GASTONIA — Retired Gaston County Sheriff Leroy Russell died Tuesday morning. Friends and co-workers say he had heart problems that contributed to his death.
Russell served as Gaston County Sheriff for 22 years before retiring in 2004. Russell was a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a licensed funeral director, a Gaston County Schools employee, and County Magistrate, and drivers license examiner.
Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell said Russell enjoyed serving the community.
“Leroy would socialize with everybody. I don't think there is anybody he disliked and would just assume talk to you than just eat," said Bell.
If not for Russell, current sheriff Alan Cloninger would not be where he is today, as it took the close family friend to convince him to run for office.
“I never intended to become sheriff,” said Cloninger.
A celebration of Russell's life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Gastonia.