‘He had a big heart’: Death of South Williamsport mayor from COVID-19 is a big loss

Mayor Dave Lechniak had a presence that would fill up a room and as a lifelong resident of South Williamsport his impact in the borough will be missed. 

“He had a contagious laugh,” said Lechniak’s daughter Tiffany Baier. “Everybody knew it when he would walk into the room. He didn’t have to say anything, but you knew he was there.” 

Just two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Lechniak, 65, lost his battle with the virus on Dec. 30. He had been South Side’s mayor for 11 years. 

In Lycoming County, there were over 6,000 COVID-19 cases in 2020 and 121 deaths. 

‘Served his community’

Lechniak is survived by his wife of 44 years, Christine, their two children, Tiffany Baier and Todd Lechniak, and four grandchildren.

Baier said her father always had a big heart for helping others. 

“He would give you the shirt off his back if it was something that someone needed,” Baier said. “He really served his community and loved everyone in it.” 

In recent years, his friends and family will agree that Lechniak lived for his grandkids, beaming with delight when they came into the room. 

“He melted when he saw them,” Baier said. 

‘A big heart’

Lechniak’s death was sudden and shocking. After being admitted to the hospital, the mayor seemed to be doing well. 

Long-time friend Adam Welteroth spoke with him on the phone on Monday, Dec. 21 and the pair joked about how good the mayor sounded for someone with COVID-19. 

The next day Welteroth learned that Lechniak had been placed on a ventilator. 

“Never in a million years did I think Dave would take a turn for the worse,” Welteroth said, adding that the former mayor was always very cautious with COVID-19, taking all the precautions suggested by the CDC. 

“He had a big heart,” Welteroth said. 

‘Man with many hats’

Lechniak was a man with many hats – a lifelong member of the South Williamsport Fire Department, member of the Red Knights motorcycle club and former coach of the St John Neumann Regional Academy basketball team. 

In addition to being the mayor of South Williamsport, Lechniak took special interest in county politics as well, making a point to attend the county’s weekly Commissioners meeting whenever possible. 

Welteroth looked up to Lechniak, a democrat, as a mentor, and as a politician, he respected his commitment to the decisions he made.

“We’d go and have breakfast and shoot the breeze about politics,” said Welteroth, a republican. 

About an hour before he died, the Lechniak family was informed by the hospital that he would pass soon and they each had time to say their goodbyes. 

“He was a fighter. He fought until the end,” Baier said. “It was just too much for him.” 

A memorial service will be held for Lechniak from 5 to 7 p.m., Jan. 5 at the Sanders Mortuary. A graveside service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 6.

Author

  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

Anne Reiner

Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

1 Comment
  1. What a loss for the community. I think we were all incredibly fortunate to have someone like Dave working so hard to make this a better place. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his family.