Chimacum man sentenced in death of Cummings

Widow: ‘I lost my best friend’

Stan Cummings

PORT TOWNSEND — After pleading guilty to vehicular homicide in the death of Port Townsend visionary Stan Cummings, Gregory Lechtenberg of Chimacum, 81, was sentenced Friday in Jefferson County Superior Court.

The penalty for vehicular homicide with disregard for the safety of others is a Class A felony punishable by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine. Lechtenberg, as a first-time offender, received a waiver of the standard sentence, which reduced his penalties to include six months in community custody under Department of Corrections supervision, a $600 fine and the revocation of his driver’s license, according to court documents.

Lechtenberg was towing a tractor on state Highway 20 on July 5 when the tractor struck Cummings, who was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of the road, court documents said.

Cummings, airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, died as a result of his injuries eight days later, at age 76.

His wife of 31 years, Sigrid Cummings, was riding her bike with him that day.

“We had a very active life, hiking, biking … and just enjoying life, and especially retirement, together,” Sigrid wrote in her statement to the court.

“I lost my best friend,” she wrote.

The couple had moved to Port Townsend 15 years ago when Cummings was hired as the executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center and Wooden Boat Foundation. He completed the $16.8 million capital campaign for the center that now stands at the foot of Water Street, Sigrid noted.

“The NWMC has honored my husband with the Stan Cummings Classroom to further the opportunities for distance learning, a concept Stan pioneered 25 years ago, before we ever imagined the need for something like Zoom technology,” his wifow said.

Before moving to the Northwest, Cummings envisioned and founded the Ocean Institute, a place three times the size of the maritime center, in Dana Point, Calif., she added. There, more than 100,000 school children each year participate in programs, many of which Cummings wrote.

Last summer the institute established the Stan Cummings Scholars Internship Fund to support emerging marine scientists who go to its camp and semester-long internship program.

Cummings was the recipient of national honors, including the inaugural Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education and the Sea Education Program of the Year Award.

He was also a grandfather of four, Sigrid wrote.

“Stan was a scientist who loved to thrill his grandchildren with science experiments [and] magic tricks, and teach them about the wonders of the great outdoors,” she said.

On the morning of July 5, Sigrid and her husband had been out crabbing in their canoe. They were riding their bikes into town for lunch when, shortly after 11 a.m., Cummings was struck by the tractor Lechtenberg was towing on a flatbed trailer behind his Dodge Ram pickup truck.

State Patrol troopers interviewed a family of three who were traveling in two vehicles behind Lechtenberg’s. Each said in separate interviews that the tractor was hanging off the trailer toward the shoulder. They saw it miss Sigrid, but then strike Cummings, a State Patrol report said.

In an interview afterward, Lechtenberg said he was unaware of the collision until one of the witnesses pulled in front of him and had him stop.

Sigrid, in her statement, said both she and her husband were wearing neon-green jackets, while she was riding a magenta-pink bike. She believes Lechtenberg had no business behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

“But I want Mr. Lechtenberg, his family and friends and the community to know, that since that horrible day in July, I have said that I do not believe justice would be served by putting an 81-year-old negligent man in prison.

“There can be no ‘justice’ in a situation like this.

“We all know that in this precarious journey of life, bad things sometimes happen to good people. All I ever asked for from Mr. Lechtenberg was an apology. I speak for the entire Cummings family and gratefully accept the heartfelt one he and his family have sent. I hold no animosity toward him, just a deep sadness for the unfortunate circumstances that intersected our paths. As we move forward with our lives, we will all have to live with our own grief, and without the man who was killed, and who we all loved.”

In an email to the Peninsula Daily News, Sigrid wrote that she feels some relief.

“If, as the victim, I was not happy with the outcome of the criminal case, it is within my rights to pursue restitution in civil court,” she added.

“I obviously will not be doing so.

“For now, I want us all to go in peace, remembering Stan Cummings,” she said, “and carrying on his vision and mission of providing enthusiastic, experiential education to young minds.”

Sigrid asked that people wanting to make donations in her husband’s name can do so to the Northwest Maritime Center’s Stan Cummings Classroom via Len Goldstein at 360-385-3628, ext. 111, and


Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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