Long-time, beloved Sheriff Paul Proper, Sr., dead at 88

Former Sheriff Paul Proper, Sr. Photo contributed

CRARYVILLE—Former Columbia County Sheriff Paul J. Proper, Sr., 88, died at home the evening of Thursday, December 20.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office announced the former sheriff’s passing “with great sadness” in a press release, Friday, December 21.

Sheriff Proper began his career with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in 1961, starting as a deputy on road patrol.

He became sheriff in 1977, and served 13 years.

He retired at the end of 1989, but was called out of retirement 12 years later  in 2001 to reassume the sheriff’s post. He was appointed by Senior Columbia County Judge John Leaman after then Sheriff James Bertram retired in December 2000 and, Warren Dorsch, who was undersheriff and had taken the reigns as sheriff, resigned in April 2001.

Sheriff Proper served with retired Sheriff’s Office Investigator Walter Shook as his undersheriff, until the end of the year, when Columbia County voters elected a new sheriff–Mr. Shook–in the November 2001 election.

At the time, Judge Leaman said in a statement about his choice published in The Independent newspaper, “There is one name which is synonymous in the minds of many with the office of sheriff, an identification which the passage of time has not dimmed…no one symbolizes more clearly the best traditions of the sheriff’s department than Paul Proper and no one is better able at this time to provide effective leadership for the department than he is.”

Sheriff Proper held the office of president for the New York State Sheriffs Association in 1988. In addition, he was a life-member of the Copake Fire Company for 69 years.

“Sheriff Proper hired me in 1984 and took the chance on a young man becoming a police officer. Through my 34-year career, I have strived to follow in his footsteps. He was a man of honor, integrity and always served his community,” Sheriff David Bartlett said in the release.

In a December 21 emailed  statement, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka called Sheriff Proper, “One of the greatest and nicest men in Columbia county history.”

Sheriff Proper will be dearly missed in Columbia County and in the law-enforcement family, said the Sheriff’s Office release, “keep Marge [Mrs. Proper] and the rest of the Proper family in your thoughts and prayers,” the release concluded.

Calling hours will be held Thursday, January 3, 2019 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Peck & Peck Funeral Home, 8063 Route 22, Copake.

A funeral service will be held Friday, January 4, 2019, 11 a.m. from the West Copake Reformed Church, 2688 County Route 7.

A complete obituary will be posted when it is received.


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