned to South Jersey and spent the last five years living in Pennsauken.
“His comment was, he was born in Jersey, he was going to die in Jersey,” said son John V. Laggy Jr.
Mr. Laggy delighted in telling younger residents stories about the old days in Oaklyn. His memory remained sharp until the end, his son said. On his deathbed, he was talking about the Phillies.
He enjoyed cooking, especially his signature Sunday gravy, which consisted of pasta, meatballs, and red sauce, his family said. He was an animal lover devoted to his dogs, Needles, Bogey, and Bacall, and cat, Shadow.
Mr. Laggy married Doris Weisfeld in 1954. Besides his wife and son, he is survived by a sister.
Services were Saturday, June 20, with interment in the Camden County Veterans Cemetery at Harleigh.