(FoxNews.com) Buckie Leach, a big name in U.S. fencing for more than two decades, died Saturday in an auto accident while returning from a championship event in Mexico, according to multiple media reports.
He was 62.
Leach was a veteran of the Korean War who joined the U.S. National Fencing Team in 1977. He served as the coach for the Olympic fencers of both Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games and also represented the U.S. in several international tournaments in Japan, Italy, Korea and other countries, according to the USFA website.
He helped an up-and-coming Prince Harry at the 2012 London Olympics.
Leach was expected to be in town in March for the upcoming World Championships.
Head coach of the U.S. team Jim Williams told FoxNews.com in a telephone interview Sunday that all U.S. fencers are reeling from Leach’s death, calling him a true patriot who lived for his sport.
“He worked with every kind of fencer. Fencer or not fencer, anyone who fenced could call him,” Williams said. “He was very involved with youth sports, his synagogue, [soccer and] tennis. He was just a dedicated gentleman. He was very involved in the fabric of our nation and he will be missed by all.”
Leach grew up in Oklahoma and became a standout at the Oklahoma State University, where he studied architecture. In 1984, he joined the U.S. National Fencing Team, while remaining with OSU for a year.
He worked as a USFA coach for 18 years. After his retirement in 2004, he returned to OSU to teach architecture and was appointed to the university’s College of Architecture while also serving as USFA director for sport and arts.
USA Fencing President Ken Shipp released a statement Saturday on his club’s Twitter page.
“We, the coaches, athletes, staff and officials of USA Fencing, are deeply saddened to learn about the tragic loss of our legendary coach Buckie Leach today in a tragic auto accident in Mexico,” he said. “Buckie Leach leaves a legacy of commitment to the sport of fencing as a coach and teacher, inspiring countless young fencers across the country to strive for their goals.”
Tributes have been pouring in on social media.
An update from @chasexanderFencer about Buckie Leach : He was an incredible coach whose work has impacted my life forever. Loved him as a coach, a friend and the special kind of son your parents wish you had. #RIP — Chase Elliot (@chasexanderFencer) January 20, 2018
RIP, Buckie. — Jason Averill (@jasonaverill87) January 20, 2018
Buckie Leach’s wife, Elaine, is a longtime friend of Chuck Hagel and has been mentioned a few times when speaking about how Chuck should be the next Defense Secretary. Two of his children are active at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.