John Lawliss

Obituary of John Henry Lawliss

What a wonderful life. Late Sunday evening, John Henry Lawliss, 86, passed peacefully at home after living a long life brimming with love, purpose, and accomplishments. John was born at home on Lawliss' Corners in Beekmantown, New York. He grew up in a simpler time without electricity or indoor plumbing. He attended a one-room schoolhouse until sixth grade where he made a few extra dollars for his family by arriving early to get the wood stove started before the other children arrived. He then went to St. Peter's in Plattsburgh for seventh and eighth grade, before attending high school at MAI where he proudly graduated in 1951. After graduation, he joined the US Navy, served as a CB, and was stationed in California and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While serving, he sent at least half of every paycheck home to his mother, who he revered, to help support her and his siblings. He was a lifelong member of the American Legion. After leaving the Navy, he met the professional love of his life, the New York State Police. "If you cut Jack Lawliss, he bled grey (the color of the uniform)". During his 33 years with the NYSP, he was stationed in Tupper Lake, Tarrytown, Kingston, Keeseville, Port Henry, Chazy, Peru, Syracuse, Albany, Malone and Ray Brook. He served in every position from road trooper to Troop B Commander. To this day, he remains the only person born in the North Country to serve in that position. He declined further promotional opportunities to avoid the need of moving his family out of the North Country as his children became older. The men and women he served with told his children numerous stories of his bravery and commitment to justice. Whether there was a violent drunk in a bar that needed to be handcuffed, an armed murder suspect at the border that needed to be taken into custody, or a Governor who had to be told that his plan to invade a reservation was an unwise decision, Jack Lawliss was the man for the job. If you were a victim of a crime or just stranded on the side of the road, Jack Lawliss was your friend. After he reached mandatory retirement age with the NYSP, he successfully opened up a private investigation business sharing office space with his son Tim, who was a practicing attorney. After 10 years of working together, in what may be a unique event in Clinton County history, father and son ran for and won county-wide elective offices at the same time. John became Sheriff and Tim became the Family Court Judge. Never wanting to completely retire, John later served as a Peru Town Justice for ten years, while continuing to work as an investigator for a local law firm. John's devotion to the Catholic Church spanned his entire life. As a child, he served as an altar boy and later as a religion teacher and lector. He was a member of St. Augustine's parish in Peru for nearly 50 years. He passed with a strong faith that he was going to a better place. Outgoing, optimistic, and with a great sense of humor, John made friends quickly and often kept them for a lifetime. He was loyal to friends and them to him. He loved telling stories and usually had a new joke for you. Until illness absolutely prevented it, he continued to have Wednesday lunch with a group of his "cronies" which included Merritt Spear, a friend from childhood, his brother Russ, and numerous friends he made during the course of his career. Absolutely nothing was as important to John as family. He loved them all unconditionally, and he was the one everyone turned to when they needed help. He married the love of his life Gail Prevost in 1958, who like John, came from a very humble background. Gail had the challenging job of being a stay at home mom while supporting John's career as they moved around upstate New York. Working together for over six decades, they built a remarkable life with four children, 19 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren with a 13th on the way. All of his children and many of his grandchildren were by his side during his final difficult days. His children's exceptional devotion to both their parents was particularly inspirational during this time. It is impossible to look at one of the hundreds of pictures of John with any of his grandchildren without seeing the obvious mutual love and admiration. His love of family is just impossible to truly describe. Although it may not be obvious from a review of his financial records, John Henry Lawliss died the richest man in Clinton County. John was predeceased by his parents Oswald and Lina (Phaneuf); his brothers Oswald "Larry" Lawliss, Clarence Lawliss and Morton Lawliss; his sister Margaret "Peggy" Abare and her husband Gilbert; and his brother-in-law Ira Snow. John was survived by his wife Gail Lawliss (Prevost); son Timothy and his wife Kathy (Weaver); daughter Anne Folley; son Michael and his wife Lisa (Voyer); daughter Brenda Martin and her husband David; his brother Russell Lawliss and his wife Nicole (LaChapelle); his sister Patricia Snow; his sisters-in-law Wanda Lawliss (Bellows) and Joanne Lawliss (Frenyea); grandchildren Katie, Molly, John, Elise, Amanda, Patrick, Ben, Cat, Therese, Nathan, Maria, Nick, Lauren, Alex, David, Erika, Cassie, Sam and Jon; all his great grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews. At John's request there will be no public calling hours. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 11 am at St. Augustine's Church in Peru. Military honors will follow in the church. Masks and social distancing will be mandatory in church. Donations in his memory may be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Cancer Society, or St. Augustine's Church. Arrangements are in the care of the Hamilton Funeral Home, 294 Mannix Road, Peru, 643-9055.


11:00 am
Saturday, August 8, 2020
St. Augustine's Church
Main Street
Peru, New York, United States
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